The sun shone brightly, hovering in the clear sky. It was just 9 am but the heat made it feel as if it was noon. Determined to ride for another half an hour I pedaled on. I was riding from Phuket to a town called Phang Nga.
I had taken this route a few days ago to reach Phuket. That ride was made special by this woman who made the most lovingly prepared meal I had eaten in Thailand.
Today, as I was on the same road, I wished to stop to see her again and eat her food.
However, it is tricky to spot a little shop that you only vaguely remember. My inability to read Thai made it even more difficult to find her shop.
I moved on slowly, battling the sun’s ire.
At one moment, I just had a feeling that she was close by. I looked around and saw a little shop that could be hers.
I took a U-Turn and approached the shop.
And I found her, sitting on a chair with her cheeks resting on her palm.
She smiled with inexplicable delight.
It seemed as if she was already expecting me. Maybe she had seen me pass by across the road and knew I would make a U-turn and come to her.
I gestured to the eggs, rice and mortar and pestle to remind her of what she had made for me a few days ago.
‘Ok Ok’ she said smilingly.
I was brought a cold glass of water by her daughter. The table-fan was turned towards me. I eased myself as if I had reached home. Nonchalantly I plugged in
my phone to charge.
Within minutes, I had her signature fried rice in front of me. I prayed for her well being and ate to my heart’s content. Halfway through I asked her if she can make me another one to take with me.
She gladly agreed and got working.
I don’t recall seeing anyone cook with so much love for an absolute stranger.
Soon, I had the take away pack with me.
I quickly rose to get my Polaroid camera.
I asked her if I could take a picture of her and her daughter.
And that feminine blush that signals an affirmative surfaced on her face!
I clicked a picture and left it with them.
I felt so at home that I no longer felt there was a transaction involved.
As I got up to leave, I remembered that I hadn’t paid for the meal.
I paid them 60 Baht as they curiously stared at the photograph.
Just before I got on my bike, the daughter came running to me with a Thai orange. I accepted it happily and moved on.
I had seen Thai oranges in markets many times. They look a bit shriveled up as compared to Oranges back in India. I was never interested to try them. But today I had one with me.
I tasted it, only to be blown away by the flavour. It leans more to the sweeter side than citrus. It was a phenomenal experience.
I am sitting with the peel of orange in my hand, smiling.
I wonder how I could just sense that the lady’s shop was nearby.
How she knew I would take a U turn and come to eat at her place?
And why I felt so at home in her little shop?
I realized that a home is not just a physical location. It is a place where someone is waiting for you expectantly.
Today, I found a little home in a foreign land.
A home I might never come back to again,
But I’ve leased out a place in my heart for it.