Suchita Senthil Kumar

Classics Inspirational


Suchita Senthil Kumar

Classics Inspirational

Chance Encounters

Chance Encounters

7 mins

This was a trip I was least looking forward to. I sat huddled up next to the window of my car as my father sped through the empty highways. The only thing about this entire travel that made it worthwhile was the bucolic scene I was presented to. The dark black roads of the highway were lonely and on either of its sides were acres and acres of green land with the occasional huts or small houses, sometimes a petrol bunk, and rarely, a restaurant or a hotel to stop by. My father, however, didn't seem to notice the restaurants, the place my loud stomach was yearning for. Even if he did, he made sure to pretend like he didn't. The reason for my father's dismissal was the fact that a tasty full South-Indian meal was awaiting us in his relative's place. I was more than glad about that, though however, quite saddened by the fact that it would take us two more hours to reach. I watched as the restaurants passed by, pure vegetarian, non-vegetarian, a takeaway, another petrol bunk, until I drifted to sleep with my stomach growling like a three-headed dog.

Two hours and a few more minutes went by and I paid no notice to it as I was still fast asleep when our car had stopped. The sudden inactivity seemed to wake me up and I sat up, straightening my clothes to make sure I looked presentable to our hosts. My eyes caught a glimpse of an old, tattered house through the window and my head jerked, and I was sure that if I'd turned my head faster than that, it would've fallen out. Where exactly where we?

Well, the answer to that question was simple. We were lost. Father got out of his driver's seat and glanced at Mother with a fake nonchalance as though nothing had happened. She returned the same look, albeit with slightly more tranquillity than one would've expected in the given situation. That was their way of reassuring each other that things would be okay and that it would be best not to freak out and create a mess. Something common to both of them that I clearly didn't inherit. I wanted to scream.

The hunger in my stomach had subsided and turned into a weakness that spread all over my body like ink blotting a tissue. The scream came through as a small soft letting of air. The kind that had no meaning, somewhere in between a gasp and a sigh. But calm. I didn't have the energy to scream or be mad at my dad. I didn't have the energy to get up and offer to help in finding the route out on Google Maps. I just lay there, limp. Traveling by car has never been one of my favorite memories. Writing about this seems as absurd as that. If someone had told me that I'd be writing about that day, reminiscing, I would've laughed at their face.

My mother managed to convince me to get out of the car 'for some fresh air' and I had to agree not because I did but because trying to prove her wrong was pointless. It was like hoping to throw a seven on the die, impossible. I quickly slipped into my shoes and stepped out allowing the fresh breeze to hit my face. That was when I took a look at the house. It was not tattered like it seemed. It was just old. Old was an understatement. It was ancient. The white walls on the outside were worn out but somehow still seemed to look white, telling people laying eyes on this magnificent structure that it was once pearl white. It had a roof with a few bricks out of place. There were pieces of straw and old leaves lying atop the roof, clearly, no one had cleaned up in a while. It didn't look like one of the houses you'd find deserted in a horror story. It looked shabby, but at the same time welcoming. There were lamps hanging outside near the pair of pillars that held the roof. It seemed to me, the sort of house I'd find if I were ever to reach Utopia. The house was of course inhabited. Probably by an old couple whose sons and daughters had decided to leave them for good, settle somewhere in the city.

Tearing my eyes of the beautiful house, I turned to look at my father who was desperately trying to get his phone connected to GPS. The signal was quite weak considering the lack of towers in that area and the abundance of tall trees. Our attempts at trying to get my father's phone to work were interrupted by the sound of footsteps approaching us. It was a girl.

The girl was slightly stout and had her long hair tied in two fishtail braids. She wore a traditional Pattu Pavadai, a dress commonly worn by the young girls of South India. The Pattu Pavadais that I owned were usually grand, made of fine and shining silk. They were the ones I wore on occasions like weddings or other ceremonies. Her dress looked nothing like mine. They were quite simple, made of cotton. The simplicity of her dress was not noticeable after one had noticed the borders of her skirt. They had a bright gold woven meticulously, creating intricate designs, like the kind that you found on the walls of the stone temples in South India.

She smiled at us, her lips opening into a wide-toothed smile. Her skin was dark brown, almost black. She spoke to us kindly, telling us that we were invited to stay in her house for a while. We politely declined until a man, who I later figured out to be her father, stepped out. He walked to us, his smile mimicking that of his daughter. Smiles that were carved onto their brown faces. He spoke to my father for a while and before I knew it, we were sitting on the floor, banana leaves in front of us, ready to have lunch.

I couldn't have thanked god enough that day. The girl, her father and her mother walked to and fro the kitchen and the hall where we were seated bringing us rice and Sambhar along with some potatoes to relish on. They seemed good natured and it was their smiles, the innocent, honest ones that lead us to eat at a stranger's place. Before my mother could resist the food, the girl's mother spoke up telling us that she usually cooks a little extra just in case someone gets lost, something that happens quite often.

After the wonderful delicacy, we thanked them and the girl's father spoke to my dad wildly moving his hands in the air indicating direction. I smiled at the girl and her mother, turned back to the two men, smiled again at the girl and the mother until my dad walked up to us and told us we were ready to go. I smiled back once again at the girl and her parents, we profusely thanked them for the meal and helping us find our way back.

Their kind gesture, till today remains deeply embedded in my heart. I often think of that girl, her parents and the similar smiles they had, and the tasty food they'd served us. Sometimes I remember that I hadn't even asked that girl her name. I may not know her, or her name. But I will forever be thankful to her and her family for what they had done to us.

We would've probably found our way out, reached home two hours late, still had an amazing meal. It is however a beautiful memory, proof that humans are capable of love. That compassion comes to the human heart easier than hate. That family, in their isolated house, still remind me to be kind and compassionate towards anyone I can.

And every time I pass on my used books or clothes to the little girls playing in the slums, or help the little boys falling down from their bicycles to get up and dust their clothes off, I look at their smiles and remember the smile on that girl's face, innocent, honest and welcoming.

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