She sits on the low wall, legs swinging, head nodding to the beat of the iPod, dappled in early evening sunshine, contented smile on her face. The black burkha clad lady approaching her, sizes her up in an instant. She sees the lips of the small, elderly Muslim lady move and realizes she's being addressed. A little vexed, she removes one of the earphones from her ear and looks enquiringly at the lady. "Asalaam aleikum", the lady repeats with a tremulous smile. "Aleikum asalaam", she replies without even thinking about it. One only has to be Indian to know the greeting. Religion is immaterial. The tremulous smile widens confidently. The lady seems poised on the brink of voluminous conversation when the bus arrives. She gestures the lady in front of her and they both climb into the bus. She sticks the earphone back in her ear and disappears back into her own world. She sees the lady look at her a couple of times, smiles at her. The lady starts looking worried with each passing stop. Until finally the last stop is reached. This is where she gets off but the lady still sits stubbornly in the bus. The driver, perplexed, looks to her for help. She at least looks geographically competent to deal with a black gown clad SouthEast Asian woman. In school girl Hindi she asks the woman where she needs to go. The lady, enraptured to be able to talk to anyone who can understand her, almost flies to her side. Sits nestled beside her, looking at her trustingly, waiting for her to sort the problem out. The matter is easily settled, the exasperated driver appeased and informed, the lady comforted and instructed to sit tight. She will be home soon. The lady looks at her. Two brown pools of gratitude. Thinking "I'm so glad I found kith and kin on this bus in this strange country where noone understands me." Saying simply "Khoda Hafez". She gets off the bus, walks to her apartment.
How easy it is for people to accept you for what they want you to be.