During my childhood , I often recall mom’s repeated instructions, “Don’t talk to strangers”. That was an easy one to obey as I was an introvert kid.
As the years passed by ,I kind of got transformed and began to take interest in the world outside my shell. I became more absorbed in people , I stare a lot and all kinds of people attract my attention.
The faces, their dressing, their body language, their language and finally a kind of curiosity to Know more .
Travelling a lot helped developed a unique skill and eventually I grew out of my Mom’s instructions, to begin random conversations with fellow travellers especially on long journeys.
It surprises me greatly that every random conversation with a stranger is such an eye opening experience.
I can never resist opening conversations with young students, during one such conversation with a young girl in a bus journey, I got to know how she had struggled to get her parents to send her for higher studies in a big city.She revealed to me her insecurities, and how she was trying to cope up with cultural academic financial psychological as well as peer pressure in her life. Those few moments of conversation helped her to relieve some of the tension building up inside and by the end of forty five minutes journey there was a visible change . She appeared cheerful and we exchanged our numbers to continue the bond we had striked up.
Another conversation which comes to my mind is the one I had with a cab driver of all the places in the holy city of Mecca. He was from Pakistan and when he came to know that we were from India, he was overjoyed and remarked warmly that we were from the same subcontinent. He asked us about our life in Hyderabad, finer details of weddings , dowry deaths intrigued him and with great gusto answered my queries too. He won my admiration when he revealed that he belonged to a well to do family but he wanted to prove his worth . He said he didn’t want to work under anybody and wanted to be his own boss that’s why he was into cab service, and very proudly declared that he was the owner of three cabs at the end of ten years of hard work.
Sometimes languages can be a great barrier in having a conversation, but nothing can hold anyone back from having a conversation. During a pre prayer session at the great Mosque in Mecca, there was an Indonesian woman sitting beside us. She interacted with my daughters in sign language and fragments of English words, by the end of which she was so enamoured that she gifted a scarf and a pair of handwoven silk footwear to them.T hey value them to this day and often recall the experience with fondness.
There is this another conversation I had with a student during an overnight bus journey who turned out to be from Kolkata studying in a Telugu speaking town. It was interesting to know about his struggle for Bengali cuisine, his interactions with locals and various other cultural issues. I ended up giving him career counselling and now his contact number firmly sits in my contact list.
There are a million interactions which I would like to pen down but….
Over the course of years, I have learnt to have interesting conversations with strangers in the oddest of places, bus stations, journeys, hospitals, reception areas and every conversation has helped me to have a better understanding of human nature. In return it has helped me to evolve into a finer human being is what I would like to believe.
For me personally, every stranger is like an unopened book waiting to be read,new opportunities to learn more, sometimes a change in attitude and finally an enriching experience which may alter our course of life.