I was traveling from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka in a bus completely packed with people. A lot of buses in Sri Lanka are very congested because the aisle seat in each row has an extra seat bent at 90 degrees which can be converted into seat when required and thus leaving no space in between a 2 cross 1 seating arrangement. Not sure I was able to paint the picture but in short there was not much space to move.
The FM was playing in the bus and suddenly I heard a Hindi song being played. The song was quite popular in India and I just casually started singing along without realizing I was being noticed by people around. One lady sitting besides looked at me and asked in a hesitant voice, ” Are you from India ? “. After getting an affirmative response, to my utter surprise she spoke in Hindi – “Main Dar Gayi Thi” (which translates to I was scared). I didn’t understand what she meant, so to confirm I asked whether she was scared or hesitant.
Then she replied she was hesitant to talk to a stranger specially a local guy but when she heard me singing a Hindi song, she assumed correctly that I am from India. I asked her where did she learn Hindi. She had learnt Hindi by watching Hindi movies. She was interested in practicing Hindi with me and now this was the first time I was outside India and I had to understand broken Hindi spoken by a native.
Her Hindi was not actually bad and in fact better than people from parts of India where Hindi is not widely spoken. She had her family also sitting near by so she asked how much it would cost to bring her family to India for a tourist visit. I gave her a rough estimate which appeared to be way over her budget. She became sad for a moment and then all of a sudden with brightened eyes, she said I will buy a lottery ticket, win lots of money and then come to India. I didn’t know how to reply so could only respond in a smile. She asked me, “Have you seen Bollywood heroes?”, and I replied I have seen them on big screens just like you.
The questions about India never stopped coming. I saw the dream of visiting India once on her face and in her questions. She had lots of responsibilities, a kid and a family to support. Her dream may remain a dream only now. But I requested her not to lose the hope and may be some day she can be in Mumbai watching her favorite stars. Dreams of people make their life a ‘life’. May God fulfill her dreams.