I smiled back and asked him, “kaheen gaye huae thae kya aap?” [You had been gone somewhere?].
My first instinctive response was to say back namastey (synonymous with namaskaar, but less formal), and ask how he was. But then something held me back.
He replied back, “Apne gaaon gaye thae; ek mahine ke liye.” [Had gone to my native village; for one month].
“Haan yehi soch rahaa tha ki aap dikh nahin rahe thae bahut dinon se. Chaliye achchhaa hai, aap apne ghar ho aaye! Chaliye, chalta hoon” [That’s what I was thinking. Had not seen you for many days. Good, you paid visit to your home! Bye for now] I smiled and moved on.
I was very pleasantly suprised that he had remembered me, and made it a point to greet. I could distinctly make out his happiness to see me.
He is much older than me, and I had always been quite courteous towards him.
But what had kept me hesitant to greet him with as much warmth as I actually felt?
It was the fear of developing such a strong rapport that I would not be able to say ‘no’, if he someday asked for money.
But I wondered, was my fear rational? What was the point if it was keeping me from feeling a fellow human’s warmth?
I thought again. Why was he so happy to see me? By then, I had already entertained the possibility of his projected warmth to be insincere. Or maybe my courteous behavior could have actually drawn him to me.
But all of a sudden I realized I was not liking these arguments in my head. I was feeling guilty for thinking all this about him. I felt tired of fighting against the happiness I wanted to feel.
Because of past experiences, I have become suspicious of people and always think of their ulterior motives to guard myself against deceit and hurt. But this guard had brought with it a latent fatigue, and yesterday, after three years, it showed.
With a new spring in my step, I smiled at the situation, at my foolishness, and eventally, also at the Hostel in charge, who I think of as cunning and do not usually talk to.
He was suprised. Pleasantly! 🙂