Saved by Sheer Luck

Soraya Waller - India


September 19, 2017

I’ve had a lot of adventures in the past few weeks. Things that make good stories. Things that probably would have made good blog posts. But whenever I sat down to write something up, I realized I wasn’t inspired to share these stories. After two weeks in India, I began to wonder if that was an excuse. Am I just procrastinating? Will inspiration ever strike?

Yesterday, all those doubts were shattered. Someday, you should ask me about Frederick the Toad, or the time I was dancing at the head of Pune’s largest parade, or how much of a badass I am when crossing the road. You should ask me about sabudana khichdi, and panipuri, or the time I tried to pay my cab driver with illegal money. Because those aren’t the stories I’m telling today, and to be honest, I’m not sure they’ll make it on this blog. The thing is, I’ve had so many interesting experiences, many of them inevitably won’t make it onto here. But some stories, when they happen, you instantly know it’s one you want to share. Is it a better story? Maybe not. But I’m inspired to share it, and y’all don’t have any say in the matter, you’ll read what I write and you won’t read what I don’t write, so, jokes on you.

Okay so a few days back, I visited the school of my host sisters (quick aside: how weird is that term, “host sister?” pretty weird, I’d say). While I was there, I was introduced to way more of their friends than I can possibly keep track of, but one person particularly stuck out as memorable, named Sayuri. Of all the people there, I felt pretty confident I would remember her name, and recognize her when I saw her again.

Now, forget about all that for a minute. I certainly did, because I had other things on my mind. Yesterday, I caught I mild cold, so I was feeling a bit off anyways, when I called an Uber to meet up with the other fellows at a place called CAFE PETERDONUTS. Which I think I’ll use as my excuse for why it didn’t occur to me to check whether there was more than one PETERDONUTS in Pune, or to question why the app said I was going to Aundh, when I knew quite well my destination was on Prabhat road, in an entirely different part of the city.

Getting a sim card is hard in India, especially if you’re a foreigner. It took about two weeks of bureaucracy to get mine, and it only started working this morning. So when I found myself in the wrong neighborhood, in an uber whose driver thought he had taken me to the right place (but with whom I could not communicate, due to language barrier), I had no phone with which to get myself out of this pickle. After about five minutes sitting in the back of the uber and trying to communicate with him (and using his phone to make several calls, something he was not too happy about), I finally decided I could not put this poor man through any more. So I trusted my gut, and stepped out of the car, letting him drive off.

I say I trusted my gut because in that moment, in an unknown part of a new city in a new country with no phone and a cold, I felt an odd sense of calm, a sense that I knew exactly what to do, despite not knowing why I should do it. I knew I could hail an auto, and probably make my way to Prabhat road, but that would take around 40 minutes during which time no one would know where I was, and that wasn’t something I wanted to put anyone through. So acting on intuition, I made my way into CAFE PETERDONUTS, in a quest to find someone who would lend me a phone.

The cafe was several stories tall, a winding staircase connecting cramped hallways. As I climbed upwards, I saw no one. It seemed empty. There were no employees in sight. For a moment, I wondered if it was even open, or if I was allowed to be there. The top floor was a larger open space, a more typical cafe, with an unattended bar and several empty tables.

All empty except one, in the far corner, from which a familiar face immediately stood, recognizing me. I knew who I thought it was, but my brain froze, with no explanation for why they would be there. Surely I was confused. Surely I was mixing people up, and this was someone it would make sense to be here, someone who had come looking for me, or something.

No, there was no logic to why Sayuri was there. It was complete and utter coincidence. In fact, she seemed almost as surprised to see me as I was to see her. See, I haven’t met very many people here yet, and I knew for a fact that almost every single one of them were all in the same place right now, at a CAFE PETERDONUTS on the other side of town. I was completely floored by my luck, then, that of the handful of other friends I had made, one of them happened to have been at this PETERDONUTS as well.

From there, I was saved. She was there with a few friends, whose phones we used to make a few calls reassuring people I was in safe hands, and then to call a second Uber, this time to the correct location.

Pune has a population of over 3 million people, so I really can’t fathom the odds of running into her the first time I got lost. It seems, honestly, like God was being a little too blunt in making that situation work out so well for me. If I’m not careful, I could get arrogant and start running off to random corners of town without my phone, putting my faith that another miracle will get me where I need to be. I’m gonna try and be a little more intelligent than that, though.

Soraya Waller