“Chance encounters are what keep us going.” – Haruki Murakami – Kafka on the beach.
A few days ago, I opened up the page in a weekend newspaper which carries appreciations written about people who have passed away. Among them was the picture of a lady whose face looked familiar. I read the name and realized she was someone I had met briefly about two years ago. We met briefly but she had left a lasting impression on me. She was beautiful and kind and even though it was our first ever meeting (and sadly the last) she opened up to me as if I were an old friend. I instantly developed an admiration for her and I repeated the story of my meeting with her to many of my others friends and family members.
It all started when I decided I should act to make my dream of opening up a reading room cum library a reality. I had been speaking about it to my close friends for long but all I did was talk and forget about it. So I decided to place an advertisement in the newspaper looking for a place I could open up such a place. I was looking for a place where the rent would be low but be a centrally located place in the city. (A near impossibility given the high rates for rent these days). I placed my email address in the advertisement for those interested to contact me.
A few days later I had an email from a lady who wrote saying she did not have a place for me to rent but she could give me some books. Being the book crazy person I am, I was thrilled and called up the number she had mentioned in the email. She answered and asked me to come over the following Sunday afternoon. I still remember it so well. When I arrived at the plush apartment she lived in, she greeted me with a friendly smile and we got chatting. She asked me what I did and I told her I was a journalist. Then she told me she herself had been selected while she was studying in the university to work as a freelance journalist but her boyfriend at the time had been against the idea and hence she did not pursue it. She had subsequently got married, moved to England, had kids and settled down to a life of domesticity. Now she was a grandmother and was more relaxed and was spending time traveling between London and Colombo. “I really regret I did not become a journalist. Things would have been very different in my life if I had,” she told me. Then we talked a little about our families and life in general and discussed her love for Indian television serials and books .She picked up from her shelf the books she liked the best and handed them to me. One in particular was a book on Marilyn Monroe, which contains lovely pictures of the actress. It was one of her favorites, she told me, but said I could have it as she did not need it any more. I wanted to pay for the books but she was hesitant. After I insisted she asked me to give her a token amount which I did knowing very well that the money would not even cover the cost of two of the over a dozen books she had so generously given me.
I was keen to meet her again before she left for England but it did not happen. After seeing the appreciation written about her by a group of her friends, I understood that while she had made a lasting impression on me during our meeting which lasted only about an hour, she had also left an indelible mark on many others in her lifetime.
We encounter kindness in the most unusual ways in our daily lives and meeting her was one such moment which I’ll remember as long as I live.