A long exhausting day was coming to an end. I had taken an insanely early flight in the morning and sat through meetings the whole day. Finally it was time for me to take a flight and head back home. My flight was not yet announced and having a cup of tea at a café on the airport seemed like the ideal thing to do to kill the extra time and to contemplate on the day's events.
A meeting for which my team and I had worked very hard, had not turned out the way we expected. Sitting down with a cup of tea finally gave me the opportunity to reflect. I was trying to tell myself that it was all a part of the game. You win some and you lose some -- most important part was to keep trying. My mind could not help thinking about the day's events. I had traveled all the way from Ahmedabad for a meeting like this? Such a waste of time!
And before I could realize, I was already in the same trail of thoughts again. How important is it to push for things in life and at what point do we learn to let go? Till what point do I trust myself and when do I start doubting?
While I was engrossed in one of those moments of introspection, she broke my chain of thoughts. She came and sat on the chair opposite mine on my table. I wondered why she would have done that -- there were other empty tables as well.
She looked old and slightly tired. Must be my mother's age, I thought, or slightly older. The veil on her hair prevented me from guessing her age by the colour of her hair. Her burqa was full of embroidery -- she looked as if she was from a well-to-do family. Our eyes met and she gave me a warm smile. I smiled back -- I felt better.
Waiter came and asked me if I had my order ready. I asked for a cup of tea. I asked her if she wanted anything. She said something to me in a language I could not understand well. She signaled to the waiter that she did not need anything.
Her presence was positive and reassuring -- something that I desperately needed that moment. I wondered if I somehow knew her. Why was I feeling so comfortable in her being there?
"Kahan jaa raha hai?" (Where are you going?) She was striking up a conversation with me!
"Ahmedabad" I replied.
"Nahin.. Ahmedabad.. Gujarat mein" (in Gujarat).
"Ghar Ja Raha hai?" (Are you going home?)
"Haan... Ghar Ja Rahi Hoon." (Yes.. going home), I replied.
"Aur aap?" (And yourself?) I added - I was curious now.
"Urdu samajhta?" (You understand Urdu?) She ignored my question.
"Thoda - Hindi jaisa hi hai na?" (A little bit - quite similar to Hindi na?) I wanted to talk to her more now. I was starting to enjoy the conversation.
"Bahut Accha," (Very Nice). "Muslim hai?" (Are you a Muslim?)
"Nahin" I hoped that would be okay. I hoped that there would not be any lines drawn. I hoped she would still be the same with me.
As I started to think about what I could say to make us feel one again -- to feel connected, I heard her say: 'Kuch farq nahin. Sabka Allah ek.' (No difference -- everyone's God is one). She smiled.
I looked at her and found the same warmth in her eyes.
Or was it Nargis or Naseem? I could not hear well -- but it seemed that someone was calling out for her.
She said something back to them but I could not understand. She got up and joined a group of people, which was standing outside the Café. I saw her walking away. She turned back briefly and looked at me -- smiling. I waved her a goodbye.
What was this, I asked myself? I don't know who she was or where she came from. I don't even know whether I'll meet her again but one thing I knew -- she was there, right there when I needed some comforting, some reassurance.
All my introspective thoughts had suddenly vanished and I got goosebumps simply by thinking, how wonderful it was to be a human being! I was ready to face the world!
Sometimes all it takes is the presence of a stranger to start believing in yourself all over again.