It must have been 8 years, probably more.
I was backpacking in the interiors of Tamil Nadu, travelling in local rickety state buses and sleeper class trains. I didn’t know the local language but somehow I was able to convey whatever I wanted to say.
In those crowded packed buses, I mostly sat on the seats near the driver or on the bonnet itself. That’s a good place to observe people and also look out in the front in order to know my designated stop. But that day, I remember, was fortunate to get a ladies seat. Aha! I had my window seat! I always feel contented looking outside from the window. It actually makes me happy seeing the landscape, fields and people performing their daily chores. Small villages passed by and then our bus halted at a small town.
A woman with an infant in her lap boarded the bus and sat beside me. She had a shawl around her and she looked obscure. There was a bad odor coming from her as if she had not taken a shower for days. Since it was hot and humid weather, I opened the window. That time hot air coming through window soothed me. It was last leg of my journey and wanted to soak in the local flavor whatever I could, before heading to Chennai from where I was to take a train home.
Hardly 5 minutes would have passed and all of a sudden the infant started howling. The woman tried to calm him down but in vain. Probably he was hungry. She looked at me adjusting herself in a feeding position and wrapping both of them with her shawl.
I moved more towards the window giving her almost one and half seat. I continuously looked outside the window giving them enough privacy for their moment. She was continuously moving and at times it looked as if she elbowed me. By this time I was also half covered with her shawl. I was stuck to window now. Two more stops within 20 minutes and then she alighted.
Bus reached my stop after another 40 minutes. I had to change my bus here. I alighted and gave a quick look around the place, slipped my hand inside my sling bag to check the correct bus number. Then suddenly I realized zip of my sling bag was open! Rummaging through my bag I checked inside and to my horror, my wallet which also had my ATM card, was missing! That woman had done the trick using the baby to her advantage.
Ran towards the ticket counter to narrate my story and to know about the bus which dropped me there. No luck. Nobody could understand what I was talking about.
Fortunately, a college student with broken English came to my rescue. God bless him. He translated the whole incident to others. But nothing could be done now. The bus was gone and the woman, much before that. Oh yeah! My money too.
I must’ve checked my backpack at least 30 times in the hope of finding some money in some corner. No, I had taken out all that morning itself and had kept in the wallet.
Advice started pouring in as how & what I should be careful about while traveling. Reporting to police didn’t make any sense. I would have wasted my time and missed that last bus which I must take to reach my destination before dark.
The ticket fare for the next bus which I was to take, was Rs 70 and I didn’t have a single penny on me! I moved away from the counter, stood motionless thinking deeply about my next steps. Stranded on the bus stop, I must have looked a very disturbed person.
A few minutes later, that college student approached me with a few Rs 10 notes in his hand.
Do you want to know what he said?
“We are very sorry that this incident happened in our area and we regret it. We understand your problem. We have collected some money for your ticket. Please accept it.” By now some more people had joined him.
I was utterly surprised! Apparently that boy requested fellow passengers to help and they all contributed Rs 10 each! In all Rs 180 was collected and now they were requesting me to accept it. In the heart of my hearts I knew I could not take the money but the situation commanded that I accept, much against my wish.
I do not know what I would have I done, had not that timely help come my way in the form of that stranger. We meet many people on the road…. who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. He was one such soul.
That was one of the stories from my kitty. The Kindness on the road.
I am starting a new monthly series on this theme. Last week of every month I’ll bring you stories from travelers who have experienced the kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.
If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
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