The world is a safe place – Excerpt 1 from my trip to Pondicherry

I was climbing the stairs to my room when my mobile phone vibrated. I took it out and saw an interaction in a couchsurfing whatsapp group that I am a part of but had never participated in. Not having booked any hotel for Pondicherry I was leaving for the next morning, I also dropped a message there asking for a place to stay at and got occupied in packing my bag. Little did I know what was in store for me.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of couchsurfing. The idea of having a home wherever I go. Having an opportunity to host/stay with somebody absolutely unknown, in a new place, experiencing local food, people, cultures. Doesn’t it sound exciting? The whole idea brings along a possibility of a world being home and that’s beautiful. At the same time, it’s scary. I have no idea who the person is; what if something happens? I have my valuables, it’s an unknown place. No, I can’t trust this. I can’t.

It was around 11PM. I was about to sleep when I saw a reply in that group addressing my request. It said something like, “I went to Pondicherry last year and stayed with a couchsurfer, Imran. His contact number is XXXXXXXXXX. Contact him and he will take care of you.” My heart was excited to see that; I would have someone there to take me around the new place. At the same time, my head said, “Are you mad? You do not know the person who has replied, you do not know the person she is referring to. Stop being stupid, stay in a hotel”. I dropped a sms to Imran letting him know that I coming to his town tomorrow before I slept that night.

I was at the airport when I received a call from an unknown number. The excited voice was of Imran. I hadn’t saved his number. You remember, when you were young and some relatives would come to your house, how you would take them around the whole house, showing them every toy you have? That was the kind of energy he had over that one small phone call. As if someone very own is coming to see him. As if we have known each other for ever. He informed me that he has booked a room in a guest house next to his house and will send someone to pick me up at Pondicherry bus stop.

My beautiful, little brain got functioning again. “Something is not okay. Why would he do all that for me, we don’t even know each other. He even rejected to charge anything for the room. On top of that, he is even offering to send someone to pick me up? No, can’t be a coincidence”. I thanked him and told him that I will see him there. I was almost sure by now that I will never take a phone call again from this number.

I was about to reach Pondicherry when my phone rang. It was a message from him with name and contact number of the person who would come and pick me up. It also had an apology for not being able to come himself as he had some work, and an apology for the guy who would pick me up doesn’t know english and hindi much and I may have some trouble communicating. I decided that I will meet him. There was something about him which was stronger than my inhibitions and I had to meet him.

I reached Pondicherry in the afternoon and found his friend standing at the bus stop to receive me. He took me to the guest house. The room was already booked by my name and they handed the keys of the room to me. Ensuring that I am comfortable, his friend left. While I rested in my room for some time, I got a call from Imran, checking if I was comfortable and inviting me to meet him whenever it works for me. He stayed right next to the guest house. I went to meet him right then.

When I moved out of the guest house, I saw a tall, dark man standing outside the house with a wide smile. That was Imran. He welcomed me to his house and took me around this beautiful French house he stays in. The house had a verandah with rooms on all 4 sides. There were beautiful pillars in the house and old french windows, giving a touch of an ancient one. For the next few hours, we spoke about how his father who used to serve French army moved to India back in 1950s and their struggles then to find their living in India. Imran lives with his parents and wife and teaches French to make a living. Meeting people is what he enjoys the most (without a doubt!) and is passionate about astrology. Not only that, he helped me getting a transport to roam around, got me a map of the town, took me around the town and ensured I am comfortable. For the next 2 days when I was in his town, he called me thrice to check if I need something and if I am fine. Imran did not just call the place his home, it was his home.

Something moved that day. To me, that was a demonstration of the world being home. I could only wonder of the opportunities I would have missed so far only because I did not choose to trust another human being; of what the world can be if we begin from “The world is a safe place”.

Ek aur ghar mil gaya tha shayad. 🙂

*Name has been changed to maintain the identity of the person

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Coffee with the ‘Fab’ behind Fabindia

Like every other time, I was walking in Fabindia’s outlet in Connaught Place when I got stuck at what was written on the cover of a green colored book which said, “Making India Work”. This is 2 months ago. There was something about the statement that wasn’t allowing me to move ahead; the possibility sounded huge. I purchased the book that evening.

I have been this crazy Fabindia lover who would go to their outlet once in a while to smell the freshness that their stores withhold, the vibrant colors, the stories of a million artisans it communicates and for the celebration of what India is about. People who know me would call me a brand ambassador only! And so I wanted to meet the man himself – to experience who he is, to travel through his stories about India, to witness how he has created a blend of profitable business and a societal impact, and a lot more.

While reading “Making India work”, I could not stop myself any longer. It took me some time and a few extra actions to find his connect and I wrote to him. I told him what I love about them, why I want to meet them and why he should meet me. I poured my heart out in that mail. And just like we wake up after a sloshed night, I was sure that was all in excitement and I will never get a response. And the life continued the way it did.

A few days later, I get a reply from his assistant asking about who I am and why I want to meet him. Why would he meet me, I thought? Gathering my excitement, I distinguished and wrote back. And I told him everything I wanted to say. 14 days later, I was in class when I received an email that said, “Sir would love to meet you. Can you come to our office over lunch on 9th Sept.?” My happiness knew no bounds.

And here I was, right in front of their office at 12:30pm, exactly half an hour before the scheduled time. As I move in, I see a huge charkha on left, a very simple and elegant looking office, colorful pictures and quotations on hand made papers and some bright shining people. I was called inside his cabin after 10min. As I was moving in, an old lady with a broad smile greeted me and guided me to sir’s cabin. And what followed will remain with me forever.

As I moved in, a tall, young looking man welcomed me with a broadest possible smile. Yes, that was him! The table was laid in front of us with cutlery when he opens a very Indian tiffin packed from his home. The simplicity of food and the very thought of getting food from home for us set a lot of things in place. As we started talking, we talked about my family, my passion, Fabindia, Fabindia’s visions, Indian politics and it took him just a few seconds to make me be at home. Such tasty food, amazing coffee and wonderful chocolates I had! He would suddenly get up in excitement; put forward his radical thoughts on how we can actually make India work and sit down again. The charisma, the sparkle in his eyes and the purity in his smile said a lot of things. He was listening to me as if I am the only person he is interested in listening to and he said what he said with equal authority. This wasn’t a usual meeting. He has given project to work on till we meet next.

From being humble enough to respond to my mail and calling me over lunch, to getting lunch packed from home, from the wonderful conversations we had  to him knowing my past on fingertips from what I had shared in mail, from the excitement he carried to share to the simplicity with which he would put his radical thoughts, from the vibrancy of colors at the minutest of places to the smiling faces all around starting from the bhaiya at reception to every employee, I was mesmerized. No wonder Fabindia is what it is!

This one experience has broken multiple barriers for me today. So put off all the reasons and create what you want, take that extra action that produces results, say what your heart says, and do what you believe in; for life does exist in language and life is too short to live with “What if I did?!”!

Responsibility I am taking on:

Taking away the struggle of individual survival from people and giving them an opportunity to create their self expression in work. Inclusive growth is the possibility.”

The thought is, when there are so many people in the world and there are enough resources for each, why do people have to struggle for individual survival?

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