“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener”
I know it is difficult when you see the news. You have a feeling that the world is a bad place and it is crawling with all sorts of bad people. I keep getting told to stay at home so that I can be safe. Most of the times I ignore these pieces of advice because they come from people who have never left the comfort of their home. But the more I travel, I am reminded of how people around the world are the same. How they have the same aspirations, hopes, and dreams. How we all crave for the same necessities and needs. Most people around the world are kind and helpful. If you let go of your inhibitions, you will definitely find the similarities.
Over the past one year, I have traveled a lot and I have experienced unexpected kindness from people around the world. I have traveled solo, I have traveled with family and I have traveled with friends. Every time I find some kind soul who goes out of their way to help us and I am assured that the world is not a bad place. So in this post, I bring you some personal stories of random acts of kindness from the road. All stories are from my travel experiences over the past 14 months. I take inspiration from Nisha’s series of kindness on the road. I hope I have inspired at least few of you to let go of your worldly fears and remove your fear of people you are meeting for the first time.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Personal Stories of Random Acts of Kindness from the road
- 1.1 How Chachaji saved the lives of 6 frightened strangers in the middle of nowhere?
- 1.2 Who said Israelis are not friendly?
- 1.3 Falling head over heels in Bir-Billing, Himachal Pradesh
- 1.4 How a night of talking about everything including world politics and salsa dancing helped me regain my confidence?
- 1.5 My Dad My Hero
- 2 Afterword:
Personal Stories of Random Acts of Kindness from the road
How Chachaji saved the lives of 6 frightened strangers in the middle of nowhere?
Am I being dramatic? Maybe, I am, as usual. But thinking back on that cold fateful night, he really did save us. As many of you already know, I was in the Himalayas and in Himachal for a good number of days in June with my family (cousins). So when we were planning our trip to Himachal, we didn’t want it to be hectic and wanted to have a leisurely holiday. But then almost at the last moment, I suggested Chandrataal lake and all of us were on board after seeing the pictures.
We had a car and so we thought it would be fun to self-drive all the way to Chandrataal Lake. How wrong were we! We had arranged for accommodation in Parasol’s camp for the night. We knew we needed a permit to cross Rohtang Pass. We tried online several times the day before but we were not successful. So we decided to try our luck directly at the Manali office.
We were lucky but by the time we got our permit, it was almost 11:30 AM. We knew it was a long drive to Chandrataal from Manali and we knew it would take at least 8 hours by road. But we still decided to go thinking that we could do it. After all, what did we have to worry? We had 4 expert drivers with a standby driver and we had done numerous road trips before. Oh, how naive we were!
The road from Manali to Rohtang pass was really crowded and it was past 4 PM when we finally got on the road between Chattru and Batal. The roads were in pretty bad shape and we met many folks on the way back from Spiti. They gave us a fair warning of how the roads would be and we still moved on hoping we will reach Chandrataal soon. We soon reached our first Pagal Naala and that is when we first understood how bad the roads were going to be. Check out the video to know more.
Anyway by the time we crossed all the initial streams, it was already dark. Since it was dark, there were not too many vehicles headed either way. We drove on hoping that we will not fall off the cliff or get stuck at one of the streams. By the time we got to Batal, it was past 9:30 PM. After Chatru, there are only a few places where you actually see other human beings. I am not talking about an actual town. In Batal, there are only two dhabas and one guest house. There is no electricity and there are no toilets. There might have been around 25 people there including us (we were the only women in the lot). When we enquired at the guesthouse, he said he did not have any availability and he asked us to drive on to Bishan’s camp. He even offered to drive us there but he was clearly drunk. There were few bikers around and they warned us against going onwards at that time of the night since the roads were even worse.
We were clearly stuck and we even contemplated sleeping inside the car. That is when Chachaji (our knight in flying armor) came to our rescue. He said he can spare one room for the six of us. It was one tiny room/hut made with stones (Room no 1 in the photo) and we couldn’t even stand properly. The six of us huddled inside the room hoping to sleep for some time. But it was too cold and due to AMS (Acute mountain sickness), we couldn’t.
