If you haven’t been reading this, go there right now! Oh, and please do come back, coz this is not the end of my post. 🙂
Well, if that isn’t the most pathetic opening ever, but anyways…
This happened quite a while back, just after my twelfth. I had landed an engineering seat in D., and so we had to travel there. It was decided that my mom and I would go to finish up the initial stuff. We didn’t know anyone in D., so we were wondering where to stay and all that, since we didn’t know how long it would take. It wasn’t the age of the internet that we could look up hotels online, see their reviews, and book a room in a jiffy. In fact, we had no idea about D. as a place, and we didn’t know anyone who did either.
Luckily for us, my mom’s colleague pitched in. She had a very dear friend who stayed in D., and she promised my mom that she would write to her and tell her all about us, and request her to take us in. She assured my mom that her friend was a very nice person, and she would have absolutely no qualms in helping us.
So secure in the knowledge that the letter had been posted well in advance, and armed with the address, we set off in right earnest.
We reached D. early in the morning, maybe around four-ish if I remember right, then managed to get an auto, in which we roamed about a bit trying to identify the address, and finally, we landed up at the right place.
Now just imagine this. You are the lady of the house. You have got up early as usual at 5 o’clock, have begun heating the water for your family’s bath, and are about to start preparations for breakfast. The doorbell rings. You frown, wondering who could it be, so early in the morning. You open the door, and you are quite stunned to see a rather worn-out middle-aged woman and a sleepy young teenager, carrying a suitcase and a bag, at your doorstep. You stare at them in disbelief, wondering if this is a dream. There must be a mistake; you are not expecting anyone.
The middle-aged woman asks if she can come in. Too bewildered by everything, you allow this complete stranger to walk in. She introduces the girl as her daughter. She says something about your old school friend, how she and your friend work together, how your friend gave her this address, how your friend’s written a letter to you about her visit, and so she’s here with her daughter to complete the formalities for the latter to join a local engineering college.
It’s too late for you to do anything now. You can’t think of any other questions to ask. You just hope and pray that these are authentic cases, not some thieves who have entered your house and who will slit your throat and rob you later. You smile at them and offer coffee, for which the lady appears very grateful. You show them to a room where they can keep their bags, you show them the bathroom where they can have a nice hot bath, and while they are supposedly getting ready, you cook up a hot delicious breakfast. All this while, you’re praying that you’ve made the right decision, that these strangers are not evil.
Luckily, the two of them have breakfast, thank you profusely, and then head off, presumably to the engineering college. You heave a huge sigh of relief, after running a quick check of the house to ensure that nothing’s missing. Your husband rolls his eyes at you, perhaps you even get into an argument. How can I say no to someone who shows up like that on my doorstep, especially when they know my friend, you argue. Yeah, let a murderer enter the house with a smile and offer them breakfast while they plot to rob and kill you, the husband probably retorts. Is there a daughter somewhere around, someone who’s getting ready to go to school, who’s intrigued by these strangers showing up unnannounced, who goes to school and tells her friends that she has guests at home, only she doesn’t know who they are?
As the morning slips into the afternoon, and there is no sign of the guests, your nervousness wears off. Their meagre luggage is the only reminder that your sacred space has been violated by utter strangers claiming to be friends of your friend. You are not sure what you must do to handle them; indeed, whether they need to be handled at all. If their story is true, then your friend will be thrilled to hear how hospitable you were. But if their story is false?
The burning afternoon sun does nothing to quell the shivers down your spine. Your anxieties are interrupted by the trring-trring of a cycle. It’s the postman. You absently take the letter from him, and then, suddenly, on a closer look, your hand begins to tremble. The writing on the letter is your friend’s. You tear open the letter, suddenly impatient, and scan its contents. All at once, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. The strangers are not strangers! Their story is true! Your friend does know the lady, she does work with her!
When the guests return, hungry and tired, you have prepared a mini-feast. You are cheerful and hospitable, urging them to have a little more, and listening to the events of their morning. You play the perfect hostess till they leave in the early evening. You have a smug smile playing about your lips. Wait till your husband gets home — he’ll know how right you were, as always!
The lady and her daughter still remember you with much admiration. To play hostess with a smile to strangers who land up on your doorstep is such a rarity, almost non-existent. It’s a memory dear to me, especially in these days when we don’t have time for our friends, let alone strangers.
Thank you, sweet lady! I don’t remember your name or your face, but I do remember the warmth of your house. You are one of a kind, and I will always remember your gracious gesture with utmost gratitude.