Tired from a lingering cold, I nevertheless dragged myself out for a short afternoon walk. I had been cooped up inside for too long. Winter in Mumbai is sheer pleasantness and I wanted to take advantage of the cool, sunny days while they lasted. My cold was just shy of being a full-blown annoyance: not so strong as to render me incapacitated, yet vocal enough to make its presence felt. My body felt sapped, my nose was a raw mess from too much blowing and wiping. Dark circles swirled around my eyes.
I felt sorry for myself. As happens so often in our urban existence these days, I found myself alone with my sickness. Heating up soup, pulling the covers to properly envelope my shivers, making teacup after teacup of ginger chai, all by my lonesome self. Needless to say, my sense of woe and pity for self was boundless.
In such a state, I fell out of the gate and started ambling down the road. Immediately, I felt better. The soft sunrays fell on me like the gentle caresses of a mother. Bright pink bougainvilleas stretched to touch me, rubbing against me with friendliness. A slight wind stirred. I felt my hair dance on my cheeks; I tucked it behind my ears. I started to feel revived.
And then, as if the universe wanted to ensure I was restored, I stumbled onto a kind face. Across the road, as I scanned the way in front of me, my eye caught his. A middle-aged, middle-class gentleman was walking on the opposite side, in my direction. He was wheatish in complexion, no stark features to note. A simple full-sleeved white shirt, tucked into tailored brown pants, gave away his simplicity. He seemed to smile at me although I did not see his face break into it. Silver hair mixed with black, his forehead seemed to carry the wrinkles that only come with time. And yet, he looked youthful. There was a lightness to him, energy danced in his aura. I felt myself smile inside.
Obviously, it was a stranger, but he did not feel like one. This has often happened to me. Strangers reveal themselves to be friends, intimate friends, through the most trivial and slightest of gestures. The friendship is not conventional by any means, and yet what passes between us can only be called the truest of friendship. It is simple, unfiltered, joyful connection.
It’s nice to know friendliness is around me. I only have to be open and mindful enough to look and I will see it.