Zohreh Sadeghi India and Beyond

Dubai to Bangalore

I had a long 8 hour layover in Dubai. At the airport I met this woman, she was sitting next to me waiting for the same flight to Bangalore, she was Iranian and started talking to me. I had heard her on the phone earlier and she had an accent unfamiliar to me when she spoke Farsi so I knew she wasn’t from Tehran. She told me she was Rashti (a city in Northern Iran by the Caspian sea). She was very hyper and very happy. She spoke really fast and never seemed to get tired of talking. She asked me lots of questions, lots of uncomfortable and awkward questions that were so personal I was totally taken back. I answered a few but ignored the rest. She was strange but I kind of liked her, she seemed honest.

Her name was Mina, she was going to visit her son who was studying Dentistry in Bangalore. She had two sons, one 18 and other one 16 and a loving husband who would not stop calling her, he called every 30 min from the moment I met her till the moment we parted ways and this whole process took hours which I will explain below.

On the plane I sat next to this Indian guy, younger looking maybe late 20s, early 30s. We didn’t speak a word for a very long time, the first 2h hours of the flight basically, which is unusual for me but after Mina I just didn’t have it in me to entertain any more questions about my life and myself, socializing could be exhausting at times. So I remained silent and watched Frankenweenie.

I don’t exactly remember at what point we began talking or what triggered the conversation but we did and we had a great conversation, it flowed naturally, no pressure, no tough questions just sharing thoughts and stories. His name was Anil, a very tall broad shouldered Indian guy who was originally from Bangalore but had been living in Houston for the past 5 years or so.

Once we got off the plane, I introduced my 2 new buddies to each other and we decided to share a cab. I had a 12 hour layover ahead of me so my plan was to go to a nice hotel in Bangalore, get some breakfast and just hang out in the lobby or the coffee shop and work on my final exam for school or just write. Anil was headed to his sister’s house and Mina to her son’s. 5 minute into our cab ride Anil turned around and asked me if I’d liked to go to his sister’s and just rest there instead of a hotel lobby. It was such a sweet gesture and I didn’t even think twice about it, I accepted the invitation. This is the thing about going with your gut, it never lies to you, I knew from the moment I met him that he was a gentleman and I knew he would prove it.

And so he did! He offered to pay for the entire cab fare. Mina constantly talked during the whole ride, I was beyond exhausted, my eyes were burning from lack of sleep and I had trouble concentrating or focusing on anything. She told me about her 2 houses, one in Rasht, one in Tehran, she told me about the dresses she sews for herself and even showed me pictures, she told me about her sons, her life, her marriage, her husband (who was now calling every 10 minutes or so). As much as I liked her and didn’t mind listening to her, I needed a moment of silence to just rest my eyes. But I wasn’t going to be rude to her while she was so sweet to me so I listened, and listened and listened…

After an hour and a half of driving through Bangalore traffic, we dropped her off. She kept telling me how much she liked me and that she never had a daughter and I was now her new daughter. She gave me her information and told me I needed to see her when I was in Bangalore at the end of December, no question about it. And once Anil offered to pay for the cab fare, she invited him and me to have a vegetarian Persian meal at her house upon my return. After we dropped her off the rest of the ride was in silence, I needed that.

We arrived at Anil’s sister’s house, she was at college and had left the keys with a neighbor. It was a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment that reminded me so much of my apartment in Kerala, it made me sad, reminded me of how much I miss those days living in Kannur with Marta.

Anil asked me if I was hungry and was ready to eat lunch, I wanted to treat him since he was being so nice to me but he said “no, no, my neighbor has prepared something for us.” Here’s the thing about India, it might seem crazy, cruel, heartless, a dog-eat-dog world when you’re actually out in the streets trying to battle pollution, traffic, sleazy rickshaw drivers, all the noise, dirt, etc. but deep down it’s a country built on love. People are so full of love they are willing to open their houses and their hearts to you immediately and this is exactly what Anil did for me after having met me for just a few hours. He was such a gentleman and his neighbor, a young Indian woman, was so sweet. The amazing homemade south Indian fare arrived, it was set on the table and I insisted I wanted to eat with my hands, I had missed that!

So we sat down and had an amazing lunch together, rice, upadam, sambar, curd, mango pickle, dal and some other little side dishes. It was exactly what I needed. I found out Anil had 2 siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. He showed me a picture of them with great pride.

Anil didn’t let me touch the dishes or even take them to the kitchen once we were done eating. He kept saying that I was the guest in his house and my job was to eat and relax. All I wanted to do was lay down, he showed me to a room, a small and super clean room with freshly washed sheets on the bed, I could smell the laundry detergent. I told him I was just going to rest my eyes but the minute my head hit the pillow I passed out and slept for 2 solid hours. It was wonderful! I was greeted with a hot cup of tea when I woke up, it was very sweet.

At around 4:30 it was time for me to head back the airport, the same driver who had brought us home from the airport came to pick me up. We got talking this time, he was a sweet guy. His name was John Abraham, a 32 year old Christian Bangalore native. How do I know all of this? Well the thing about India is people ask you many private questions and they usually expect a very straight forward answer in return, it’s either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and if you give them anything else they will be disappointed. Mr John asked me if I was a Christian to which I responded by saying I respected all religions and believed in God, he didn’t like the respond of course but nodded and wiggled his head nonetheless. He then told me he was Christian and his name was John Abraham, funny name for a little Indian dude I thought. Then he proceeded to ask me about my age and he told me his in return. So we got pretty intimate really fast.

He was such a nice person this John Abraham, he told me about his life and how he had been driving a taxi for the past 12 years, he didn’t love it nor did he enjoy sitting in Bangalore’s hideous traffic everyday but his father was very sick. According to him he had 2 incidents of bad food poisoning that led to some surgeries. Now I don’t think that’s the case, I have never heard of food poisoning leading to a serious surgery, I just think John’s English wasn’t strong enough to find the right medical term for his father’s condition in English. He said he takes care of his father and needs to make money to pay the hospital bills.

He asked me what I did for a living, I told him I was a student, he smiled and said “you look like… not student… like businesswoman, manager maybe.” Well this came to me as a surpirse given I was wearing my black and yellow slightly hard rock top with black skulls all over it, black leggings and Toms. I have never seen a businesswoman dress like I do, but maybe in India things are different!

I really liked John, he said he wanted to come pick me up from the airport when I came back at the end of December, so he told me to ask Anil to call him. I agreed since I couldn’t think of anyone better to drive me around Bangalore. Anil, Mina and I had decided we would reunite upon my return so this would work out perfectly. When we arrived at the airport, my meter read 860 Rupees (it’s a lot but Bangalore’s new airport is outside of the city and a good 2 hour drive in traffic), I gave him 900 and told him to keep the change. He insisted on giving it back to me couple of times until I said keep the money and use it towards your dad’s medical bills. He smiled and accepted it. 40 Rupees isn’t even a dollar, and what good would I be if I couldn’t spare a dollar to a person in need?

Great thing about traveling solo is meeting all kinds of people that you happen to cross paths with. The thing is all the people I meet whether they’re loud and slightly obnoxious, calm, cool and collected, or compassionate like the driver John at the end of day are just another human being who have their own story to tell and I for one am interested in hearing their stories!

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