Hum sab ek hain
I watched from the far side of the room as Suresh taught her the words to a song from her favorite Bollywood movie. His English wasn’t perfect, he had never taken a lesson in his life, but his accent laced voice sounded confident and clear as he translated the meaning of the words in her song. His smile and laughter helped, and so did her love for the movie. He would gesture wildly with his hands when his vocabulary failed him, and at irregular intervals, she would erupt in laughter, finally understanding what he meant to say, and repeating the words in English. The two of them had very little in common. She lived in America, and was a firm believer in the Islamic faith; he grew up in India, and followed the philosophies of Gandhi-ji. Perhaps he was a Hindu, but he never talked about his own religion. All that mattered to him was that he had found his place in the world, working to make the world a healthier place, one little step at a time. It was this resilient belief that gave him his faith. Their backgrounds were about as far from one another as they could be. The only intersection between their lives was their mutual love for Indian movies, but that was all it took to set them off talking for hours. The relationship was symbiotic. She learned Hindi words from him; he in turn got to practice his self-taught English skills. It was kind of beautiful.
Observing them in that moment caused me to reevaluate the nature of our interactions with the individuals around us on a daily basis. Listening in on their exchange of ideas and thoughts, I couldn’t help but believe that the communication felt natural and genuine.
If the interchange before myself really truly counted as authentic and from the heart, then what would it mean to interact meaningfully with other people?
Just because we smile doesn’t mean we care. Just because we shake hands doesn’t mean that we are glad to meet someone. Just because we introduce ourselves, doesn’t mean we want to stay in touch. That is the nature of the environment that we live in today.
We might give the unfortunate soul standing next to us in the subway a smile, only to exit at the next stop and never to see them again. We might shake hands with business associates but then decide that the partnership would have no future. We might introduce ourselves to a multitude of women among the Indian community, but realistically speaking, odds are we will certainly not receive the chance to interact with the same women again in a lifetime.
But every once in a while, a smile can lead to a lasting friendship.
A handshake can lead to an unbreakable connection.
An interaction can change the way we think forever.
What is the recipe for a kind of human relationship that transcends language, race, background or even gender?
I am not entirely certain what it means to create such a meaningful experience, perhaps I am hoping that Niswarth will teach me, but what I do know, is that a friendship such as the one that I witnessed is amazing.