I’m sitting on a bench overlooking a beautiful building of Shimla. There are many such beautiful places in the most walking-friendly city I have travelled to in India, which also used to be its summer capital during the British Raj. To my left, a man sells coconut flesh. To my right, high school ladies gossip about passersby and laugh. It is night, and I eat persimmon and figs for dinner. As I bite into the sweetest persimmon I have since I was in Brazil, an Indian man with a ponytail, casual jeans and rimless glasses walks by and makes eye contact. He seems shy, but says hello, then asks:
I nod and continue to eat the persimmon I have.
He nods too with a smile. Silence.
I sense he wishes to speak more.
“I left Delhi last night without telling my company, friends, or parents,” he confesses, suddenly. I listen, as he tells this story for the first time. “I don’t know what force compelled me to do it, but I couldn’t stay there any longer.”
“Wow. Big change, brother. How do you feel now?”
“I’m afraid, I guess,” he pauses, then adds: “I’ve never changed in such abrupt ways like this in life.”
“There is always a first time.”
“Yes, you’re right. But I have to say: I’m impressed with travelers like you who come from far, sitting on benches and gazing at people. Don’t you feel lonely traveling alone?”
I look at him and smile back: “Not really. The persimmon and figs keep me company,”
“Please excuse me,” in deep Indian accent. Five minutes later, he comes back with a coconut and a fruit drink. I’m glad he understands what I mean.