Stranger : Yes? Are you calling me?
Me : Yes, uncle. Is this lower berth yours?
Stranger : Correct, it’s mine.
Me : Can you please do us a favour?
Stranger : Tell me?
Me : We had booked two tickets. Unfortunately, only one is confirmed, the berth right above you. The other one is in the waiting list. We will talk to the TC once he comes. But till then it will be difficult for two of us to sit in an upper berth. If you don’t mind, then can you shift to our berth and allow us to sit in your place?
I looked at my colleague in anticipation and then towards the stranger wondering if my polite words would placate him in case he feels offended.
Few years back, me and my colleague had to travel from Orissa for attending a conference in Mumbai. The plan to attend the conference was made merely a day before. That’s why the travel agent could manage just one confirmed upper berth ticket for my colleague alone. Now I don’t like to disrupt my planned activities in handling odd surprises and hence prefer to sort everything way ahead. I can never imagine myself travelling without a ticket.
But you know what they say. Never say never. So, there I was, standing in front of a 50 something year old stranger dressed in a simple white half-sleeved shirt & brown pants and requesting him to give away his seat only because someone dared to step inside the two-tier AC compartment with a waiting list train ticket in hand. His denial meant I would have to keep standing all night with my luggage and wait for the TC. It became a matter of life and death for me.
Stranger : Okay. No problem.
Both of us breathed a sigh of relief after we heard his golden words. He got up from his berth and climbed to the upper one with his pillow, bedsheet, blanket in his hands and a smile on his face. I didn’t think the job would be this easy.
Me : Thanks a lot , uncle.
Stranger : Good Night.
3 AND A HALF MONTHS LATER :
Boss : Get this document signed from Mr. X.
Me : Where does he sit?
Boss : He sits in Y department.
Y department was a completely separate and distant building from the place where I worked. I entered it with the document and slight nervousness. After all, Mr. X was the VP of the department. What if he refused to sign it? How would I convince him? I went inside his cabin. Few men were sitting and discussing on something with each other. One of them turned towards me with a question mark on his face.
Me : I need Mr. X’s signature. Where can I find him?
‘I am Mr. X’, another gentleman stood up from one of the chairs. His face looked familiar to me but I couldn’t recall where I had seen him earlier.
Me : Oh. Hello Sir. Can you please sign this paper?
Mr. X glanced on the paper and me for a while. Finally he said with a smile, ‘Okay. No problem.’
His smile hit that corner of my brain where I usually keep the hit-and-miss memories. I froze inside within seconds after realising that I had actually asked Mr. X, the VP to change his berth for me that night. It was him indeed. I was unsure if he had recognised me or not. He better not.
Mr. X : Done.
Me : Thank you….Sir.
Mr. X : My pleasure.
I almost snatched the document from his hand and walked out of the cabin. Movies and books often narrate stories of bumping into a stranger and then discovering him to be someone influential. I never thought I would be a part of such story one day.
What if he refused to leave his seat that night? Maybe, I would have argued with him a little after his denial. What if he reminded me of this incident while signing the document? I would have felt embarrassed to my core.
Nothing happened as such fortunately. Mr. X did what he was supposed to do. He helped two young ladies to a great extent without giving a damn about his seniority and position. I wish all of us were like him. How many strangers do we meet regularly?Many. But those who don’t forget to show their human side are the ones taking place in our memories.
Do you have any such instance of encountering a stranger?