Some people you meet make a lasting impact, some random encounters change how you view the world, and how you view yourself, people “sent from above” when you’re having a rough time, to remind you of life’s true value, and values.
In August, I introduced you to the man from Pura, who, believing we were lost, guided us through the streets of his village. Drawn to his charm and warmth, the simplicity of his genuine desire to help strangers, we went back. Twice. And we will go again.
After meeting him and seeing how nice he had been, jogging in front of the scooter, we couldn’t stop talking about this experience. A couple of days later, we enrolled Sathya, his car, his Kannada skills, and Google Maps in our newfound adventure. This time, we went not only armed with water and rice, but a big carton of food. The only clue we had as to where we might find the village again was a screen print of the map we had taken in the area. I am not sure how our dedicated driver felt with his car bopping up and down the dirt roads, in the middle of nowhere, guided only by the trustworthy Google Maps, but 20 kms later, he found the village. I had the man’s picture and he showed it to couple of people standing by the water tower in Pura. They pointed us towards the green house I had remembered. The gentleman with white hair was sitting on the ground, quietly resting with his back against his house, still wearing a white T-shirt. He was staring at the approaching white car. No car belongs on that side of the village. It is the end of the “road”, ending into the vegetable fields. I could see his eyes gazing in our direction, lost in his thoughts. Then, in a split second, as fast as a scared kitten, he jumped up, smiled and started talking in excitement. He had just recognized E. sitting in the back seat. He was beaming, ecstatic. E. opened the door and found himself engulfed in a warm embrace, as if he had been the long lost cousin returning after years of absence. Sathya and I stayed back and looked at this unexpected and heart-warming scene.
We were invited into his house and met his wife. Soon we were surrounded by neighbors, standing in front of the door and never set a foot inside. We had become circus animals, and we were happy with that!
Sathya explained who we are, why we were here, that we had not gotten lost on our previous trip, but were exploring the area. Sitting on the bed-cum-sofa like two potted plants, we got a kick watching the two men talking (about us!) in Kannada and laughing. We learned his name is Srinivas. I took a couple of pictures, and we promised to come back.
Christmas being the season for giving, I had decided a long time ago that on the 26th of December, we would go back. This time, we didn’t need a print out of the map, or a picture of the man with white hair, Sathya found his way directly to the green house. Srinivas was having a drink of water when he spotted the car, and I thought he was going to choke. The same scene repeated itself. I was ignored for a few minutes while the two buddies hugged and laughed. I had a picture of a young boy I had taken last time and someone went to get him.
We were all again invited into the house, where the wife welcomed us, much less shy that she had been last time. We met Srinivas’ grandson, a cutie pie whom I mistook for a girl because of all the jewelry he was wearing. We met one of his sons and I assume the young woman who stayed in the back room was the daughter-in-law, the mother of the baby boy. We tried to play with him, but he would have none of those strangers hold him! He just stared. Srinivas disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a bottle of orange soda and some bananas for us. The neighbors were again at the door. Inside, the family had a small business making flower garlands for religious festivals. They had piles of yellow marigolds, some tied up in perfectly round bundles already.
I spend quite a bit of time outside, taking pictures of the children. They now trusted I would come back and give them the prints. They didn’t smile much. My school kids turn into funny lunatics whenever there is a camera pointed at them. The village kids were as serious as an old royal’s portrait. Srinivas wanted pictures with E., with E. and the baby, with E. and his new motorcycle, a recent gift from his children. With me? Nope! One of the women asked if I wanted flowers for my hair. She made me a small jasmine garland, and a little girl gave me her bobby pin so I could attach it to my braid. I love my gift.
A gentleman outside was asking Sathya questions about us. Where are they from? Where do they live? What do they eat? Do they believe in God?
Today, they both do.