Bus Journey With Olof

Have you ever wondered what gives energy to your brain or heart? What can make you feel better after a daylong work at the office? After working on a presentation which needs to satisfy random people we never met, trying to make them believe in subjects they don’t care about. Well, we all have been there at least once, coming out exhausted after office just waiting to go home & crash on your bed. And the journey back is gonna be hell when we are constantly looking at the watch to assess how many seconds has it been, since the last time we looked at it. This is the time we ask the most critical questions to ourselves, whose idea was it to take a house so far away? Who suggested that this job is fun? Who decides the frequency of these busses? And the brain continues to dance with questions and exhaustion.

               Yesterday was one such day for me, I was going home for the weekend completely exhausted from office. I was getting frustrated thinking about the 1.5 hr journey & grocery shopping I still have before going back to my apartment. But my journey turned out to be absolutely enjoyable & got home with more energy & excitement than when I left.

                It all started with me offering an old man a seat at the bus stand, he refused kindly stating he had been sitting his whole day. Apparently, his name is Olof & coincidentally he is the second person with the same name whom I met during my travel in Sweden. He spoke in Swedish & when I replied in English that I don’t understand Swedish, he quickly changed the discussion to English and asked me if I was an asylum seeker here. To be honest, I was little offended but I corrected myself that it’s an honest question, so I replied him that I am here on a job & working here for last 2 months.

               We boarded the bus together & what I thought to be the most boring 50 mins of my life turned out to be very exciting one. Olof is 71 years old, the bulky person with a bald head, he has brown teeth probably due to tobacco, wore an old crumpled shirt with red stain marks on his shoulder which could be easily confused with blood stains & works as a Swedish teacher in refugee camps. Appearances are deceptive is a proverb that’s suitable for this man, he was absolutely kind & genuinely interested in knowing others. We started our conversation exchanging names leading to a story about a Swedish Prime Minister who shares his name & got assassinated in 1986 & the unsolved mystery about the murderer. We wandered wild in our talkfest from upcoming Swedish elections this autumn, about various parties that represented the house of parliament to dialects of languages in India. He shared his experiences in refugee camps & why he decided to work even after his retirement at 65. He asked me about my language, demography & culture. I shared experiences as a student from India & he resonated them with being a teacher in Sweden.

               By the time we reached our destination, we were deeply immersed in conversation & wished the bus journey was a bit longer. We parted our ways shaking hands hoping to bump into each other again. I was brimming with positive energy rather than utter frustration after the journey like I did every day. I treated myself to a restaurant, had some good food alone while speaking with my best friend on phone, did some grocery shopping after that & got home with a smile.

                Sleeping on my bed, I was thinking about what was different today & how am I more active after engaging in more work than usual. The answer was simple, I had spoken with some stranger who was genuinely interested in speaking with me. If that is all it takes to be active and happy every day, are we not wasting our time in searching answers for a happy life everywhere else complicating our lives? If only everyone is genuinely interested in each other rather, we could solve half of the world’s problems & create a happier society.

               So I promised myself before sleeping, next time I sit beside a stranger while traveling, I would introduce myself to them & ask their name at least. I believe this might be a very small gesture but definitely a step towards a more happy and satisfying life. Let’s travel like a child waiting to know the world.

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Let me know if you ever had an interesting journey with a stranger in the comments.

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