But we were still grateful to Chachaji and it was only because of him and his helpers, we did not freeze to death that night (ok, I am being dramatic again).He even arranged fuel for us the next day. He made sure that he fed us properly throughout our time there and their kindness is something we will definitely never forget.
P.s: Chachaji means uncle in Hindi. Chandrataal Lake is a gorgeous place but the journey there is hectic. You cannot camp next to the Chandrataal Lake just like the camps at Pangong lake but camping under the stars is equally surreal.
Who said Israelis are not friendly?
On my last day in Israel and in Jerusalem, I headed down to the market next to Jaffa gate. I wanted to buy something for my family back home. I spent a while loitering around before I picked something for all of them. That is when I started talking to the shopkeeper. He enquired about where I was from and why I was in Jerusalem. I told him I was a travel writer and I was there for one travel blogger’s conference. He was clearly intrigued and we spent the next half an hour talking about my travels and his life in Jerusalem. From him, I learnt how everyone just wanted peace and he hoped things would remain peaceful forever. He talked about how both sides of the conflict were so much alike and hoped they would soon solve their differences. He took me to his friend’s shop since I wanted to buy Israeli sweets and he insisted that he pay for them. Even though I objected, he wasn’t having any of it and he didn’t accept the money.
This is why I love traveling. There I was, a solo female traveler and he went out of his way to make me feel at home. And I was really comfortable. I am definitely going back one day and I hope he gets his wish of no conflict come true soon. I also wish the same.
Falling head over heels in Bir-Billing, Himachal Pradesh
I am not talking about falling in love but actually falling down like a klutz. So someone in the group had a wild idea to go paragliding in Bir Billing. In spite of my fear of heights, I was onboard as long as there was someone jumping with me. But that is until I got to the top of the mountain at Billing. That is when I realized that I had to actually run off the cliff with someone strapped to me. I was supposed to run and pull an 80-90kg man and a parachute along with me. I was terrified but I still decided to do it. So one by one, five of them jumped out of the cliff. I was the last one to run off the cliff. The first time I tried, I was not fast enough and we had to quit midway. The second time I ran, I tripped and fell over. Thankfully, I did not fall off the cliff because my guide was careful.
But I was covered with bruises and there was not a part of me that was not hurting. That is when I decided that I am not going to jump. There was no way I could do it with so many bruises. The thing with paragliding here is that you are taken by car from Bir(landing site) to Billing from where you jump. You leave everything including your mobile phones back at Bir. We were among the last ones to jump around 7 PM. The guy who was supposed to jump with me bought me some water and then put me on the first shuttle back to Bir. He chose that shuttle because there were some women along (Ladies who worked at the top of Billing in the shops there).
Usually, if you are paragliding, it takes you around 15 minutes but by car, it takes around 30 minutes. Since I had no way to contact them, I decided to go to the landing site since I knew my family would be worried. We had parked our car at the restaurant where we had lunch and I saw the lane to the restaurant on the way. I spent the entire time chatting with the driver and he was so kind to me. When he came to know that I fell, he was even more compassionate. Soon he dropped me off at the landing site. The landing site was huge and I couldn’t see my family there. Thinking that they had gone back to the car, I tried calling my sister on her mobile but no one answered. (I borrowed a phone from another kind family at the landing site.) Since I knew that the car was just walking distance, I decided to walk back. That is when I saw them very far off in a corner. My sister was in tears by then and the rest of them were equally worried. They got worried because there was no sign of me and when they phoned from the office at the landing site, someone told them that I had fallen. They were not sure about how badly I was hurt and they were even more worried because I was alone with no money and no means to contact them.
Moral of the story: You will find kind people all around the world. You just have to fall like a klutz on top of a mountain.
P.S: All my bruises are healed now and I have some nice looking scars all over my body, including my stomach. Seriously, who falls on their tummy. Klutz, I tell you.
We couldn’t spend enough time in Bir. You can check this post for more things to do in Bir.
How a night of talking about everything including world politics and salsa dancing helped me regain my confidence?
