“You don’t have anyone in your family?” the indigenous woman asked me. There was a long pause between us. She stared at me for a while and then moved on.
In Guatemala, I was strolling in Antigua city when a Maya woman selling handicrafts approached me.
“Would you like to buy this?” she showed me a necklace.
“No, thank you. I cannot wear this!” I replied.
“Maybe this one?” she showed me another one.
“No, I am cycling. I don’t wear anything.”
“Take the small one. It’s cheap!”
“But, it’s too small.”
“That’s for your kids.”
“But, I don’t have kids!”
“Ok, this one, for your wife!”
“For your mother then?”
“She is no more!”
“For your father?”
“He too is not alive. Sorry!”
“You don’t have anyone in your family?”
“Of course, I do. Or, wait. Maybe, I don’t.”
For the next couple of days, I kept pondering over this question, ”do I have no one special in life?”
The feeling of aloneness is nothing new to me. Since my childhood, I used to withdraw and submerge myself in books and practice drawing and calligraphy. Personality tests have confirmed that I am an introvert. As a child, I used to hide when guests would arrive at our house. The situation hasn’t changed even today.
By nature, it’s not easy for me to approach strangers and stay in a social gathering for a long time. Overcoming shyness and talking takes a heavy toll on me. Making new relationships or keeping up with the old ones is difficult.
All these factors work against you when you are travelling. While out in the world, you want to meet new people and share experiences with them than remain in your shell. When I am on the bike with a camera, a strong force of curiosity drives me and helps me overcome my fears. Nothing motivates me more than listening to the stories of strangers and documenting them. That’s what makes me leave my family and friends, work against my nature, and be on the road for years.
My connections with others I meet on the road are short, albeit intense.
Now, reflecting upon the previous conversation, what if the indigenous woman had asked me about my friends. Would have I bought something? What would have been my reply, or would it be just silence?