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:

“Traveling alone?”

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.

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