One of the best things about traveling alone is that you open up more, you interact more with strangers and if you are lucky you might even befriend them. Last August (2010), i made few trip in different cities alone, and yes I did interact with few interesting people. I saw more and felt even more. I had different kinds of experiences, ranging from pleasant to life threatening. However, this post is not to describe all that. I would just tell you guys about a man I met. An old man. A man who talked and I listened. A lonely American called Ray, who's battling cancer, making trips to Germany for treatment. Here's how I met him and what interested me.
I was in the Innsbruck (Austria) train station, waiting for my train to Salzburg. This was the most unplanned part of my trip coz I had not planned for Austria beforehand, and I was not very sure what exactly to do in Salzburg. I was sitting on a bench, an old man came, sat there, looked at his tickets and asked me whether the train to Vienna will leave from this platform. I knew that I was gonna take the same train, but confirmed that from another boy sitting in the adjacent bench. Then after a pause, suddenly the old man told me how sexy the 'lady in black' is. He was definitely right, the lady was a typical 'East European babe' we see in the fashion shows, more than 6 feets, brunette hair and stunning looks. However, I was extremely tired, and was not too interested in appreciating the lady in details or continuing the conversation, especially with an old guy. I just smiled and agreed. He continued more about the lady and how even at this age, the lady gets him attracted. Politely, I also agreed about these virtues of East -European women. Later, he was also talking with the other boy, and told him to look at the lady instead of somewhere else. All I could conclude, was that this guy is an old pervert and I should make sure that I take a different compartment when the train comes. Later, he asked about my nationality and told me that he got a sikh friend. Talked about him. Told that he likes those Indian breads (Tandoori Rotis) and some curries. We discussed bit more about our food. Then he talked about few more things, asked about me, where I am traveling etc. At the end, when the train came, I decided I will sit with him, I anyways didn't had anything to do and the trip was for 2-3 hours.
In the train, he talked about many things. He was not that sort of guy who sticks to a theme, he loved talking many different stuff. After random stuff like Europe, America, India, George Clooney etc., I asked him why he's here? Travel? He said, its for treatment. I didn't asked anymore. I later asked about his children. He revealed he is not married or having any children. he stays alone. He has a sister, whom he meets some times. Then he told me he has a cancer - Prostrate cancer. He told me bits about his illness and the problems with the treatment. He considers Germany to be better for treatment. He is spending all this saving for this. Then I got to know about his job (now he is retired) - he was a public bus driver!!! I just thought of Indian bus drivers - can they afford going for such a journey for treatment? Then he talked about his childhood - He had many siblings. Didn't had much education. As a teenager he started some whitewash job or some job which requires filling of holes in walls - something like that, I didn't understood properly. What I did understood is that its something which would be considered a 'lowly job' in my society. I was amazed the way he described the details, the skills involved, how he could have made a career out of it, if he had been more careful!!!! Then he also talked about his girlfriends particularly one of them. It didn't work out enough for a marriage, he is happy to be independent. All this time I was feeling strange, a stranger recollecting his memories in front of me - never happened before to me - I guess, sometimes you can better express in front of strangers. Again he drifted to his present life. What he likes to eat, what's forbidden by the doctors etc. He watches movies, a lot of WWE!!! Then he described certain WWE moves - I was just imagining this old guy all alone, sitting in his couch watching WWE, maybe imitating few moves!!! Then one of those moments came, where he talked about his loneliness, his regret of not marrying, of not having his girl friend as wife, of not having his own children. Advised me to marry!!!
Apart from these, he described certain part of his treatment in proper immunological understanding. He even thinks about some of these problems, I was amazed by certain question of his. I just can't imagine an bus driver with that kind of education even coming close to this. Maybe he has too much idle time. But still.......
Before going, I gave him an Indian currency as a token. He hardly escaped my thoughts when I left him in the train. I kept thinking about Ray, an 70+ man, living alone lonely, diagnosed with life threatening disease, doctors in USA had not shown much hope, still this ex-driver dugs out all his savings, goes for multiple European tours for treatment hoping to prolong his life, his loneliness. I have heard an read lots of stories of inspiration, love for life etc., the story of Ray will definitely have a special place in my heart. I will never know the end, but I kind of like it that way.