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  • Writer's pictureHiranmayi Narayanan


The first story in the Tales from Travel series is a very simple one. It’s about an incident that took place during the month of June 2018 in a very small French village called Gaillard, bordering Geneva (Switzerland). I arrived in Gaillard from the Geneva airport on a sunny Saturday evening and checked in to a pre-booked serviced apartment. On arrival at my accommodation, I was told at the reception that there was a confusion regarding the payment and that it was not actually received by the serviced apartment’s booking office. My knowledge of French was as good as my knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphs, so it took me a while to understand what was being explained and once I did, I went into a state of utter panic. My accommodation was booked and paid for by a company and there was no way to reach them on the weekend. My booking was for three weeks and I was not carrying enough cash to make the payment myself at the desk. The issue was eventually sorted but the three-hour long drama left me utterly exhausted both physically and mentally. I remember falling on to the bed in my travel clothes and dozing off to sleep instantly. I woke up early the next day (Sunday), hungry, thirsty and with a sense of dread. I had none of my usual enthusiasm of being in a new place and having the opportunity to explore. Not speaking the local language really throws one off their game. I didn’t want to step outside in the fear of getting lost and not being able to ask for help with directions (and before you ask, I didn’t have internet activated on my phone and am terrible at reading Google maps anyway), and I had already decided that since I’d had a bad beginning, the rest of my three-week long stay was going to be awful (perils of being foolishly superstitious).

I was all prepared to stay grumpy and indoors when my mum gave me a pep talk over the phone (I’m a fully grown adult, but mothers will always be mothers) and convinced me to go to the Geneva city-centre to familiarise myself with the city I had to visit every day during my stay. I grudgingly agreed and apprehensively stepped outside my building. I was to walk for about 1.5 kilometres to reach the tram stop to board the tram connecting this French-border village to the city of Geneva. As luck would have it, I got lost. The 1.5 kilometre walk which was supposed to be a straight route was blocked due to construction and I had to take multiple diversions, which eventually led to me getting lost. I didn’t even know how to get back to the building at which I was staying. Since it was a Sunday, there wasn’t a single open shop in sight and there was no one on the streets. I truly despaired as two discomforting events in less than 24 hours were a bit much for me to take sportively.

As I was trudging through the village, I spotted a sign which said ‘Bollywood’ from the corner of my eye. I quickly made my way to the door and it seemed like a restaurant. I could hear sounds of shuffling. I pushed the door open and barged inside in quite a dramatic fashion (stemming out of sudden hope and mild relief). I ran across the length of the room to reach the only person inside the restaurant. He looked Indian and was busy setting up the place for business. I tapped him on his shoulder and distinctly remember saying – “Sir, I’m from India and I need help.” I went on to explain that I needed to know how to get to the main train station in Geneva (Gare Cornavin). I can never forget the first words he spoke – “Do not worry. I am here to help you.” It’s a simple sentence and on an ordinary day, no one including me would think of it as a matter of significance. However, when someone is in a state of panic and haven’t been able to seek help with something, words of reassurance from a stranger can instantly make the person feel at ease and more confident of being able to handle the situation. The gentleman not only patiently explained how I could get to Gare Cornavin, he also advised me to purchase the monthly pass (which is cheaper than buying the daily tickets). I thanked him profusely and followed his directions to get to Gare Cornavin. I never saw him during any other day of my three-week long stay, however on my last day in town, I bought a bar of chocolate and tracked down the restaurant. At that time, it was open for business. I walked in and searched for the gentleman who helped me weeks ago. I spotted him attending to a customer and waited until he seemed available to speak. I walked up to him and said – “Hello there, you probably don’t remember me, but you helped me with directions three weeks ago. I was lost and your simple gesture made a world of difference to me. I’m leaving town tomorrow and I just wanted to give you this as a gesture of my gratitude.” I then handed him the bar of chocolate before bidding adieu.

Never underestimate kindness. A small act can go a long way. As Maya Angelou said – “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’d always remember this gentleman at Gaillard and wish him well. I hope his tribe grows. Come to think of it, although he looked Indian, he needn’t have been so. He could have been Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Afghani. It didn’t matter back then, and it still doesn’t matter now. Why? Because, kindness knows no bias.


Dec 16, 2019



Dec 14, 2019

Another great post! :-)


Sriram P Kumar
Dec 14, 2019

This is such a moving story! Well written, especially the way you’ve described the places. Hoping to read more interesting and touching travel stories here. Good luck!

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