It is said that road trips are less about the miles covered, more about the moments of the journey. Interacting with many human lives makes the journey truly memorable. On my second road trip with my soulmate, we met many such wonderful souls who left a mark on our hearts.
The watermelon seller on the highway – On our way from Ooty to Mysore, we were feeling hungry. Our eyes met this old man. He was waving at us to buy some watermelon. We stopped our car. Our first thought was to ensure he did not overcharge us. But when we asked him the price of the melon, we were in for a pleasant surprise. He was selling a big melon for Rs. 20; something we paid over a Rs. 100 in Bangalore. Happily, we asked him for one melon. He cut it into pieces and asked us if we wanted masala on it. While we were eating, he told us he was selling a bag of 10-15 melons for Rs. 250. Me and my husband, Pravesh looked at each other. What struck us was the tranquility on the man’s face. He was standing in the sun and the rains and taking a few bucks home; probably similar to what we spend on a coffee a day or may be even lesser. And yet he seemed satisfied in life. When he saw us having difficulty in eating the melon; he sliced it so we could eat it properly. He kept offering us masala to add to the taste. Such customer centricity for a product being sold for Rs. 20 was heart touching. We bought the bag from him and distributed melons to random people on our way home.
How much did he actually make in the day by selling his harvest at such low prices? When we finally buy these in the stores, we pay 4X the price. Does he actually get any of that profit?
How often we feel the need to have more – more money, bigger houses, better cars, jewellery and what not. There is never that tranquility on our face; peace in our sleep. The melon seller taught us how life could be simplified and peace was within.
Cafe Owner – The highways in Delhi are known for their Dhabas. In fact, people in Delhi drive to the highways; solely for the food. Unlike Delhi, I found it difficult to find good food on the entire stretch from Bangalore to Mysore to Ooty. On the way back, we saw Cafe’s Nature Bowl. What attracted us was a man standing with a microphone in his hand. While we could not hear him till we parked, his eyes met ours and the warmth in them was inviting enough. When we parked and sat in the cafe is when we got to know that the person was none other than the cafe owner. Retired from a bank and tired of the noisy Bangalore city, he had land on the highway where he had created this cafe and a few cottages to stay in. He had several pets in the farm land – dogs, cats, rabbits and many more. He also had a small temple within the premises. The temple said ‘Leave not just your shoes outside but also all your worries, apprehensions, gossips, fears.‘
What struck us was not just the fresh food we were served but also the owner’s love for music and a simple existence. He karaoked joyfully as we sat there and even encouraged us to sing along. Thanks to his encouragement, I sang my first Karaoke. He encouraged me to sing another one with him.
It did not seem he had opened the farm to make profits. Rather he was interested in making conversations and knowing other humans. He showed us to cottage and gave us fruits from his garden. He was in complete harmony with nature and life. His singing reflected how free he felt – freedom from the ‘have to do’ stuff, freedom from the rush of life and freedom from all inhibitions. A human life so free was refreshing to meet.
Cycle for world peace – While driving one afternoon, as I was complaining about the extreme heat ; a cycle passed us by. This cycle seemed special. It had banners of world peace and love around it. The man cycling it was dressed unconventionally. He wore a white rimmed googles. My husband, eager to always interact with more humans waved at him and checked if we could know what his message was. The cycle man, Mr. Chakravarthy had been cycling around the southern part of India with the message of world peace. He was 53 and yet so energetic. He was traveling with bare minimum things in his bag. He showed us all the media mentions of himself and shared about his intent behind leading such a life. I do not know if he will ever know he succeeded. But he did make a bold beginning. He said something which I will always remember. “We are humans. We must talk.”
The doctor with tattoos – Our image of a doctor is one with a geeky no-nonsense look. So when I met a doctor who was doing his post graduation in Ear-Nose-Throat medical field, I found it amusing that the doctor knew so much about life outside medicine. Pranshu is my mom’s friend’s son and I was meeting him for the second time in life. He met us as if he knew us for ages. He suggested us rare places to see in and around Mysore. He showed us pictures of his visits to Coorg and a few other nearby places. He shared anecdotes from his medical life; when sometimes he is on 72 hour duties and needs to perform surgeries without sleeping; how there are 4 mosques in 4 corners of his house and they are his alarm clock @ 5AM everyday. Many other such fascinating tales kept us engaged and taught us about a doctor’s life. Despite seeing deaths everyday, Pranshu had a joyful existence. He got tattoos on his sleeves which we felt amused since our perception of a doctor had been very different. Pranshu, the young lad, was fun, professional, spiritual and a gem of a soul we met.
Old Age Home Resident – We discovered an old age home in Mysore and walked in to know more. It was here we met Mr. Gondu, an 82 year old person living in the home. His mental energy and positivity was no match to the frail body. He told us about how the home worked; his journey from being a well to do person to being cheated by his son-in-law and ending up in this home. When we offered a bag of watermelons, he ensured we entered it in the register for book-keeping. He was eager to talk and shared how Mysore had changed over the past several years. The so called ‘growth’ changing a city forever; the so called ‘lifestyle’ leaving many old people homeless.
We also met an army man and his wife. The army man was serving as a guard in a newly constructed huge temple in the city of Mysore. His wife ran a tea and snacks shop closer to the temple. The person was having a tough time stopping people from taking pictures of the temple. When I mentioned the same to him of how his job was tough; he told us how he had been to worse hells as an army man. His wife, who stammered while speaking; did most of the talking with her beautiful smile. She was a great cook and the coffee and vada paav she made were a welcome change from what we had been eating in the past few days. Together, they were making both ends meet.
The hotel we stayed in Mysore, Hotel Paradise almost took us through a time travel. The hotel was 40 year old and seemed to be running like a government office. The room had antique paintings, candle stands – things I had seen in my home decades ago. Most of the staff was 65 year plus and seemed to be still serving for the love of their jobs. They were interacting with each other and walking around as if one walks in their homes. Despite the not so luxurious stay in terms of amenities; the hotel offered amazing views and made us nostalgic. We asked ourselves “Some day we all would also reach that age. Would we want to continue serving our employers?
A coconut water hawker taught us how to value simple things. When we had finished the water and were about to leave without eating the pulp; he sensed we were full and asked if we wanted to take the pulp home . He saw and valued the coconut in its entirety; water and pulp.
We met a beggar begging with two children. We bought ice creams for the children which they ate with so much pleasure and happiness. The smiles on their faces reminded us how each thing we take for granted in life is actually a blessing.
We met a Gujarati businessman who purchased an umbrella at a view point and when leaving the point managed to use his selling skills to sell it off to another traveler.
We also visited a hobby class where the owner’s art mesmerised us and the creations of its students telling us how there was an artist in each one of us; waiting to be brought alive, to be given wings.
There were many other souls we met and spoke to briefly. Every life seemed to be talking to us; every soul waiting to make a connection. We brought home a suitcase full of human experiences.