Josh and I spent the last few days in a town called Darjeeling in the hills of north eastern India. We’ve met some incredibly kind people on our journey through southeast Asia and India but the people of Darjeeling are by far the most generously hospitable and lovely people yet.
What struck me as we made our way up the potholed, steep, winding road into the Himalayan foothills was how drastically the faces changed. They no longer looked Indian, or what my mind perceives Indians to look like. They looked more Chinese, Nepalese, or some other Asian ethnicity.
Upon arriving we searched for a hotel and found ourselves at a lovely guesthouse near the main market. The next few days were spent exploring the mountainous area, trying new foods, and drinking lots of tea. The day before we were to check out, we realized we needed to draw more cash. I went to the ATM and discovered our card wasn’t working. It was Saturday night and the banks would all be closed until Wednesday due to a holiday. I frantically called our bank. They were useless—100% useless. The rest of the night was spent making phone calls and worrying.
In the morning, I went to reception at the hotel to explain to ask what we should do (no credit cards excepted). I was met by a man in a purple turban who was in charge of a group of tourists. He didn’t actually work for the hotel but was keen to help me sort out my problem. As we sat there, waiting for the hotel manager, he offered me chai. He consoled me, “These things have a way of working themselves out…” and continued to pour wise and very humorous thoughts in my direction as I sat there near tears.
A few minutes later the manager, also an extremely kind man, arrived and the three of us discussed the situation. He told me the main boss would be there in a few hours. The man in the purple turban could see the distress in my face. He asked, “How much to you owe?” I told him it was around 2500 rupees (about $50). He said, “Aw, don’t worry. The Universe always gives us what we need. We’ll find a way and if we don’t, someone will bail you out.” I went running.
He was right. On my way back from running, I found a travel agency and through some crazy acrobatic banking maneuvers was able to get the cash we needed, book our next few train tickets, and learn a little about India.
No one had to bail us out this time. But the fact that this man, who by American standards makes very little money, was going to help us out of our mess, was astonishing. To me, it illustrated the starch contrast between corporate western values and the values of trust and goodness. The bank that I’ve been a responsible customer of for 11 years, never missing a payment, told me they didn’t feel comfortable giving me the cash because I was honest and told them we are currently unemployed. Here was a man who had just met me, who lived on very little money, ready to bail me out because I didn’t have access to my money.
There are so many comforts and conveniences that come with living in the United States, I’ve been reminded of that over and over on this trip but one thing we could us a little more of is trust and compassion for our fellow human being.
To read more about our travels, visit MJ at a Sea of Stories.