Edited by: Ananya Khandelwal
I’ll be honest, 2022 hasn’t been my year so far. As if the Spring Semester wasn’t hard enough, testing positive for Covid just felt like the universe was testing me. So while isolating and slowly losing my sanity, I began to remember what I was longing for the most at this time—conversations and people.
It was like a hidden compartment had opened in my head. A compartment with files for all the interactions I had over the past 18 years. From my childhood best friend to my house help growing up, I replayed memories from a perspective I had never thought of before. Slowly, I began remembering the people I had just one simple interaction with, never to be seen or heard from again. For the sake of this article, I’ve narrowed it down to three people. I call them my ‘ordinary unordinary people’ because they’re seemingly ordinary, but with just one conversation, they changed the way I look at the world, taught me something new, and had an impact on me that will last a lifetime.
- The deaf Artist in Oxford Library: 2017:
I met a man who was selling paintings in a small corner of the library in Connaught place. I vividly remember being intrigued by his work so I went closer to inspect. As I approached, he got up with excitement and pointed to his palm which read “I am a deaf artist.” Before I could react, he smiled and took out an almost filled sketchbook from under the table, as if that was reserved for the people who noticed him. While flipping the pages, I could tell how proud of it he was, and only with this one interaction, I was intrigued. Art was what gave him joy and he taught me how if you really want to do something, it’s not about what others think of you, it’s what you think of yourself. We both bonded without any words over colours on paper and I realised how liberating it must be to live life on your own terms
- The Scottish Explorer in Prague: 2019:
Eccentric would be an understatement to describe this man. In his checked kilt and tam hat,
he sang, he danced and he told us about his adventures in one of the busiest town squares in Prague. He called himself ‘The People Glue’, for his only purpose was to bring everyone together. Going from person to person, he asked about their day and life. By the time he came to me, he had just one simple question— ‘what are you grateful for today?’ Satisfied with my answer, he decided to leave us with one final message— “enjoy the little things” he said as he cycled away in search of another group. I was indeed grateful for being where I was at that moment because I got to interact with somebody who lived every day to the fullest.
- The German Polar Bear Conserver: 2011:
As an eight-year-old, I went to the Munich Zoo with no expectations but a lot of excitement. After the initial roaming around and seeing animals I had never seen before, I went to the ice enclosure to see an animal I was absolutely obsessed with at the time—Polar bears. There weren’t too many people, just this young boy who seemed as fascinated with the snow bear as I was. “They should not be here,” he said. Confused, I looked around and realised he was talking to me. For the next three minutes, this boy, who was as young as me , continued to tell me about the poor living conditions of the arctic animals and how keeping them captive is doing long-term harm. I remember that day not as the first time I saw a polar bear but as my first encounter with wildlife conservation and protection.
So by now, you must have realised that my ordinary unordinary people aren’t magicians. They aren’t superheroes or famous celebrities—they’re normal people who left an impact on me because their perception of the world is something I wish to incorporate into my life. I don’t know their names or their stories. The only thing I know about them is the one small aspect of their life they shared with me. I wish I could meet them again or tell them the impact they had on me but I can’t so instead, I hope you think about your ordinary unordinary people as you finish reading this article. They probably won’t remember you, but hold on to that little conversation you didn’t think twice about at the time. If you’re lucky, then maybe five years later, you’ll see a painting, a kilt, and a polar bear, and understand there’s meaning even when you don’t realise it instantly— it comes to you when you’re isolating from the world, opening up hidden compartments in your head.