In the immense, swarming hive of London, it is easy to avoid human connection. Much easier to avert one’s eyes or block out the city’s voices with the headphones of one’s iPod.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise when I stepped into the crowded bus on Tuesday morning and was greeted by an older man with a trim beard, sparkly eyes and a jaunty hat. Our eyes met and we smiled at each other for a few moments. During the short bus journey, I turned to look at him a couple of times and he returned my gaze. As the bus approached its third stop, I felt a hand touch my own. I turned and the gentleman said ‘Goodbye’, before he alighted.
The other passengers around me were oblivious to this exchange, but it touched me deeply. There was something mystical about the encounter.
The following day, on the underground, I noticed a young man examining his finger, which appeared to be quite badly cut and bleeding. He began to search in his bag for something. In my pocket I had some tissue, which I offered to him, He accepted it. He did not look at me, or speak to me further. Yet, I was left with a sweet glow inside for having been able to offer some help to a fellow human being, albeit in a small way.
Later, I was on an overground train from London to East Sussex. Two West Indian gentlemen said, ‘Good Morning’ and sat down opposite me. Throughout the hour-long journey we did not really speak, although they offered me some sweets and I said goodbye when I left the train. However, it felt like we had acknowledged one another in a simple, human way, often lacking in the London buzz.
My final encounter came on Friday. As Premasagar and I headed towards home from an evening stroll, we came across an elderly woman standing in the street. She appeared to be confused, so I asked her is she was OK.
Mistaking me for someone she once knew, she began talking to us. Her speech was a mixture of English and another language she explained was Greek.
It soon became clear that she was lost and could not tell us where she was staying. Her speech was repetitive and confused. While Prem called for help, I walked up and down the street with Pishpa clutching my arm. She was a charming lady with a warm smile and a quick sense of humour.
Eventually, an ambulance arrived. We took her inside the van and wrapped her in a blanket. The paramedics tried to find out more about her. Finally, she agreed to go to the hospital for some food and rest.
Shortly before leaving, I said to her, ‘Go to the hospital and get something warm to eat and drink and have a rest.’ She looked at me with a cheeky grin and said, ‘Yes, Mummy!’
Prem and I walked home as the ambulance drove away.
It would have been so easy to pass her by, to smile and walk on, but we didn’t. We stopped and connected with her, and she was safer and our lives richer for it.