Monday, 25 January 2010

Brief Encounters: Neck

She was a smiley English girl, with a handsome, surfer-blond French boyfriend. We boarded the train together at Colombo, and they hauled their surf boards onto the luggage rack, where they threatened to fall off and concuss someone all the way to Hikkaduwa. We were packed in as tightly as jigsaw pieces. Only sweatier.

We chatted excitedly about reaching Sri Lanka's south coast. But an hour or so later – hot, hungry, thirsty and facing backwards in my seat – I started to feel nauseous. So she lifted up my hair and blew on the back of my neck. It was such an unexpected, kind and intimate gesture from a stranger, and it worked: my queasiness disappeared a moment later. But I felt warm inside the rest of the way to Galle.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Brief Encounters: Vivek

His smart navy suit stood him apart from the other staff at Chennai airport – and conferred, I hoped, some authority – so I raced over to him. Vivek, his badge said, and he was barely over 22.
"How can you have left your passport on the plane?" he asked, smiling, after I breathlessly told him what I'd done. I didn't know myself - tiredness, preoccupation, hurrying to make my connecting flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Vivek picked up his phone and spoke to someone, unhurriedly. It seemed an inconclusive conversation. "Can I look on the plane? It's just out there,
I just landed," I said.
He shook his head. It took me a second to realise he was doing an Indian head wobble, which can mean yes, no, maybe, whatever...
"We will get your passport back, no problem," he smiled. "What seat were you in? Do you have ID?"
I handed him my credit card. It's a measure of how much, from experience, I trust Indian people - or perhaps how desperate I was - that I did this without hesitation. "Wait here," he ordered.
Five minutes later he was back, strolling calmly towards me clutching my green travel folder. I tried to play it cool, but I was so relieved I wanted to cry. I gushed my gratitude and sprinted from the terminal.