Meeting Thousands of People–Conversing with a Few of Them
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 28 Feb 2022
Wherever you may be in India you are flooded by the sight of people of various communities or sometimes with people of one region or another of a country. In some metro places or tourist places you are likely to see foreigners clustering together. This is in a big city of a country, but in addition, places such as railway stations or bus stands of a major city are crowded with people and sometimes with the pet dogs they may be travelling with.
If you are travelling in an airplane that has a capacity of two hundred or more, you may again feel crowded in the plane even though the plane is running in a professional manner. The air hostesses do their best to cater to the needs of various passengers.
Sometimes at election time we are caught up in a professional group that is raising slogans for a particular group and berating another group in order to garner votes for the party they represent.
At these crowded places with thousands of people, I often feel puzzled, amused, and as a result I feel that I am overwhelmed by the rush of people and crowded spaces. Another feeling that I often get is curiosity — who are these people, where are the going to, or where have they escaped from?
A different sort of emotion sometimes grips me. With hundreds of thousands of people that I encounter at different places every day, is there even one person whom I know or who knows me? I have travelled a lot in my life due to academic pursuits or as a tourist in India and a few oversees countries in the last many years, I feel that there must be someone in this wide world whom I have met somewhere earlier and who reciprocates my feelings.
I do recall some pleasant experiences talking to local people in some foreign countries. Knowing and speaking French in France has been a pleasant experience. When I ask some French person some questions — like the address of a Musee or Metro station or something similar in French, the person looks at me with curiosity, feels happy that I speak in his language; he or she is happy to explain the location of that address. Sometimes he (she) walks with me a few metres and points out the direction of my destination.
‘Merci beaucoup’ I say happily and he (she) happily says — ‘Au Revoir’, I will come to India to meet you…’
I can appreciate the joy of meeting a foreigner and speaking his/her language. Many years ago I met a group of young tourists in southern part of India. When they saw me they asked me some question in Hindi language. I was astonished — foreigners speaking my own language, if haltingly; it was an ineffable joy.
A similar experience I enjoyed in my recent holiday in Goa on the western coast of India — with its several beautiful beaches. Goa is a warm comfortable place in these winter months and attracts large number of Russian tourists. I had learnt a semester of Russian language about half a century back and remembered a few words.
So when I saw these Russian tourists, I asked one of them, ‘goveritie Pa Russkie (do you speak Russian?)’
The tourist was amazed at my words spoken probably with errors. He smiled and replied a few words which I did not understand. I remembered another expression meaning goodbye in their language ‘Dasvidania’. The person and his friend laughed heartily.
I met a few more Russian tourists in Goa and learnt a few more of their conversational expressions, which I refrain from presenting here for obvious reasons.
Crowds of people are baffling, but if you know someone or if you can speak in the foreigners’ tongue, the bafflement can turn to pleasure and joy.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Feb 2022.
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