By: Saroj Thakur
An 18-year old boy, coming all the way from a remote place in Tamil Nadu, stands at the Chandigarh Bus stand waiting for a bus that will take him to Hamirpur, his destination. What is the problem? A common scene at any bus stand where passengers wait for buses, you might say. The problem was that he didn’t know Hindi. It was his first visit to any part of North India. The next available bus would bring him to Hamirpur at 2:30 AM, and he was carrying a big amount of money as well. Now don’t tell me that an 18-year old boy should be capable of handling all such problems.
This was how one of the students of my class, many years back, related about his first experience about the people of Himachal. It was an answer to an assignment that I had given to the class. He wrote, “I felt lost,” and “all the courage that I seemed to have, vanished in thin air” and reflecting upon how and where he would spend the night at Hamirpur made him look like a venerable young boy instead of a confident young man that he was hitherto had been posing as.
“The worst was the language problem” admitted he very honestly. “I could speak neither Hindi, nor for that matter English, properly”. He stood bewildered at the Chandigarh Bus stand unable to decide whether to board the bus or not. Then he decided to buy the ticket and start his journey for his destination. “Throughout the journey, I kept thinking about where would I spend the night?” Those were the days when mobiles were not at all heard of. He could not contact any other boy from Tami Nadu till he reached the college!
The bus reached Hamirpur at 2:30 AM and everyone got down. He too, got down but had no clue, whatsoever, that where could he stay for the night. NIT campus was at a distance of 3-4 km from the Bus stand and the road was lonely and dark and moreover he didn’t know the way to the campus. “You can come and stay with our family,” a voice from behind made him look back, and he found a woman, his co-passenger in the bus, standing behind him. This woman had travelled from Chandigarh to Hamirpur and had heard the young boy ask about the whereabouts of NIT campus. “Come with me, and tomorrow morning I would send someone to escort you to the campus” she said.
“I was in a dilemma,” the boy acknowledged later in my class. “I was taught all the while not to trust any stranger,” he confessed. But here he had to take a decision between staying in a hotel or this woman’s home and the fact that he carried a big amount with him, made him all the more worried. “I decided to go with the woman.” He could not sleep for the rest of the night, as he still could not trust the people, and waited for the morning. In the morning, he was asked to have a bath and a hearty breakfast was served to him by the affable family. The father of the lady escorted the boy to the campus and saw to it that the seniors of this boy from Tamil Nadu could be contacted and left the campus only when the boy was in the safe hands of his state seniors.
Relating the incident, this boy from South India felt genuine gratitude for the people of Himachal as he learnt to have faith in the basic goodness of human nature. The entire class sat silently when this boy gave an account of his experience, though in smattering of English, and applauded. It was the genuine gratefulness in his account that held us all in awe. “This is my tribute to the people of Himachal,” he finished his account with a choked voice.