It was a perfect afternoon, a perfect one for a journey of hope.
With a light lunch and prayers accompanied by the signs for the unusual or rather, a sign of a flying feather holding good luck searching to attach itself to my hair, I left the home.
I entered the train compartment. As the train started moving, I began losing the sight of my people. There I was again, alone in the crowd.
Before I could take my seat, I noticed those curious eyes waiting to grab my attention. Those eyes, so hopeful, so stubborn, that they would not go unnoticed. I could not help but let our eyes meet, and those eyes returned a sense of satisfaction & relief clearly stating that we have something, within each of us, that the other needs. We cannot let each other pass by, without exchanging something that we must. I have no idea, but it was a strange encounter. Least expected.
Though I was still analyzing the latent thoughts of the subconscious mind, She was impatiently trying to dive into a conversation. I was a little worried about a tiny personal thing, while she continued staring at me just waiting to get that reaction from me which would say, “Yes, you can hello me now”.
She smiled. A very special, a beautiful smile, that at once brought me where I should be. Such a shine! I smiled at her back. I could see that she was dying to make a conversation. The only foreigner in the train, all alone, little amused by the tea/coffee and samosa passerby’s. She needed a company. And so, I asked her where she was going. She said “Hubli”. Now, Hubli isn’t a tourist destination. Moreover, she was alone. What would she be doing in Hubli? I was too inquisitive. I asked her where she came from and she said she is a German who now lives in Scotland. She said she was in Goa for about a week & she was going to Hubli to meet one of her old students!
Well, A teacher who came flying across the oceans to meet her student? I was about to “Wow” and she said, No I am not a teacher. She smiled and said, I was just a mentor. A mentor to someone who needed me once upon a time.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of noise & confusion in the train, people still searching for the right berths, the tea/coffee vendors screaming out loud, the TC shouting angrily to some people & what not! The dear lady could not really understand what was happening & she asked me if she could sit next to me. Why not, I thought. I gave her the window side, so that she could have a look at the country side western mountain range and the beauty of the Konkan parts.
She seemed delighted. I was surprised to see her animated behavior, her expressions, sheer joy & excitement, her eyes would suddenly sparkle if she spotted a stream or the color of the sun rays through the jungle trees or the rail side activities. She asked me several questions about India – food, culture, people, work, colors, seasons, and everything she could possibly think of. She had a great style of speaking. She spoke well!
Such a happy soul, I could not help but inquire about her life. Her story goes like this:
She was born in Germany, to a couple who lived quite an unhappy married life. Her mother being violent by nature, would at times physically abuse her when she would have quarrels with her husband. There was no love, no peace, no life! Her parents showed absolutely no interest in her growth. She grew up, and decided to move out of home. She moved to Scotland. While on her journey to seeking happiness, she came across an organization through which she got a chance to travel to Australia.
While in a small region within Australia, something very special happened to her. She met a whole new world where she could see only happiness. Everybody there was joyous. Tremendous pleasure, love and cheer, everybody was kind and polite, they were all content, they partied, sang, danced. There was everything a person possibly would need to be happy. That place was abundantly blessed, by God. She had an encounter with God, & the people taught her to converse with God, to trust, to build faith. She experienced the wonder. Her life since then was never the same.
She committed herself, to live and work for God, our creator. After that, she has been constantly serving the world, as a Gods disciple. She has traveled 27 different countries. She has touched thousands of lives. Though she has no much financial backing, things work for her miraculously. Sometimes, its so harsh that she doesn’t have a penny to feed herself. She told me few of her experiences where God helped her survive through the thick and the thin. She says to God, “I am doing your work, for the life that you have created, if I need something to be able to do so, you must provide. You need to give me the strength and good health so that I can serve you better, day after day.”
Though she had a very difficult childhood, always beaten up, never being loved, she prays to God day and night for her parents so that their life improves, so that they stay happy for the rest of their lives. She believes that the lost love shall return back to their family some day.
In Scotland, she lives in a beautiful mansion located by the Ocean. She described how she spends her time by the shore.
She got me completely tangled up into a bundle of thoughts. I looked outside the window, and what say! Our train was passing around the famous Dudhsagar waterfalls. I told her to look around, and at once she took out her camera. Oh my! She was amazingly thrilled. I just hoped she did not jump out of the train because she ran to the door and almost hung herself to the doorway with one arm and positioned her camera with the other. She stood by the door until our train completely took a turn around the waterfalls. She told me she loves cascading falls.
After about 20 minutes she returned back to our seat and she said, India is so beautiful! I love the hills, the water, the green and the blue! Her face turned even more pink as she said that and I laughed at her amazement. She continued, “I want to go to Mumbai, I want to see the dhobis and how they work!”. I was awed, I never knew the Dhobis from Mumbai had such a reputation, oh they do..
