Cold Night, Warm Hearts
Arriving in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, on a cold, foggy September evening after a long bus ride, my husband Gurdial and I were stranded. Young and excited about our appointment as teachers at a government school in this area, we’d gone to submit our papers at the Directorate of Education headquarters in Bomdila. We’d assumed that accommodation would be available at the local government guesthouse. Fellow bus passengers soon left as we tried to find a porter or rickshaw—with no luck. I soon began to despair. Just then, we were accosted by a turbaned elderly man wrapped in a traditional khesi [shawl]. “Where are you going?” he asked Gurdial in Punjabi, our mother tongue.
My husband explained our predicament. The man pointed to a dim light high up on a hill. “That’s the guesthouse,” he said. “It’s far away. Just follow me.”
He took us to a cosy wooden cottage nearby. Inside, his wife was cooking dinner—sarson da saag and makki di roti. She gave us hot water to wash and fed us. They then offered us a bedroom with a fireplace and blankets to rest for the night.
In the morning, after breakfast, the gentleman accompanied us to the education office. He told us he was Pritam Singh, a timber merchant who had long settled in Bomdila. When we spoke of moving into a hotel for our second night, he frowned. “What will people say?” he chided. “That I can’t even put you up for two days!”
When we left after spending one more night with them, Mr Singh came to see us off and insisted on buying our tickets to Tezpur, Assam, where my parents lived.
That was 36 years ago. We never returned to Bomdila so we never met the old couple again. Yet their friendship and warmth left a lasting impact on us. Often, when new teachers joined our school in those far-flung settlements, we did our best to accommodate them in our house until they found a place of their own.
Aswant Kaur Gill, Tarn Taran, Punjab
Link in the Chain
My parents took me to Cafe Marol, a small eatery near our home in suburban Mumbai, for dinner one night 11 years ago. As we chatted, having placed our orders, a waiter came by, observed us keenly and left. Then the restaurant owner did the same thing. Their odd behaviour made my mother so nervous, she suggested we leave. My father, although puzzled too, decided to ignore them. Just then the owner returned. “Did you lose anything about a year ago?” he asked.
“Yes,” Mummy replied. “We’d lost a gold chain.”
One evening more than a year earlier, we’d gone to visit my uncle, a doctor, who’d just started work at a
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