On Busy Streets – Unusual Events and Chance Encounters


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

28 Apr 2018 – Go to any major town of Asia — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India or Thailand and you will see unusual sights and events. Apart from buses, cars or other vehicles on the roads, there are sundry persons or salesmen tempting passersby to buy various items — food, toys, balloons or what not at what they claim are dirt cheap prices. Then there are some roadside hair cutting saloons both for men and women carrying on their business with a professional touch.

People who pass by become familiar to these salespersons and are often greeted by them and offered to buy these items even cheaper. Sometimes they will tell you that the prices are even below the cost prices but are being offered because “You are our regular friends and customers”

Occasionally, one may see some people just lying on the road sleeping or just languishing in a lazy manner. Sometimes one can see families — men, wives and children just sitting or eating or children playing right on the pavements. Unusual sights, unusual sounds in major towns. Once I saw an unhappy sight at a busy corner in Delhi. Quite a few persons were crowding around a woman lying on the foot path with a dirty sheet covering her. When asked what was happening, one person replied that the woman is delivering a baby – on the street itself. One wanted to ask why on the street and not in a hospital? The answer was obvious – she was a poor woman and did not have the resources to go to a hospital.

Sometimes one meets an old friend whom one may not have seen for a long time. The encounter is a happy one with both sides enquiring what the other person has been busy with and about one’s health or whatever. If the person is an artist or a writer the questions relate to what new painting that has been completed or what short story or poem has been written.

I have had some happy encounters with totally unfamiliar persons on a street or in a railway coach. Once I met a young woman – a student, on a train and it was nice to know that she was working on organic food and farming for her Master’s program in a nearby university. Although I did not know much about it, I was still interested in that topic and Nitu (her name) tried to explain some of the technical parts of her research in simple non-technical language. She said she was happy to explain to me – it improved her own understanding of the topic. We exchanged our emails and promised to meet again later.

Normally such meetings are a one meeting affair. Surprisingly, however, a few weeks later I received an email from her inviting me to a Seminar that was being conducted in her university in the same area. What a pleasant surprise. The Seminar itself was good but meeting Nitu again was a wonderful experience. A few years later I was surprised by another message from her. She wrote that she was getting married in the faraway Andaman and Nicobar (A and N) Islands where her parents lived. I wish I could have attended her marriage despite the distance; some of these Islands in the Indian Ocean are nearer Thailand than the Indian coast.

A few years earlier I had had the good fortune of travelling by air from Calcutta to Port Blair, the capital of A and N Islands and seen many historical places including the prison cells that the British rulers of India used for imprisoning political prisoners to this faraway place. In local language this place was called kalapani (black waters) because even if a prisoner did escape from these fearsome cells, he could not go far away to India since there was the huge ocean to be crossed.

On a boat ride from Port Blair to a neighboring island, I was lucky to meet the wonderful Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika who used to sing songs in Hindi films also. Bhupen was not only an exceptional singer but also a wonderful human being marked by a spirit of love and brotherhood. He was a well-known personality and had received many civilian awards for his songs and musical talent. I was an unknown entity but despite that he was kind and friendly to me. Again on parting we promised each other that we would perhaps meet each other again.

That would have been the end of my meeting this wonderful man but again destiny gave me another chance. This was on our return flight to Calcutta. We happened to be travelling by the same flight and when he saw me at the exit of the Calcutta airport, he asked me where I was going. His kindness and humanity were in evidence when he insisted that he would drop me at my destination in the car that was waiting to receive him at the airport. He also hummed a few lines from his famous song ‘Dil Hoom Hoom Kare.’ Bhupen died a few years ago in November 2011 but I cannot ever forget the humanity and kindness shown by him to a stranger like myself.

There are a few other chance encounters that gave me happiness and joy. Once I went to a friend’s place who was entertaining a Swiss professor in her home. Seeing me, my friend introduced me to this Professor who was working in the areas of Psychology in Lausanne in Switzerland. Since I knew a smattering of French, I spoke a few words in French to the Professor whose name was Catherine. A few weeks later she sent me an email written in simple French language and we became email friends. Subsequently, Prof Catherine came to Delhi again and it was nice to invite her to my home for dinner. Although she has invited me to visit her in Lausanne, somehow I am awaiting a suitable opportunity of visiting her.

I often wonder ‘are these happy occasions destined or just a pure chance encounters’?

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist and has received several international awards. According to him:

“I believe that I am guided by chance encounters. I believe in the miracle of chance encounters.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Apr 2018.

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One Response to “On Busy Streets – Unusual Events and Chance Encounters”

  1. And this is how I met Ravi Bhatia at an APPRA conference in Siem Reap in 2003. Since then we have shared memorable experiences (including our families) in both Kyoto and New Delhi. This is an excellent article that touches at the heart of what Transcend is all about, individuals sharing, often to make the world a better place. I encourage TMS to post these humanity based reflections as often as they come in. Also, it is a fine idea to add the images to each article as we live in an age of imagery first. Ravi, hoping to see you again either this year or next as I plan a 9th and final photographic journey to four areas of India. Thank you very much for putting the world back into a warm and mysteriously beautiful frame of reference. Rob