A Lesson in Surrender
It was just before dawn and we were waiting for a train. We’d gotten off our night train a few stops early, hoping to make an easy and fast connection en route to Dharamsala, our destination.
We were told the next train out was two hours later than we’d hoped. So we sat down and idled, half chatting and half dozing, as the sun rose and cast everything at the station in a gorgeous gleam of dramatic light and shadow.
Moments later, a young guy helped us find our platform and became our new guardian. He informed us, just as we were about to give up on the ever-later train and try to find the bus station, that it would surely arrive within half an hour. So we waited, and I was cajoled out of my irritation when my husband brought us Nescafe from a snack stall nearby.
Not seconds later, cheered by the coffee into remembering that life is amazing and that we had no actual deadline – one could say I surrendered to the situation – our guardian shouted, ‘the train, it’s arriving!’ I wholeheartedly believe that it was the act of surrendering that brought the train chugging along in our direction.
Many hours later we arrived at Dharamsala. We were now only one bus ride away from mountain that would become our home for a few weeks; it was approaching twilight, and we still needed to find a place to stay for the night. Once again we had to wait. Immediately, two little children, a girl and a younger boy with a lame leg, tapped us for money. My husband gave the girl some coins and the boy came to my side, tapping my leg in hopes of some return. I kept saying, ‘sweetheart, we gave you guys something,’ but my husband mused that maybe the two kids were each on their own. I tried to get bananas for them, but the guy was charging almost double the going rate and I’d been in India too long to accept this (I forgot to surrender).
I had no coins left in my wallet. Then my husband remembered we had a battered, taped-together five rupee bill. Why not, we thought. I handed the boy the bill and he immediately went to show it off to the girl. They appraised it and, confused (about whether anyone would accept the bill), showed it to the shoe repair guy nearby for his opinion.
They all scrutinized the bill, and the shoe guy might have said it was no good. My heart dropped into my stomach. I wanted the bill to work! The shoe guy took off with the bill while the little girl filled her metallic bowl with water from a nearby pump (that would have sent us to the hospital) and took a few sips. The shoe guy was at one of the snack stalls, and finally returned with a newer five rupee bill for the kids.
We were completely out of the picture by this point. This tiny bus station was their unique world. The kids huddled around him gleefully. He went back to work and the kids squatted as though around a bonfire with their new prize.
I still don’t know who surrendered the most in this story of compassion and industry, and I will always stumble over how it came to be that these kids have to live at a bus stand begging for scraps.