The Sweet Stranger
The Sweet Stranger4 mins 332 4 mins 332
It was at 4.30 AM. The sky was full of stars and no moon. The Toyota Innova I was taking back home from work was rushing past the Worli Sea Link amid the nocturnal sky. Unlike other days, I was reluctant to peek through the window and gaze at the breathtaking design of the cable-stayed bridge, dreaming of driving a red convertible along this road, feeling the wind in my hair, carefree while David Bowie's Hero played in the background. But not this day.
It was one of those disastrous Friday nights where I was under extreme stress at work and my manager was in his sourest of moods. I had to complete a task by the next day or we were likely to lose our client. I was so worried and frustrated about my situation that I even screamed at the driver to switch off the radio. Perturbed, he asked me if I would like a different song, but I pounced on him again and said I wanted absolute silence.
We were at a signal and the breeze was playing lightly with my hair, coaxing me to sleep when suddenly someone tapped on my shoulder. I looked up irritated and saw this pleasantly smiling foreigner looking at me. Before I could gather what was happening, he said, “Hello! I’m Adam Parker. Would you mind sitting by the seashore for a while and watch the break of dawn?” My co-passenger in the Uber pool seemed to have been a godsend because I definitely needed a break from the stress of the day. We ended our pool ride and stepped out to sit by the seashore.
However strange it may sound, this experience changed my perspective of life forever.
Adam was half Polish, half German and was living in and out of Mumbai for almost three decades. In the littlest Hindi that he knew, he told me all about his love for Pav Bhaji and photography. As I introduced myself, Adam fished out his DSLR and started clicking pictures of the sunrise. I learned that he traveled to the Promenade beach every morning to capture beautiful scenes of sunrise. He just chanced upon a friendly co-rider in me who was willing to share his experience.
As we chatted I poured out all that annoyed me about my day at work and how dissatisfied I was in my advertising job. To this, he said, “I always thought advertising was fun. Look at me. I work as a Consultant in a multinational, which is a very boring job, but photography is my passion. Two weeks ago, I went to Kerala on business and had beef curry at Varkala. Even thinking about the taste makes me feel happy now. You know life is too simple if we decide to lead it that way. Career growth, marriage, kids, grandkids, all of these should be enjoyed, not made a goal that one achieves with stress. When life is feeling tired, simply leave everything aside and give it time to rejuvenate. Spend time with yourself, be a little selfish for yourself, and enjoy life to the fullest.”
As I pondered over his simple advice, he gave me his card and invited me over for dinner someday where he promised to treat me to his version of the succulent mutton ghost biryani and tundey kebab.
As we decided to leave with a promise to meet again, we hugged and said our goodbyes. At that moment, holding onto an absolute stranger felt more real than the world I was living in. And when he broke away, he burst into that charming smile of his again and asked in his accented Hindi, “Ab kaali-peeli bulayein?” (Shall we call the black and yellow cab?) I smiled and nodded, while he went complete Mumbaiya style and whistled for a cab to stop. As I got in, he waved out and went on his own way.
Several Fridays have gone by since that chance meeting, but Adam and I never met again. I can’t seem to find his card and only have glimpses of that eventful dawn with this stranger. But in the meanwhile, my perspective towards life has changed. I’ve begun devoting time to myself and rekindling the joy in my life.
The clock ticked at 9 pm and my phone rings. It is my Uber pool driver waiting for me to board. I keep my fingers crossed like I do every Friday, hoping for the miracle to return.