(Sonder ; coined in 2012 by John Koenig, whose project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, aims to come up with new words for emotions that currently lack words. It refers to the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.)
Being an introvert myself, journeys with a large number of people have never been my thing. So, I didn’t have to think twice before deciding to abstain from the batch trip that my classmates were planning to Goa. I was getting one week’s free time, and I decided to explore north India. I visited New Delhi, Agra, Madhura, Dehradun, Mussoorie and Rishikesh.
This note however, is not about the places or the journey. This is about the wonderful people I met through the journey.
Jai the Driver
It was 7.30 pm, and I was rushing back to my place of residence after roaming around the campus of Jamia Milia University and the compounds of Kalkaji Mandir with Fasila & Devi. I was staying with my friend Vishnu, who was an officer of the Sports Authority of India, and he had his apartment in the Asiad village. I got down at Panchsheel Park metro station, and the apartment was in walking distance – One – one and a half kilometers approximately – from there.
I got down and started walking. The walkway was through a park maintained by the DDA, and the moment I entered, I was welcomed by street dogs. The first few I met just barked for some time and became calm, and I continued walking, with the mobile flashlight helping me in the dark.
After covering half kilometers came the trouble. Two dogs were running towards me and my instincts prompted me to run. I got outside the park through one gate and was welcomed by a new horde, and I kept running. They apparently didn’t look like street dogs, and followed me only till the end of their territory. Now I was lost, not knowing how to get to my place.
I had uber to my help. But the battery was 3%. However it stayed awake till the cab reached and I got in.
Mr Jai was the driver. With a navy blue breton cap and his shirt unbuttoned and worn like a coat over the t-shirt, he looked like the hero of a yesteryear Bollywood movie. Seeing me nervous maybe, he offered me a sapodilla fruit. But he was a stranger, and I was in a strange land, I wasn’t confident enough to have that. He comforted me saying that he knew the entire route, and that I didn’t have to worry. I put my phone on charge.
It was his own car. He didn’t have a music system in place but he sang old Hindi songs beautifully. We had a beautiful conversation though my broken Hindi and his native accent conflicted often. He told me how Uber has become unprofitable for the drivers, about his family, children and where all I should visit in Delhi.
People are beautiful. It’s even more beautiful that they happen in the most beautiful times.
Rocky and his friends
“mera photo mat keechna, celebrity hoon mei’
It was this statement that I heard first, while I was walking with my camera through the park. There was this group of youngsters playing cricket in the ground, and this lad in the orange T’shirt was speaking to me. He wanted to know which newspaper I was working for.
When I said I was a jobless traveler who could hardly meet the expenses for the journey, he relaxed his terms and agreed to pose for a photo on the condition that I take all their pictures and send it to him. Here they are.
Hobo the Monk
I reached Dehradun on 20th March and had my plans only from the evening, because I had to wait for my friend to join after an exam. I inquired at the Hotel reception for attractions nearby and they told me about the Buddhist temple. It was easy to reach there – I had just to take two Vikrams (Vikrams are three-wheeled vehicles in Dehradun, affordable and popular means of public transport ) , and it costed me less than 20.
I visited the recently inaugurated stupas and temple first, but the monks I met there appeared busy, and I could not strike a conversation. Photography was prohibited inside the temple, and silence was maintained with great discipline, by all the visitors.
After clicking some pictures there, I proceeded to the monastery, and there I met this person. He welcomed me with a smile, and offered me tea. He was not fluent in English and we had to converse in Hindi. It was difficult, but gradually I realized that we didn’t have any trouble conveying what we wanted to convey.
He wanted to know about the Kerala Floods and how we survived. He then shared the story of the monastery, which currently is one among the largest centres of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Till that conversation happened, I strongly believed that discipline and pleasure were contradictory. His calmness, and the profoundness of silence that was dwelling in the environment stroke thoughts to the possibility of their coexistence, or rather symmetry.
(This post is dedicated to Neenu chechi, who has been pestering me to write about the journey ever since I made it.)