During my South India Solo trip in June 2017, I caught a bus from Batlagundu to Kodaikanal which was my next destination. It was 7 PM and Sun’s light started slowly decreasing. The average time to reach Kodaikanal from Batlagundu is about 2.5 hours. But due to darkness and the mountainous road it took me 4.5 hours to reach Kodaikanal.
The Bus was too crowded which reminded me of the crowd in Mumbai locals. Somehow I managed to place my backpack in an overhead compartment and found a place where I could stand without any hassle. After an hour the bus started, one of the passengers who was seating on the next seat where I was standing asked me, “Kaha se ho?” (From where you are?) For the last 9 days, I started my solo trip to South India, this was the first time I was listening to the Hindi words from someone. You have to deal with the language barrier problems while traveling to Tamilnadu as people here rarely know the Hindi language, especially in the local villages. People in the local villages don’t even know proper English as well.
His question immediately attracted my attention towards him. “Mumbai se hu.” (I am from Mumbai), I replied. He looked like in his 50s age. He told me his daughter also lives in Mumbai. It is a human nature that we immediately feel the kinship towards a person who is from or somewhere connected to our motherland. Especially when we meet them far away from our motherland.
We started our conversation by asking a series of questions to each other. What is your job? What is your travel plan? What inspired you to visit Kodaikanal? and so on. He was looking very gentle person. He asked me about the hotel where I was going to stay in Kodaikanal. He also offered me if I need his bike for rambling in Kodaikanal. Which obviously I refused to take. Our conversation went almost for an hour till the time I got a seat. I had to get to the last stop i.e. Kodaikanal bus stop. I had already booked my hotel room which was just on the opposite side of the Kodaikanal bus stop. That person got down at 4th stop before the last stop. And before getting down we shared our phone numbers with each other.
It was 11:30 PM when I arrived at the Kodaikanal bus stop. And when I reached to the hotel reception, I got totally shocked after what the hotel manager told me. “Sorry sir, we don’t allow bachelors for an accommodation, it’s against our hotel policy”, he said. I told him that I already booked a room in this hotel for two nights via MakeMyTrip and I didn’t get any notification about this policy. I tried very hard to convince him to give me a room just for one night at least. But he didn’t listen to me.
It was almost 12’o clock at night and I was roofless at an unknown place where people might not understand my language as well. I was finding no other options for getting the shelter that night. I was panicked, was shivering, and was afraid of getting mugged. Bad thoughts started coming into my mind.
Suddenly I remembered the person whom I met on the bus who also shared his phone number with me. I immediately called him. And he asked me to hand over the phone to the hotel manager. I didn’t understand a single word of their conversation as it was all in Tamil. After their conversation over a phone, I immediately got the accommodation in the same hotel. And believe me!, for the next two days during my accommodation, the same hotel manager who was refusing me to give a room even for a single night was now greeting me as his valuable customer. Every time when I was passing by the reception, he was always asking me with gentleness. “How are you, sir?”, “I hope you are having a good time in your accommodation.”, “Let me know if you are facing any problem.” I was shocked a bit by his behavior.
I called the person whom I met on the bus and invited him for a coffee in the evening to express my gratitude. His name was Mani Anna and he is one of the trustees of the Kodai International School. He is one of the big names in Kodaikanal. The reason I got the accommodation because Mani Anna said the hotel manager that I am one of his special guests. And that is why the hotel manager was treating me like his valuable customer. Me and Mani Anna had a long and very interesting evening talk. And we got separated with good talk memories.
One thing I learned from this experience is that goodness does exist everywhere around us. But it is the negativity in our mind which don’t let us see this goodness. We have been taught since childhood that not to talk with a stranger, not to share anything with a stranger. But who knows, sometimes this stranger could also come as a savior in our life.