The Kindness of Strangers

While I’m no Blanche Dubois, strutting around in infinite complexity, savagely beautiful and broken, I’d like to borrow her line, if only for an evening.
Enesa: Despite her little knowledge of English and my ghastly lack of German, we got along because, as she said, “when the heart speaks, you understand.” For her time and patience.Markus and Evelyn: My first couch-surfer hosts, and I couldn’t have wished for anyone better. For our conversations overlooking the river. Their absolute generosity. Evelyn, for our day out in Basel – the chatter, the shopping, the art, the beer, the comfort of burgers.

Aarti Buckner: For the “chaat”, the masala chai, the hours of conversation, the snow shoes. She made me laugh, she made me feel at home when I was so far away from it.

Terry Blum: For her travel stories and her creativity. For allowing me into her beautiful studio. For the blue birds. For the white feather she gave me, saying “may you always be blessed with lightness.”

Maurice: The bus driver to Saas Fee. He was kind and friendly and my only other company in the bus!Stefan: For his halting conversation and friendliness while we stopped for road works on our way to Saas Fee.

Lea: For pretty company on the journey to Basel. We talked about travel and boys.

Zsolt: My second couch-surfer host, who was funny and interesting. We learnt Chinese, ate apricots, and talked about life.

Shi: The Chinese art dealer also staying at Zsolt’s, who left me her VIP card to the Basel Art Fair. This is what people do – they’re kind to each other.

Lara: For showing me Paris. For not falling into the Seine after a bottle of wine. For making sure I didn’t fall into the Seine after a bottle of wine. For her room. For mussels and fries. For Montmarte.

Lady on the night bus: Who asked Lara and I (both in drunken stupor) for our stop, and told us where to get off.

The Policemen: Who told us to be careful while we tottered home.

Man behind me at Paris metro station: For helping me buy a ticket to Leon.

Lady on the train to Geneva: For chiding me for leaving my bag unattended. For looking after my things while I left them unattended.

Nikhil: For being a good old friend and showing me Geneva. For Le Barge. For his friends – Liath, Wadid, Francesca and Arnie.

Celja: My Geneva hostel roommate, who made me laugh with all her boy stories.

Verena: For allowing me into her kitchen! For her laughter and photographs. For letting me play with Maxime for hours on end.

Kaushik and Pia: For living next door to the Colosseum, thank you. For allowing me to live in their flat next door to the Colosseum, thank you. For Angelo Mai and Pigneto. For Rome, Rome Rome.

Chelsea: For companionship in Florence. For shopping, food, wine and random walks to random parks.

The four Irish girls: For their lovely accents. For girly laughter and chatter.

Giovanni: For Florence at night. For tristezza dei fiori. For wine, truffles, art. For the sea.

Rokshar: For lending a kind ear. For not freaking when my first words to her were “my boyfriend broke up with me.”

Man in gift shop at Galleria Borghese: For calling me the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen! And giving me a generous discount.

Sangeeta, Trisha, Cynthia: For being there even while on the other end of the world. For offering to throw dung bombs at all the right people.

Michel: My little friend on the flight to Madrid. For Dostoevsky. For making sure I reached the right terminal to pick up my luggage.

Marco, Patricia, David, Catarina: Lisbon was made brighter and more beautiful because of you guys.

Vincent and the two Philips: For terrible white wine and great company. For dancing until dawn.

Mario: For picking me up from Aveiro station with very little notice. For the whirlwind city tour. And conversation atop that elegant old bridge. For coffee and ovus moles. For Caravaggio and Pessoa. For beautiful long fingers.

Aroo: For answering stupid questions (“Where’s the @ sign on this keyboard?”), for dancing in the Lisboa streets. For drinking less and leaving more sangria for me.

Jose: For the coffee, cigarette and conversation on my way to Belem Torre.

Jarrett: He walked into my dorm and we didn’t stop talking for two hours. For reading Moby Dick. For loving words. For travelling, like me, on a whim.

Two Finnish guys at the dining table: Who convinced me to visit Finland someday.

Random strangers who smiled, said hello, wished me good day, shouted “Ciao bella!”. It made a world of difference.

Amidst all this, I received news of Mumbai bomb blasts, of a shooting in Norway, and a hundred other things that could so easily deplete my faith in the world. It’s a struggle, but I’m not yet convinced. Despite everything, I still say people are good. People are good.

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