Why do people like us? Why do random people whom we will probably never meet again come up to us and do things for us? I wonder if we look young and innocent and vulnerable – if so, how long will we stay that way?
I remember our journey to Vienna from Venice. I have photos to remind me of it, even if I do forget.
A lady on the train was immensely curious about us and naturally, about India. We spoke to her for a long time about everything. We told her about our exchange programme, about backpacking in Europe, and about how wonderful our experiences in Italy had been. We told her what we did in India and answered hundreds of questions about Indian culture. All this was normal – people have all kinds of questions all the time.
Then, she invited us to eat with her at the dining car of the train. Knowing it would be ridiculously expensive for us, we refused. She insisted, saying that she wanted to do something for the three Indian girls, that she wanted to take us there. Exchanging glances, we went with her, and had a wonderful time. She obviously had no communication problems placing her order, and she made us all eat well, in the knowledge that we were on a tight budget and would appreciate anything. She made us taste things that were Viennese, even though she said that the train was not the best place to eat them. We had shown her our culture – in bits and pieces – and she wanted to show us hers.
And then, when we were at Vienna, she gave us a whole strip of tickets for the bus. “I don’t come to Vienna very often,” she said, smiling. “Someone bought these for me, but I don’t use them! Will you?”
It’s amazing how sweet people who want to do you favours make it sound as if you’re doing them a favour. Needless to say, we eventually accepted. What else could we do in the face of generosity like hers?
We didn’t need to eat lunch that day, thanks to our meal on the train. We spent far less on travelling within Vienna thanks to our tickets. How could we thank her? We did our usual thing – gave her tiny Indian things that we were carrying, but how can we be content with that sort of exchange? A keychain in exchange for kindness does not seem fair trade at all!