Meanwhile, Another lady, old enough whose age I could not guess, entered our boogie, panting, huffing, with a walking stick in one hand and an old rugged bag in the other, and a lad helping her reach the right place. She thanked the lad as she settled down and spoke to herself, “So this is the BE-2 coach that goes to Bangalore, and the remaining train compartments go to Delhi. Thank God, I finally reached the right place”. We looked at her, but said nothing.
There was another man sitting opposite to the old lady. She and him seemed to converse a lot while I was lost in conversations with my new German friend.
The train stopped at a station, where the compartments which must go to Bangalore are detached and the remaining compartments start off to Delhi. This process usually takes about 2 hours and the passengers usually get off the train and walk on the platform or try some snacks.
I mentioned about this to my dear friend and at once she got off the train, walked along the platform and spotted a small snack shop where they were selling “madur vada”. She bought some and relished the vadas with chilly sauce. She then walked more and narrated some silly jokes about her previous travels, stray dogs, spicy food and the like. From a distance we saw the same old lady walking quick steps, gleefully, holding something in her hand. She came towards us and said, “There. Both of you come with me. There that person is selling delicious Shrikhand. Why don’t you girls try it out! Come with me”. Off the three of us rushed to the shop and bought three scoops of really yummy fresh shrikhand.
The old lady enquired about us and we did not hesitate to tell her about our life. She then told us that she is a part of a mountaineering club. She returned from New Zealand recently. Before that she went mountaineering in Nepal. She excitedly told us about her adventures, her group, all the people and many more stories. We were so happy to meet her. I just happened to ask her age, and then she said she is 81. A 81 yr old lady, absolutely fit, full of life and energy, filled with cheer! What a gifted life she lives! She says “Your life is how you want it to be”.
It was almost time for the train to leave and we entered our compartment back. Now the four of us quite knew each other, and we discussed certain topics mostly about the travel and general things. Again, the old lady and the man got back to their discussions about topics like political parties, state well-fare and the like. My dear friend and I spoke about friends, marriages, different cultures, employment, career and similar. We had so much fun together. She became very sentimental whenever she mentioned anything about her parents and family and so I decided to keep the topics drifted away. After every fifteen minutes we mentioned to one another that we’re so glad we met, and that there is something special in our meeting this way.
It was the time to dinner. As usual, I had carried my food packed from home. She had placed an order in the train canteen. We waited for her food to arrive which wasn’t too late. We arranged all the containers, mine and hers. She told me that she would like to pray before we start eating. I allowed her to do so, and she said a prayer, aloud, on behalf of all of us, thanking God for the lovely journey so far and to bless our food. She was so grateful. She brought such peace in the chaotic train.
The two of them loved the shrimps and oyster shells which my mother had cooked. We discussed about different cuisines and exchanged few recipes.
It was about 9:00 p.m. The train was moving at a rapid speed. The darkness had fallen. She was suppose to get down at Hubli station which was 2 hrs away. We took a few pictures. We spoke about what we wish to have. About our dreams, predictions, destiny. She told me more about the power of God. She told me more about the service she has been doing, for the poor, the abandoned children, the old aged people, the sufferers. She told me about the education she provides to the people about service to mankind. She also described how she speaks to God and about the conversations. She says, “God is so powerful. God can vanish the suffering from the world. But he wants to do it together with us. He wants us to participate. We must all work and help each other. It is the responsibility of each one of us to help the needy. And we help God”.
Suddenly, her face turned blue. She said, I wish this journey never ends, at the same time she would count minutes to meet her student.
She said, “Sonali, You are so kind. You have a special heart. I want to pray for you. Is there anything you wish to have? Is there anything that makes you sad? or is there any message that you want to convey to God?”
She held both my hands gently. She began praying for me. For a better life, for the happiness in its best, for all the love, for success, for everything she could think of. She asked God to be with me always and never to leave me in loneliness. She prayed that God may always show me a way to victory and prosperity, and bless me with loads of beautiful things.
Though I thanked her, I do not think I could express to her how grateful I truly was and How thankful I was to God, for sending her for me.
It was time for her to leave. Both of us stood by the train door until the train took a halt. Her eyes were shining and she repeatedly said She would miss me, and how glad she was to meet me on her journey. Tears rolled down from her eyes onto her cheeks as she got down from the train. We bid Good-Bye. She was smiling at me, at the same time wiping her tears. The train started moving once again and we waved out to each other until we lost the sight. I stood by the door for the next 20 minutes, without any reactions, only feeling the breeze blowing on my face.
I came back to my berth and saw that the same old lady was laying the bed spreads and arranging the pillows for me. I did not say anything, but only a “Thank You!”. May be she understood something at that point of time.
I wished the old lady a Good Night! I lied there. I could not stop thinking about her. I closed my eyes and within few minutes, tears rolled down from my eyes, uncontrollably.
It was an emotional touch!