So by now, all of you know about how I was robbed in Madrid. The thing about being robbed is that it was the first time in a really long time that I had to be dependent on someone else. I was in a foreign country with no money and no family. What would I have done if the kind manager wouldn’t have let me into the hostel on that night? He had no assurance that I would really pay him but he still took a chance on me. When I was shedding bucket loads of tears at the police station, the cops were all too kind to me. I found some kindred souls in my roommates and I spent the next 4 days in Madrid. What would I have done without my brother in law who sent me money? I found so many kind souls in Madrid and that is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the city. One night, in the corner of the Plaza Mayor, the four of us (An American, 2 Egyptians and an Indian) discussed everything from world politics to silly girl stuff. I remember how the American was one of the first people who told me that Trump would win. She wasn’t too happy about it either but she knew it was inevitable. The Egyptians told me all about their country and how the media portrays them in such a bad light. There were the friendliest set of girls I have ever met in my life and that was something I needed back then to heal. They even took me salsa dancing that night.
Being around kind people in Madrid slowly helped me regain my confidence in humanity.
My Dad My Hero
Note: This is a facebook post I wrote back in February 2017 and I realized that this is apt for this series.
I write this with mixed feelings today. I am extremely proud to be called Mr. Narayanan Nambiar ‘s daughter but at the same time disgusted at the level of inhumanity displayed by some of my fellow Indians. My mom is probably going to kill me for writing this since she doesn’t want anyone to put ‘Nasar or Drishthi’ on her husband.
So, the story goes like this. Achan was on his way back to Bangalore after a meeting in Mysore on Friday. On his way back, a little before Mandya, he saw an accident on the other side of the road. He asked the driver to stop and went to check what happened. A guy in his swift car had hit a bike guy and his 8-year-old daughter. Around 20 vehicles had stopped to see what was going on. The guy was lying on the road and he was bleeding profusely. No one was willing to take the guy to the hospital and were in turn actually standing there and taking photos and videos on their mobiles. How pathetic is that? How can I not be judgmental of such people?
Achan asked our driver, Krishna to immediately take him to our car. Krishna was reluctant about getting blood stains inside our car but Achan said that all of that did not matter. The guy in the swift car, Krishna and few others took the bike guy to our car and soon they were in the hospital in Mandya. Daughter seemed fine and she gave the number of her family, who were informed accordingly.
But it was too late for the bike guy and he passed away soon after they reached the hospital. Doctors tried to revive him but by then it was too late. Swift guy surrendered to the police to escape the wrath of the family.
Kavya tells me that it is called the bystander effect. Most people who were present that day were unwilling to help mainly because of the below reasons:
1) Afraid of the legal hassles
2) Worried about soiling their cars with blood
3) Time lost in their own travel
4) Afraid of the sight of blood
5) Many other reasons.
But whatever the reason, nothing justifies a person taking photos and videos while someone lies dying in front of them. No, I don’t care what it is called. It is downright pathetic and I hope one day, you will realize the consequences of your actions. If one of you had some sense, an 8-year old would still have her father. A 60+-year-old person had to intervene for knocking some sense into some of you.
Police wanted to take a statement from Achan and Krishna almost had an altercation with the police over this. But a councilor intervened and he said that as per the law, Achan need not give a statement since he was only trying to help. Blood stains have also been cleaned by now. Achan came home by 10 that day. He was supposed to reach by 5.
We are extremely proud of Achan and what he tried to do to save an accident victim. If you thought this was the first time he was doing this, then you are wrong. There is someone in Australia who calls almost every year to thank him for saving his life and many others. And he has no plans for stopping. Like Achan says if more people are aware of the ruling of the Supreme court, more accident victims would be saved.
There are two people who don’t know what to do with Achan. One, Amma who says “Ee manshuyan evideyengilum poyal manasamadhanamillla (I will have no peace of mind if this husband of mine goes anywhere)”. The other, Krishna who has become a fan of Achan, who says “Intha mari Sirne naa paakavailla. Athum intha vandill. (I have never seen a Sir like this in my life who was willing to take a bleeding man in such an expensive car, regardless).
We are just proud of him and hope there are more others who will follow his lead. We know we will.
I hope you have been inspired by all these stories. None of the stories are any less compared to the others and I was touched by their gestures every time. I am touched by the kindness of people from all around the world and I know that I will keep traveling as long as I can. It definitely helps to be cautious but I hope you let go of your fear of leaving your home. You will not regret it. That is one assurance I can give you. People around the world are just like you.