I board a late night train from Bangalore to Kannur, Kerala.
A young woman is sitting on the sleeper bed, underneath mine, feeding her baby.
I say hello and inquire about her child. She tells me he us 6 months old and doesn’t have a name. They will name him when he is 8 months old. Her husband and 3 year old son would be boarding the train in a few moments.
I hoist my luggage to the top bunk.
Her family arrives and I look down, pleased at the company I will share a 15hr train ride with, and take a photo.
I settle into my bunk bed, arranging my bags just so and occasionally look down to ensure I am not disturbing my neighbors. I notice the woman is talking about me to her husband and I realize she is telling him about our conversation. He looks up and smiles, I smile back.
They settle and take out food for their journey, including a cup of grapes for their young son.
They continue to look up and smile, I look down and smile and the husband/father encourages his young son to notice the western woman on the top bunk up.
He does, and we communicate with smiles and hand waves.
Now, we’re all friends. I offer them some chocolate I bought at the station, but they refuse. A few minutes later the woman raises two cupped hands full of grapes and insists I take them. I refuse, but she doesn’t speak English and she won’t take my answer, even though I continue to say no. I take the grapes.
I reach back in my bag and pull out the chocolate and offer it again. They refuse but because I don’t speak Hindu I refuse to acknowledge their no and don’t budge. They take the chocolate.
We are all happy.
The young boy points up to me and decides he wants to get closer, so his dad lifts him up and he sits on my lap. We share his grapes and the chocolate. His parents look up with faces of pure delight.
The boy and I are best friends.
FRAME 3 (just look at that happy big toe!)
We finish our food sharing and I hand the boy down to his parents, the lights start to go dim in our carriage. Time for bed for some. I hear some conversation below and the little boy making sounds that I interpret as defiance. I look down and he is pointing up to me, his father looks up at me and without even a word, he’s hoisted back up.
We’re basically family now.
That’s how friendships are born in India.