I love listening to a good story. Especially if it’s a life story that’s filled with intrigue and achievement, agonies and triumphs, love and adventure, folly and madness, particularly madness. I can always sense when I’ve met a person with such a story. A few words exchanged, and I just know. I feel a bubble of curiosity building up, my focus sharpens and time becomes obsolete. A quiver full of questions appears by my side, and I’ve to restrain myself from shooting all of them impatiently. I can listen until the person has outtalked himself or herself, or until they seem uncomfortable to lay it all bare. I’m curious but not voyeuristic.
Listening to a good story thrills me beyond belief. I can recall and recount the details right down to the expressions long after the encounter. I feel privileged and humbled by the sharing, invigorated by the experience, which often enough is all too brief. Glancing back at this year, the moments which stand out, right next to special times with friends and family, are these encounters with ‘story tellers’.
The digeridoo player from Australia, the demolitions expert from the Canadian NATO force in Afghanistan, the photographer-philanthropist, the Moroccan flamenco guitarist and psychology enthusiast, the divorced parlour assistant separated from her 6-year-old daughter, the pilot-musician-entrepreneur, the environmental activist and organic farmer from a small town in Karnataka, the manicurist with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, the septuagenarian producer from Discovery Channel… I’ve been enriched by their stories.
As it usually happens, the introductions come about innocuously enough. You’d never suspect there was a story waiting to unravel. I was, in fact, studiously ignoring the short, bald old man in the white kurta and checked mustard yellow pants with some kind of beads around his neck at the bus stand in Hubli, Karnataka. We were in unfamiliar terrain, and a bit disoriented even. Our bus seemed to be late, and even the bus stand attendants were unsure about when the next bus would arrive. So, when the elderly man tried striking up a conversation with us twice, we were a bit terse…
To be continued