It was a trip of a lifetime travelling across Kenya meeting people from different parts of the world who had come to Nairobi to attend the World Social Forum things were going just perfect and to top it all I managed to take a short trip to Masai Mara to visit perhaps the best natural way to see wildlife in Africa.
Back in 2007 when this incident took place Internet had very little penetration in Kenya and smartphones were not that common thus all the research were primarily done prior to my visit. To make things cheap I had booked the cheapest option available and packed with some dry foods so as to cut cost to the max while traveling. The trip was nearing its end and on the last day as I was packing things up I realized that it was quite a few days since I had a good full meal and was eager to reach home for that plate of rice and fish.
As I reached the airport and reported to the airline counter I had the shock of my life when I was informed that I would not be accommodated on that day’s flight as I had failed to reconfirm my return and since the flight was overbooked my seat was given to someone else. I can opt for the next day’s flight but the airline would not take responsibility of my accommodation for the night.
As I tried to reason out different option I saw another guy similar to my age having the same conversation with the ground crew. With his accent, I could make out he was from the subcontinent and was also deboarded from the flight for the same reason. It is now that I understand that airlines often overbook their flights and just finds out opportunities to deboard you to accommodate someone else.
Since I had already checked out of my hotel I was thinking of spending the next 24 hours either at the airport or if that is not allowed to just park myself somewhere near the gates. The other guy who was also deboarded approached me “are you Indian?” he uttered, with a big relief I said yes and then he introduced himself as “Shiba” from Nepal. Apparently, he and his female colleague were having the same fate as me. The girl was sobbing and Shiba was consoling her and kept telling her not to worry.
As I was about to settle down near one of the pillars behind the rows of chair Shiba asked me my plans to spend the next 24 hours. Since I was running low on cash I did not want to return back to the city and obviously did not want to look for another place to spend the night. All of sudden Shiba picked up my bag and started walking towards the gate. At this point let me describe Shiba to you, he was around five and a half feet with very well built body thus picking up his luggage and my rucksack was not that difficult for him. Surprised I asked him what he was trying to do, Shiba with a smile asked me to come with him back to his hotel as the NGO that sent him to attend the conference had already arranged for the extra night and had already sent a taxi to the airport to pick them up.
Sharing a room with a stranger was a better option than spending 24 hours at the airport so I obviously agreed. On reaching the hotel I learned that two single rooms were booked one each for Shiba and the other for the female colleague. The hotel reception was confused to see me the third person for which they had no booking. As the hotel staff was about to call to the organization which had initially booked the hotel rooms Shiba intervened and slipped a 100 Kenyan Shillings to the guy at the desk.
Things were settled immediately and we moved into our rooms, the girl was occupying one room and me along with Shiba the other. Since these were single bedrooms thus they were quite small and at night Shiba asked me to take the entire bed as he would sit outside on the balcony and drink a couple of beers which according to him helps him relax.
Obviously, I could not let that happen and requested him to take the bed instead and I would happily spend the night on the balcony watching the streets of Nairobi at night. Somehow Shiba convinced me that he would be absolutely comfortable in the balcony and I need not worry. Since we had a night to kill so we decided to talk and listen to music which I played on my laptop. Shiba was a big fan of Bollywood and loved the collection of latest hits. I had some dry snacks left in my bag which included a packet of Bombay Mix (Chanachur) and a couple of packets of biscuits. We relished the Bombay Mix as it was something which was common to both of our countries. After a couple of hours, Shiba started talking about his life back in Nepal and how helps the local youth fight against drug addiction.
All this while I kept wondering why he keeps calling himself Shiba and not Shiva which is quite a common name to which he replied that Shiba sounds more human. We laughed our hearts out on his response followed by some lines from the songs which were blazing out from the laptop speakers. We chatted late night till around 2 at night and finally, I crashed into bed while Shiba kept staring at the stars from the balcony rocking in his chair.
The next morning we all decided to have a quick round of breakfast at the hotel itself and headed straight to the airport as we had to get to the counter to ensure our boarding passes. Finally, after two hours at the airport, we were all handed our boarding passes, we were traveling together till our transit stop and then would take separate flight one to Kathmandu and the other to Mumbai. At the transit stop we had just thirty minutes and then I shook hand with Shiba and thanked him for this kindness that he showed to a stranger. Right before leaving I asked him why he did what he did and with a smile Shiba answered “dear friend I don’t know how long I will live as I am HIV positive for quite a few years which I had acquired with my addiction and that is the reason why I work with the local community to stop the local youths from spoiling their lives. You are from India and our neighbor, we speak somewhat the same language and our culture is so similar but don’t consider this as a help my friend it’s what I did is what anyone would have done to help a brother in a foreign land.”
As my name was being announced over the PA system that the boarding gates were closing we managed to click a snap together and gave each other a hug before walking towards different boarding gated. That photograph is the only memory that I have of my human friend Shiba.
I have traveled to many countries after this incident on work as well as for a holiday and on every journey, I had some experience or the other wherein my co-travelers or my host at a bed and breakfast joint would go that extra mile after coming to know that I am from India. They would always acknowledge me as a representative of a country which is a growing super power and would definitely break into some conversation or the other about the future of this vast country and its people. Something which I am always proud to present to them and just as what Shiba had taught me I just try to be more human.
I tried a lot to track Shiba down on social media sites but could not, if any one of my readers can recognize him then would request please to pass any contact details of him.