The People I Met

My Encounter With ‘This Person’: From Strangers to Friends

“The rain stops and my friend departs. I wish he had stayed, I wish the rain had not stopped so soon.” -Ruskin Bond.

It was just another day when I met ‘this person’. He came to JNU to play football with my friends. A brief interaction, some words exchanged over alcohol and dinner, and I saw him bargain extensively with the auto-wallah, late at night. That’s not an unusual thing, but the way he did it was unusual, indeed.

My second meeting with him was on the train when we were going to Shimla. My friend and I did all the planning, and ‘this person’, being a flatmate of my friend, dropped into the plan.

I never knew he would become a friend by the next morning when we both sat near the door of the First Class Compartment in the toy train (on our way to Shimla from Kalka) and giggled all the way while taking stupid selfies.

He annoyed me with his on-and-off ‘extremist’ comments and beyond-my-understanding level of humor! And by the time we returned to Delhi, ‘this person’ had become a good friend.

We met a few more times at their place to celebrate birthdays, and on other occasions when I took all of them out for Dilli Darshan. Every time, he would bargain with the auto-wallahs and the shopkeepers in the most hysterical manner that one can ever imagine!

At the counter of Dilli Haat, where the ticket price for foreigners is more than that of Indians, he confidently walked up to say, “Bhaiyya, I’m from Ra(kha)asthan” (read: Rajasthan) in his adorable Spanish accent!

As he talked to a shawl seller, he introduced himself as a Kashmiri (of course, the person on the other side of the table wasn’t convinced) and continued bargaining for a Pashmina that he wanted to buy!

Two months just flew by, since I had met ‘this person’, and even before I could know him well, it was time for him to return home. I traveled to the hills again with him, this time just the two of us, what he said to be his “first and only trip with an Indian girl”.

Walking through the pine forests of Manali, it seemed that I was meeting a new Alvaro – someone whom I hadn’t tried to explore earlier, in the last two months – a person with deeper thoughts, who could easily hibernate putting a facade of a prankster.

I poked him for every English word that he pronounced incorrectly, and he took it in the most sporting manner as nobody else would do! Probably even I would have gotten irritated if someone poked me so much, but he was always keen to learn. Maybe that’s what even made me listen to the Spanish verses that he read out – and he knew I could barely understand, so he made it a point to explain them to me, in his broken English.
Sitting at a cafe next to the Beas, we enjoyed the rumbling of the river, when he told me how his time in India had changed him as a person. “My momma had sent baby Alvaro to India, and now she’ll have Alvaro, The Man, back from India as a present”, he said, and there was intense joy in his eyes.

He told me about his experiences in Karnataka, where Catholic priests made him buy alcohol for them, and in Surat, where he rescued missing children from railway stations, and in Gurgaon, where he worked for Mera Parivar, an NGO providing support to the brick kiln workers. As he was telling me his story, I felt like he knew India more than many of us do.

“I never knew you could be so serious, Alvaro”, I told him, and he laughed saying, “Oh it’s not me, it’s the beer!”

Walking down the deserted road at midnight in an unknown place, when he said, “Don’t worry Ri, no one will harm you”, I realized all over again that I’d miss him once he left, and there was an uncertainty of meeting him ever again.

Saying goodbye is perhaps the most difficult task for me, and rain somehow adds more melancholy to the entire thing. Before we left Manali, there was a heavy downpour…

…and after we reached Delhi, before rushing back to the cacophony of our daily lives, ‘this person’ hugged me and said, “I don’t know if I can meet you before I leave for Spain, but you can come to Madrid anytime and stay with my family. They’ll love to host you.”

Sometimes, words are enough, and you don’t need the rain. Sometimes, words are enough to get you drenched.
From Strangers to Friends

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