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Still broke in Paris

I’ve been on the move for a half a year and the past week has been the slowest I’ve spent in all that time.

columns Updated: Nov 21, 2010 00:10 IST
Tithiya Sharma
Tithiya Sharma
Hindustan Times

Around the world in 54 weeks
week 21:

I’ve been on the move for a half a year and the past week has been the slowest I’ve spent in all that time. It took an immense effort to keep my foul mood and despair in check. I hadn’t just been robbed of my bag; I had been robbed of my freedom to move.

So what does one do with time to spare in Paris — with no form of ID and almost no money?

You find a small café, order the cheapest coffee or tea on the menu and watch the world go by. And since I couldn’t do much except wait for my new Schengen visa to be issued, I watched the world go by and then return the same way in the evening. I didn’t write any poetry or paint any scenes of Paris by night, but I slowed down enough to reminisce about the past six months and all the people I’ve met.

There are some heroes who I’d been chasing and some who found me when I needed them the most. Travellers I met who made me feel like I’d found my tribe and that I wasn’t completely crazy for doing what I’m doing.

In Sydney I met a Spaniard who had recently spent six months in India. He arrived in India with almost no money, no plan and no fear. Javier is in his early thirties and has been travelling for four years; the best of which he spent in India he claimed. He told me that he never slept hungry or without a roof over his head. He went out of his way to help me, and I knew that he felt a deep love for my people for the hospitality and kindness they had showed him. I felt very proud.

One morning in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, I found myself at the receiving end of a drug addled Tuk-tuk drivers rage. He viciously attacked me and in a matter or seconds I was in a street fight with a man almost a foot taller than me. No one stepped forward to help me till an Irishman named John who was staying at the same guest- house as me came to my rescue. He later joked that he was actually trying to rescue the tuk-tuk driver from the crazed Indian girl.

I did manage to get a few good shots in, if you’re wondering. A retired army-man gave me a pat on my back, bought me cup of coffee and insisted on teaching me a few tricks to tackle similar situations. I told him that it might be easier if he just came along with me.

A few weeks later, I fell sick in a city called Surabaya in Indonesia.

I was too sick to even ask for help. The lady, who owned the hostel, came to my dorm to clean up and found me shivering and delirious. Dayana was my angel of mercy. She nursed me back to health, fed me, called the doctor and even escorted me to my next destination. She fussed over me and made me feel safe and cared for. Dayana didn’t stand to gain anything from me; her help came without pre-conditions or expectations.

I remember my time with these amazing people in great detail. The conversations we had, the stories from their lives and most importantly their inherent goodness. I have learnt to love their countries through them, just as Javier learnt to love India from all the people he met on his way.

For all the sights I’ve seen in the past half year, the memories are of people with whom my path crossed. For every thief who robs you, you will find a kind soul who helps you get back on your feet. Just don’t forget to pay it forward.

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First Published: Nov 21, 2010 00:08 IST