Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Umbrella Couple



Sometimes life unfolds such experiences that fill our hearts with gratitude and warmth and leave an indelible mark on our memory. No matter how old we get or how long it has been, we can still recall it as it happened and go down the memory lane only to get drenched in the warmth of those feelings all over again. We all have such experiences and so do I. There is such an incident from one of my travels that I found worth sharing. These days when we feel that the world is a scary place, where it is hard to trust the people we know, that incident made me believe in strangers. It reaffirmed my belief that there is still lot of goodness left in people all around the world. 

I have given this experience a name - ‘The umbrella couple’. Sounds strange? Actually, I stole this name from a story that I read in 8th standard in my English literature class and I still remember it – The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl. Apart from the ‘umbrella’, the similarity that I could draw is like I did not forget that story I read in 8th standard, I will never forget the meeting with the umbrella couple. However, the difference is that the umbrella man in that story was a negative character who used to steal an umbrella only to offer it to the people in exchange of some money and with that he would buy himself a drink at a pub. But here, the umbrella couple – The guy and the girl are the real life heroes. So, let me begin.

In June this year, me and my husband Vivek, traveled to Hong Kong. When we travel abroad, I never got the reason why Vivek always gets a local number without a data pack. So whenever we get lost on our way, I never miss any chance to blame him or fight with him as we cannot call upon our friend – ‘Google maps’ for help. Though, secretly I have always admired it because in the absence of the internet pack in our smart phones we are left with no choice but to talk to the strangers and ask them for help. Moreover, I believe people are the face of any region and what is the fun in traveling to some distant place if you would not talk to the people who live there. You never know when you make a friend for a lifetime. However, I must admit that in Hong Kong this did not turn out to be a good idea as most people do not speak English and hence language created a challenge to communicate.

It was the third day of our stay in Hong Kong and we were trying to get back to the hotel after exploring the city for the whole day. We were traveling back by MTR (the metro trains) and like always we were using a map to find out which station would be the nearest to our hotel. So, we scrutinized the map and decided on a station to get down that seemed closer to our hotel (closer at least on the map :D ). We got down at the station and then we did not know through which gate we should exit as there were a number of exits in different directions. We did the ping pong and chose an exit gate to try our luck. Just kidding! We tried to use our logical minds and got out from one of the exits and guess what? We did not know where we were and how we could reach our hotel. And then left with no other choice, Vivek and I tried asking people in our own ways. 

There was a small market as we came out of the station. Vivek started asking the shop keepers and the people standing outside the shops. I took the other way and instead of getting inside the market area I started walking outside on the pedestrian. The moment I looked around I saw a young couple crossing the road and coming towards me. I asked them if they could tell me the way to reach my hotel. To my luck, they knew English and understood what I was asking. They smiled at me and that made me feel a bit relaxed. The guy took out his phone to locate our hotel on the Google maps and then to check for the red bus which would go to that area. By the time Vivek also joined us. We discussed and tried to figure out but somehow even they could not find out which bus would take us to the hotel. Still they did not let it go and to help us, they pointed us to the bus stop and told us to ask the bus drivers there. To solve the communication problem with the bus drivers, we took a picture of their phone screen (google maps showing where we want to go) to show it to the drivers and ask which bus will go to the area. 

This lovely couple was congenial and that was a surprise to me as most of the people I have tried talking to, in Macau and Hong Kong, either shooed me or gave me a close ended answer. Initially I found it rude but then I understood that they were not being rude. Either they did not know English or it was like the way they talk. This couple was all smiling and chatting. They asked us from where we are and the reason of our travel to Hong Kong.

And then as getting lost on our way was not enough, it started pouring like anything. This is how Hong Kong weather is. One moment it is hot and sunny and the next moment it starts pouring. We all ran to the market area to get a shelter. Hong Kong people always keep an umbrella with them as they are aware of the tricks played by the weather. The girl asked me if we had an umbrella to which I said no. I assured her that it is not a problem as the rain will stop in sometime and then we will leave. The couple bid us a goodbye and then Vivek and I kept standing in the shelter. To protect us from getting drenched we stood in a way that we were facing the direction opposite to which the couple was headed. Few minutes later, we heard a voice behind us – Excuse me! It was the couple again. The girl was holding a new umbrella in her hand which they bought for us from a store down the lane. They offered it to us saying – This is for you. Vivek and I looked at each other not sure what to say. Humbled by their gesture, we thanked them and requested them to tell us the cost of the umbrella to which they refused. We requested them again and again to which they kept smiling and refusing. And finally the guy said - It is a gift for you. Enjoy your vacation! Welcome to Hong Kong! And then they left.

We were so aww stuck by the kindness of the couple that we did not even ask their names or we could have asked for their picture. We felt as if we did not thank them enough. Their idea of asking the bus driver really helped and we got the bus. However, we were so overwhelmed that Vivek and I did not speak a word on the way back to the hotel. 

The moment has gone but it has left a strong imprint on our minds. Vivek has carefully kept that umbrella as a souvenir from Hong Kong people. And this incident made us believe that we find all sorts of people around the world, some good and some bad. But the goodhearted people still outnumber the bad ones. People still help strangers even when they have nothing to get in return. As I said, people are the face of any region, the umbrella couple kept the pride of their country and left a mark of Hong Kong on our hearts forever.

We will never forget them – The umbrella couple. We felt that we did not thank them enough for their kindness. We don’t know their names and there is no way to get in touch with them again. So, through this post I, together with Vivek, want to thank them from the depth of our hearts, for reassuring our trust in humanity and for giving us a memory that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Here is a picture of me and Vivek where he is holding the umbrella.

Me and Vivek in HongKong with the umbrella
The Umbrella Couple

4 comments:

  1. Great Experience. True sense of travelling is indeed treasuring the experiences of lifetime. Keep up the spirit dear.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. That is the magic of traveling that we make memories forever.

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