5 years ago, we met by chance and spent 36 hours together in Hyderabad that ended before sunrise. We parted at a rickshaw stand, not knowing if or how we would ever meet again.
The next morning, rubbing my eyes open after a lonely overnight bus ride to Hampi, I woke up to a trackback ping on my blog traced to a web address that I didn’t recognize.
But I recognized the writing. I recognized you.
He said he didn’t believe in stereotypical movie-like representations of life – where everything is picture-perfect and therefore, realistically unbelievable. He said he didn’t like fake people.
He was an immodest Ivy-Leaguer, a flirtatious doctor-in-making, a compassionate businessman, a preaching philosopher, a money-making humanitarian, a lonely-by-choice traveler, a show-off dancer, pianist, writer and photographer and an unstoppable conversationalist. And he was a tall, handsome, gallant young man with a cheeky sense of humour.
And he didn’t believe in picture-perfectness.
And he didn’t believe in fake people.
And neither do I. Because he was too good to be real.
Since then for me you have been that familiar, untouchable stranger interloping through dreams and countless dimensions of chance and fate. And 5 years later you finally reach out to me with memories still echoing from that very night.
Now, as you help people travel via Build Your Own Trip (I’d like to believe I had something to do with it!) and are engaged to be married, you’ve sent me a message recalling that fateful day in Hyderabad once more, and fearfully, for the last time.
And I still recognize the writing. I recognize you.
Schezwan McDreamy — I wrote that post five years ago when I was in Hyderabad, India- about a stranger who flopped onto a seat beside me in an empty bus, as if sitting next to me was his birthright. His eyes were full of fascination – for new people. He raved about traveling, the power of human connections, the magic of human touch – while the skeptic inside me growled back. He had all these ideologies and opinions and well . . . I had mine.
We locked horns – we dived deep into each other’s minds and followed the moonlight into oblivion. He felt a deep connection instantly, but I was cautious. I deflected his charms and he’d smile knowingly, daring me to disobey myself.
Five years later – I met him in NYC, his home. I thought I’d see him in his overused beige cargos and a ruffled tee . . . but he was wearing a sharp suit with his hair sleekly styled. I told him I hated it – and he immediately ruffled up his hair for me.
There’s something intimate about people you know you won’t meet for a long time . . . maybe never again . . . that makes you bare it all. That breaks all barriers, kills all inhibitions and let’s you be honest. That doesn’t allow for hesitation.
The comfort of a stranger . . . the beauty of ambiguity . . . dark secrets . . . self-exploration . . . and a deep, intense connection that transcends time. You’re biased when it comes to Hyderabad . . . I’ve become biased toward strangers. After I met you.
Since you, I always want to know who’s next to me. Why, how else would I have had a wonderful conversation with a Polish lady next to me in the 4 hours bus ride from Boston to NYC – where I start out stating I’m not a feminist and she proves to me that I am? How would I have known the Bhutanese girl next to me in the flight – who went to a school that made them travel every 3 months to study in a new country?
How can one not want to know? They’re right next to you – always. Your soulmate for an hour, for a day or for a lifetime.
Be candid. Be yourself. Agree, disagree, fight, argue, smile, laugh, flirt, talk – strangers are beautiful. Their magic is infectious. Their fascination and curiosity . . . their passion and affection . . . their infinite warmth – can all become yours in an instant.
I’ll never watch that movie you keep asking if I’ve watched.
You always say we’ll meet again, and I always believe we won’t.
And yet, I’ll always have this.
– At time of posting in New York, NY, it was 55.4 °F –
Humidity: 94% | Wind Speed: 19km/hr | Cloud Cover: light rain showers