It’s Sunday, usually a low-key day for me because I can’t muster the emotional stamina to face Mumbai’s traffic.
So, I’m mostly at home, wandering around the spaces in my memories – the long-vacated classrooms, childhood parks, cross-country drives, dark, cool clubs, wine-soaked dinner parties. As I move in and out, I pause at mundane spots. They aren’t mundane, in actual fact, because they’ve dug a groove. So much so that they are particularly enticing to mull over and relive.
I remember this one time when I was in college at Brown. It was a lovely spring day, the kind that are Nature’s perfection in sunniness with an infusion of cool freshness. I was walking back to my off-campus apartment, grappling with my usual feeling of being out of place. I wasn’t smart enough. Or pretty. Or creative. I wasn’t American enough, I wasn’t Indian enough. And for a place like Brown, I wasn’t free-spirited enough.
Absorbed in these heavy thoughts, I kept my head down, as if literally bearing the burden. I reached the end of the street and waited for the pedestrian sign in order to cross. Casually, I looked around. And that’s when I saw him.
It was the UPS guy, sitting in his brown uniform, inside his brown truck, waiting for the traffic signal to change. His arm was resting carelessly on the steering wheel, and he too, out of boredom, seemed to have been scanning the scene around him. Our eyes locked, a half beat passed, and we both broke into a smile.
It was the kind of smile that carried a thick band of human connection as it reached over. For those handful of seconds, there was an acknowledgement of my existence as I was. Non-judging, fully accepting. It wasn’t a case of being checked out; this one felt pure and simple in its intent: friendship.
It’s perhaps laughable that I’m talking about friendship with a courier guy sitting high in his truck, without any words passing between us. But that’s what it felt like. That toothy grin made me feel I was okay.
The light changed, and we both went our opposite ways. To this day, though, it is one of my favorite memories. It is one of those times when I saw the perfection of the present moment.