A few years ago, while on a road trip across India, I landed up in Kalimpong, West Bengal. This stop wasn’t on my original itinerary. I was, in fact, supposed to ride to Darjeeling but, for some reason, changed my mind during the day and rode to Kalimpong instead. Since I hadn’t made any prior hotel booking, while I was parked in a traffic jam, I asked a couple on a motorcycle next to me whether they knew of a simple place to stay. The man on the bike simply said, “Follow us."
This is usually a red flag moment for any kind of traveller, because the rule of thumb is to not trust a stranger. But, when you’re on the road, you need to take a chance every now and then and I figured that it would do no harm to follow them for as long as it felt safe.
The first hotel that we stopped at didn’t have any rooms available. The one we saw next was too expensive. After going in and out of over a dozen hotels and homestays, I realised that the places I could afford were not available and the ones that were available were way out of my budget.
Surprisingly, Manen and Deepika, the couple on the other motorcycle, didn’t just point me in a direction and leave. They seemed to have taken it upon themselves to ensure that I found a decent place to stay. By now, I too felt comfortable enough to continue tagging along with them on this quest to find me an accommodation.
We rode together for nearly 12 kilometres, until we reached a more residential settlement. Manen parked outside a double-storied house and went in to speak to someone. A few minutes later, he came out and took me in to see a spacious and simple room. When I asked him how much it would cost per night, he burst out laughing and said, “Rohith Da — this is my house. You are our guest!” And just like that, I ended up spending five memorable days in Kalimpong with Manen and his family.
To this day, I ask myself whether I would ever invite a complete stranger into my house in the same way. I had done nothing to deserve their kindness, and yet these people chose to treat me as if I was a part of their own family. In the time since, we’ve stayed in touch and I even went back to visit them after their first child was born.
In today’s day and age, where more and more relationships tend towards being either superficial or transactional in nature, the need for compassion and genuine camaraderie has never been greater. The random acts of kindness that I’ve experienced during my travels have not just left me with lasting memories, but also a sense of hope that a sense of humanity does still exist.