Afraid of Me? Living Without Fear…
It was growing dusky and, passing thought a village, I was running out of daylight. On a hill in Denkanikotta, I saw a little government health clinic. The guard waved at me. I took the opportunity to cycle inside and ask (mainly with hand signs) if I could pitch my tent in the yard for the night. The guard motioned for me to wait, walked off, and then returned with a young man, the health inspector. He just happened to be in town that day and spoke beautiful English. I saw on his face that he was a little baffled why a white guy would show up at his village clinic.I asked him about camping. Then he punched a few numbers on his phone, had a few chats and then walked me to a small, cleanly-built village home. His friend, the town pharmacist, rented a room on their rooftop. The pharmacist had agreed to take me in for the night. Now before you get the idea that this was luxurious bachelor pad… it wasn’t. But it was by far my most cherished night in India. The pharmacist was a very small man, a devote Hindu. He as wearing a dhoti over a red-checkered shirt. The room he rented equaled the size of a king-sized bed. With an enormous smile, he rolled out a thin blanket next to his for me to sleep on and showed me where the shower was.
The house was owned by a merchant family. They ran the equivalence of a small convince store out of the front of their house. Before we went to sleep, the family’s kids came upstairs and offered me a meal. We chatted for several hours, the kids trying in their broken English to understand my world, and me, theirs. I started to nod off, tired from cycling all day and they took the hint. I laid down on my small blanket next to the pharmacist and was fast sleep. The next morning, the merchant family’s mother cooked me breakfast downstair before the entire family, plus pharmacist, gave me a smiling-waving send off.
I’ve told this story a few times to friends and they always marvel at my bravery. I think, how wrong. It wasn’t I who was brave. Rather, the pharmacist and merchant family were brave. They took me in without knowing anything about me. I could have been a serial killer, a thief or a sexual pervert. How many times I had walked the streets of Berlin, my old hometown, and crossed the street when I saw someone coming towards me who seemed threatening….
An incredible THANK you to M. Krishnappa, Savithiri, Vishwanath, Umashankar and Kirankumar – for living without fear. You allowed me to experience joy and comfort in a foreign land.
Denkanikotta, February 2014