“Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.”
― Steve Maraboli
A few days back, some part of my memory and those good old childhood days came rushing back to me. Gently seated in a chair was a very old and aged lady and even though wrinkles now consisted her face, the gleaming and the glint in the eyes didn’t change a bit.
I remember perching onto the steps of my house as I would jump two three of them together and hopping like a bunny would reach my bus stop all chirpy and beaming. My bus stop was assigned at the road that was right opposite to that of my flat so it was really very easy and comfortable for a young child like me. I was happy though, for the very fact that me and my friends would be playing in the very large area that ‘our’ bus stop was located in. Actually, it was the open area of a huge area market that my place is located at and given the hours that our bus arrived at, no one used the place. So, it was defined to be ours. We played like crazy. Every morning would be something we’d look forward to. More than going to school, playing on the school fields, it was THIS very place that would get us geared up every day. It was a delight, innocence of being so young and frivolous. One day while playing gol-spot I heard someone calling out to me. I turned back to see an old lady, not too old but yes, almost of the age of my grandmother call out to me saying “Good Morning”- a smile so friendly that one couldn’t believe she was a stranger. I was a little taken aback by the sudden call of a stranger, friendly and welcoming did she seem and although unknown to me, I went ahead and greeted her back with that smile, all teeth zoomed out to infinite extent and my eyes, which is usual, extended to the ends of my forehead. I assumed my grandfather (who used to be the one person coming to see me off at my bus stand) might know her and so went ahead and touched her feet. She blessed me by keeping her hand on my head, but it was the charming smile that once again took away the spotlight and made me feel at home with her. After her depart, I questioned my grandfather as to who she was and he was as clueless as me and I giggled and soon forgot. The next day the same occurred and suddenly it became a habit- the habit of meeting her every day, greeting her, getting her smile, the charm executed by a lady of her age, the persona she carried along, the gentleness, the soberness, it all seemed too less to be compared or even be described about. Our little conversations had now started, we conversed in English, she’d carry little bunches of flowers carefully plucked from the nodes so as to not break the flowers separate but in a group. Often I would see her carrying a ‘donga’ or a utensil in which she’d get the milk from the nearby mother dairy. She’d talk to me about my days, the games I liked, what I’d like eating, what subjects I liked- precisely put, it seemed as if she searched for someone in me, a granddaughter maybe, and had there been one, she’d have been of the same age. Soon, I became too fond of her, I’d wait for her to come and on occasions when she got late, I’d wave off to her from my school bus- she had this charm to even make the strangest and gloomiest of days feel so lively! She would occasionally treat me with a toffee or two and that would make my day. I’d be found beaming the entire day! Suddenly, she stopped coming. For days I thought maybe she’d left, or probably shifted. Time flew and I grew up with a part of my memory still missing her somewhere. I respected her a lot- she’d been one of the ladies apart from my teacher’s who I’d met out of school and been treated very sweetly with. I knew she was there, here, somewhere. A few days back, at the school right opposite my house, there were some identity cards being issued, mandatory for the citizens residing in the country. The entire families were out that day. I too, along with my entire family hopped along, funnily thinking when the last time was when our main doorway lock was actually used and whether it’d work or not, but it surprisingly did! After all the issuing was done, while we began to leave, there in the middle of the crowd surrounded around her, I saw her. It was her- the same lady only grown a little bit older but the smile remained intact. There she sat straight perched on a high stool supported by a girl who I presumed was her granddaughter. As the crowd began to float apart, our eyes met. And they seemed to recognize me and though I couldn’t go up to her because of the chaos that was around, she smiled in the same way that made me believe that she recognized me. I nodded and she nodded back smiling and beaming, still the same way. I left her there. And that’s when the following quote made sense to me.
“Love between strangers takes only a few seconds and can last a whole life.”
― Simon Van Booy, Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories