Journal Highlights: Roads I Have Traveled ... Excerpt #2 from July, 1995

India: July, 1995, (continued):  I had another instant flashback. I was in Kenya, on one of our safaris. The guide was pointing out how the cheetahs and female lions watched the eyes and behavior patterns of the gazelles or waterbucks. The ones they picked out to ultimately attack were those with a flaw, a weakness, or a lack of confidence that could be detected.

About that time in the midst of my flashback, a couple of desperate-looking, dark-skinned Indians with shabby clothes began looking at me and my luggage with a little more interest than was com­fortable. I thought, No way. If out of desperation you’re looking for panic or lack of direction in my eyes, you’ll have to find it in some of the other passengers’ eyes.I walked straight for an abandoned luggage cart in the street, placed my two bags on the cart, as if it had been planned for a year, and then turned the baggage cart back toward the terminal and the crowd. There was another entrance to the terminal, but it was blocked by Indian police. I pushed my way through the crowd, smiled, gave a hand gesture to the police, and walked past them back into the building. I wasn’t supposed to go back in there once I had left the security area, but I had to return to the beginning of the line of placard holders and start over again. 

By now a lot of people were coming out of customs. I searched the line again, but nothing. I backed my luggage cart up against a wall, put my foot on it, and nonchalantly studied the crowd. Over an hour passed. No one. So this was Madras, India, city of ten million? The only thing you can predict about desperate people is that they are unpredictable. I decided to stay in the building for the time being. Several other tattered folk came close, looked over my luggage, sized me up, and moved on. Where in the world was Browning? 

In the crowd, pushed up against the fence but with no placard, were a kindly appearing gentleman and his wife, both about sixty-five or seventy years old. They looked European or American enough. I pushed my cart again through the crowd, right up behind the couple. I reached over a row of short Indians and laid my hand on the old man’s shoulder. 

“You aren’t Mr. Browning, are you?”

“No, I’m Mr. Selz, from Utah, USA.”

“I’m Jackson from Colorado. We’re kind of neighbors when you consider that we are halfway around the world and in time zones they determine in thirty-minute intervals.”

We chatted awhile. He and his wife were Mormons from Salt Lake City and were just finishing their fifteenth month of an eighteen-month mission to Madras. They were at the airport to pick up another older couple needing to fulfill their missionary work for the LDS (Latter-day Saints).

I mentioned my predicament and asked for his advice on a good hotel near the airport, in case my situation came down to my needing a hotel.

He said, “I would definitely tell you the Trident Hotel. You could take a taxi from that stand over there. They will take American dollars for the fare.”

About that time, their anticipated couple arrived out of the customs area. We hollered at each other, and they disappeared into the crowd. Another twenty minutes went by. I looked back out the window onto the street. There was a bus just arriving that had Trident Hotel written on the side. I left my baggage cart and quickly went back out past the police and onto the street. I waved at the Trident driver. He stopped and got out of the bus. I told him my name was Jackson, and I needed a ride to the Trident. 

As he was putting my bags into the bus, a young Indian fellow called him over to the side, and my ears flapped when I heard the name Jackson. The young man came onto the bus where I was sitting, stuck out his hand, and said, “Jackson?”

I said, “Yes. Are you Mr. Browning?”

“No, my name is Benny. Mr. Browning could not make it, so Samuel asked if I would meet you. but I didn’t know how I was going to meet you.”

Then he went on to tell me, “I already made reservations for you at the Trident Hotel, and I knew if I waited for you to get on the Trident bus, I would be able to meet you.”

I didn’t even bother to ask him how he thought I was supposed to know that there ever existed a hotel by the name of Trident before I met Mr. Selz. It was impossible that Benny would have known that I would be getting on that bus!  But the next thing he said still had me wondering.

“You were the first person to come out of customs security, weren’t you? I saw you but did not expect you to come out first.  I just watched you. You were so confident, and it appeared that you knew what you were doing and where you were going. You looked like you had a plan, and I guess I was looking for someone lost and in a panic.”

I thought, Oh boy, maybe sometimes those gazelles and waterbucks need to be eaten!

Benny did not stay at the hotel. He was going to stay at his sister and brother-in-law’s place about an hour away from Madras. I didn’t know when Benny finally got to bed, but by the time I got checked into the hotel, it was about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. I went to my room, and there was fresh fruit and biscuits on a small table. So when the attendant came up with my bags, I ordered a pot of hot tea. Two o’clock in the morning or not, it was time to relax with a good cup of tea.

Next Week: India’s Creative Use of Dialysis Machines

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