Last evening, I had this memory of a woman, a stranger who changed something in me during the course of a day. I wanted to write about it. It made me think – this could be a great prompt! So I invite you to write on this topic – a stranger in your life who made a difference. I would be honored if you decide to share it, either in the comments section or in your blog and leave a link. Here is mine…
We were at the waiting lounge in Frankfurt. We had just landed from our first flight, Boston to Frankfurt, and there was another waiting of about four hours before our next flight to Chennai. I was traveling alone with Anji, 18 months old at the time. Abhi was going to join us in Mumbai a week later.
Anji was playing near the window of the lounge watching the planes go by, doing her usual thing, when I saw Her. She was perhaps in her mid thirties or early forties – I have always been terrible at telling people’s age – and had a boy with her. She was sitting on one of those lounge chairs – they have a few in airports which are always taken pretty soon – where you can put our your legs and lean back. She was watching Anjali play and smiled across at me. She had an open, friendly face. I could tell she was a south-indian too, by her salwar kameez attire – and maybe she had a bindi. We exchanged greetings – her name was Soumya, and found out our destinations were the same.
Soumya was traveling with her husband and her five year old son to meet her parents and in-laws. She commented on how cute Anji was. Anji at that time liked to eat on her own and I remember her saying how amazing that was. We talked a few pleasantries, where we each lived and so on. Nothing major. Just friendly. The long afternoon wore on as I walked around, strolling Anji in her stroller – at various points for diaper changes, snacks and mostly hoping she would fall asleep. I don’t remember if she did – there were too many journeys on that big trip to India to recall the exact details.
But what I remember was when we landed in Chennai many hours later. Anji was exhausted (even adults feel half-dead after the excruciatingly long travel), it was about 2.00 at night. All our supplies of juice and milk was over and by the time I had remembered to ask the flight attendant it had been too late – they had closed everything. Everything in the airport was shut. She was hungry, tired and I was exhausted and feeling very lonely as she cried and cried and wouldn’t stop and I stood there at the baggage claim praying that my luggage would arrive soon and this would stop and feeling sort of numb.
Soumya stepped in. Like a guardian angel. She distracted Anji, offered her a snack, and got me together simply by her compassionate presence. She told me she had been in those exact shoes before on a previous travel and knew exactly what I was going through. A porter offered to find some milk in a nearby café and took our bottles. Anji started to calm down. By the time the milk came, she had dozed off.
That night, I needed someone, I needed help. Soumya was that help. She arrived at the time when I needed someone to remind me what compassion was. She connected with me as a Mom and I will never forget how it changed my perspective in that instant. Somehow everything became more manageable because I was no longer alone.
At some point we exchanged numbers, I don’t remember when. Her sister was waiting for her, and I spotted my Dad as we walked out finally with our baggage in hand. We said goodbyes. I probably may never see her again. I hope that I will though. I still smile thinking of her.
With love, S.