What I learnt from an Unknown Pan Shop Owner on a Bus Journey from Kannur to Mysore

Picture Courtesy: The Lone Traveller

It had been a merry-go-round trip for me the whole morning. I was desperately looking for a ride from Kannur to Mysore, but on enquiring from a local, he advised me to go to the Kannur town. However, upon reaching the town, I realized there wont be any bus until afternoon, by which time, I would have lost my flight back to Nagpur. There was no bus until afternoon. Then I tried speaking to someone and tried my level best in Hindi (as speaking Malayalam was way beyond my capacity, let alone write down its spelling here). I somehow managed to find a guy at the Kannur Bus Stand, who told me that you could have found a bus from the place where you started. Now, that was disgusting. Someone could have told this to me when I was starting from there. The hotel where I stayed was 15 kms from Kannur town. The person who helped me out gave his contact no. and since he knew Hindi, as well as Malayalam, he helped me board an auto from Kannur town back to the bus stand, near my hotel. On the way, he was constantly talking to me, and advising the auto driver to take me to the right place.

When I finally boarded the bus to Kannur, I thanked Rafiq, who had helped me all the way, and I wish I got a chance to return him the help of course!! I settled down and tried to keep my eyes closed for some time, trying to think what all just happened in past two hours. I had a old man sitting next to me who though was able to speak Malayalam, somehow did not appear to be from this side of the country. I tried to keep my eyes closed again, yet I could see a smile on his face I not see on lot many faces. It was ‘contented’, not artificial, not made up, it was just a gentle smile. It was enough to strike a conversation. The journey had a lighter side to it, I thought!!!

Well, I started my conversation with this man. Ganpat as he introduced himself was a man from a small town near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. I had no idea what he was doing here, with his family. He went ahead and mentioned that he came to Kannur in 1981, (I was still two years short of being born then) and I simply wondered how he chose a place where he would practically not be able to communicate any of his basic requirements properly, let alone decide to get settled. So I asked him. He mentioned that he was a Pan Seller (betel leaf seller) and started with a small shop here across the street next to the St. Angelo’s Fort.

So, how did you understood what people had been asking for? He said, 'I didn't, instead I chose a place where lot of travelers like yourself would come, with the same problem as yours, trying to ask their way and looking for someone who could speak Hindi'. 

What a great thought. I was not the only one whom he would have helped. He further said, ‘Yes, I had lot of problems communicating with the local crowd, but hey, the travelers used to look for me. Soon, people had known that there was a guy around St. Angelo’s who could help travelers with a language problem.’

The bus was moving through the twists and turns of the hills enroute as the discussions went on. I was not able to feel the tire of the journey as the story was interesting enough. I was too busy listening to the stories of a simple man with a simple life. He recollected further, ‘When I started my life here, I barely had anything with me, to support myself and my family. I carried on nevertheless, with a silent belief in my heart that things will eventually turn to my favor.’  And he seemed contemplated with the fact that though he may have seen lot of hardships in his life, yet, he had his share of successes to live by. He was able to send his children to school, was able to afford new clothes for his family on festive occasions,  and was able to generate a source of livelihood in a place which was once completely unknown to him. I think there is no place unknown for a traveler, for he accepts life as it is, in its true form, and embraces it without apprehensions or doubts.

My journey introduced me to a new revelation. The simplicity of life lies in the journey. It reminds me of the author Rhonda Bryne’s best seller novel , ‘The Secret’, in which there is an excerpt which goes as under:

"Our journeys are uncertain like road trips taken in a car at night. The head lights show the path only up to a certain distance and not beyond. Yet, we move on because we know there is road ahead, straight or curved, twists or turns, we do not know at the instant, we drive, yet we 'believe' there is a path ahead. We need to embrace that 'belief' within and continue the journey". 

By the time I reached Mysore town, my reactions to the terrible journey during the start of the day had faded away, instead, I was able to look at the same journey with a new perspective altogether.I will undertake more such journeys in future I know, but not with the same mindset as this one anymore. It was a bad start but definitely not a bad end.

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