Rochelle, Vasika and I decided to meet at Dutch Hospital a few months ago. I went there early in order to get some work done, and ordered lunch and a drink. While typing the story I had to complete before the day ended, I heard someone say “excuse me.” I tried to block off the voice, especially since I assumed he was talking to a waiter. However, a second ‘excuse me’ from that direction caught my attention. I turned to see a somewhat rugged looking man looking at me.
He asked if he could join me, and all the warnings about not talking to strangers flooded to my mind. However, I was in need of some company, and the place was safe enough to talk with a stranger. He came over with his cup of coffee and bag, and sat next to me.
I learned that he was from Spain, and was coaching tennis at St Peters College. He told me he was living in Wellawatte, and traveled around. He had been to Negombo and was planning on taking the train to Kandy. He wanted to meditate, and had found a monastery he could spend time in. He was in knee length shorts, a skinny and had slightly long hair. He looked quite the hippie or wanderer.
We discussed cultures and how different people are. We discussed religion and how important it is to have faith but not let it control your life. We talked about Sri Lankan culture and how close we are as people, and Spanish culture where people are more distant. He talked about the time he spent in the US, studying. He told me how he found coaching Sri Lankan students was so much more easier, since they didn’t take out their phones during each break.
He, at one point, took out a little bag and some paper. He was about to roll a joint, and I told him he’ll have to smoke elsewhere. He never took offense and told me he kept looking at me to see if I was feeling uncomfortable. He then put the little bag away and he said he was trying to quit smoking and was happy I was honest about how I felt about smoking.
He asked about our blog, and we told him. He was happy to hear we were writing about a topic many chose to ignore. He was happy to see that people still write, and for a cause too.
We discussed so much more. We talked about a lot of things. His accent made things quite difficult to understand at first, but we got used to it. Finally, all he left behind was his email address. He never asked for our details.
We were strangers who decided to trust each other and have lengthy discussions on various topics. We shook hands knowing we may never see each other again. And yet, it didn’t matter. In many ways, we had crossed borders. We had broken at least one string that held us back.
During interviews, I take down notes and usually record it too. This, however, wasn’t for a story to be published in a newspaper, only to be buried under more important stories. It wasn’t an interview. And it happened some time back. I don’t remember all things we talked about and there could be a few inaccuracies about the details I spoke about here. Forgive me, but my mind doesn’t remember much.
If I meet him again, I may not recognize him at once. However I doubt I will forget him.