Friday, February 3, 2012

Friendship from Strangers

Swimming in the Indian Ocean, I notice a man on a raft paddling out to a fishing boat I eyed when entering the water. We exchange waves. He starts paddling over to me while I bob up and down; in turn I swim over to him.

“That is my boat", he exclaims. “You come out and see it. I am a fishermen, those are my workers.” I haul myself onto the back of the Styrofoam raft and he resumes paddling out to the boat. Never mind the fact that his mother tongue is Malayalam, mine American English. Between us, we each speak a few words in Hindi. Even with 25% or less of the conversation getting across, we are communicating with each other.

It’s a nice boat, as big as the fishing boat from Jaws, perhaps a bit larger. He shows me the hold where fish are on ice, I assert I’m vegetarian before fish are given to me. They offer me food, drinks, smokes – what you do with a new friend and guest: hospitality. I politely refuse each, having just eaten, not drinking and not wanting anything else. However, I am touched by the claim of friendship and the generosity of these four men. Kerala has shown this to me time and again by complete strangers; I’m a guest in their county.