It had been a couple of months since we had moved to Massachusetts. My daughter and I decided to visit the Museum of Science in Boston on a Saturday and so we took the red line in to the city. The directions on the web site said that we could alight at Charles MGH and walk down to the Museum. We did alight at Charles MGH but I realized that I had not taken down the directions from there. I did not own a smart phone and I was not really sure of the directions to the museum.
We walked down to the street and I took a random turn and we found ourselves at a light. I heard somebody say something and as I looked around, I noticed an elderly gentleman standing next to us. He was attired in tweed and he looked like he was in his seventies. He had a dog on leash. He could have been an English gentleman out for his morning walk. He was looking at me and I realized that he had spoken to me. The words I had heard were definitely not English. Having lived in Florida for a long time, I was used to having people speak to me in Spanish and occasionally in Portuguese. “I don’t speak Spanish” I replied.
He looked at me and with a tinge of irritation and said “I did not speak Spanish!”. And then he said, “Mein kal raat, rajaji ke mahal mein khane ke liye gaya tha”. Ah, he was speaking Hindi! And he was saying that he had dinner at the king’s palace the previous night. I guessed that he must have eaten at an Indian restaurant. (I was to find out later that there is an India Palace at Cambridge). I complimented him on his Hindi (in Hindi of course) and asked where he learnt to speak so fluently. He replied that he had worked in Bombay in the sixties. By then, the pedestrian crossing light came on and I hurriedly asked him the directions to the museum. “Go back that way” he said, pointing over his shoulder. He crossed the street with his dog straining at the leash, eager to get away from the man speaking in a strange language.
We turned around and came back to an intersection where I still was not sure about the directions. I saw a store down the street and walked down with my daughter. We entered the store and I asked the gentleman behind the counter the directions to the museum of science. It was obvious that he knew the directions but he struggled to explain them to me. On a whim, I asked him if he spoke Hindi. He did not look Indian. He beamed and replied “Ji hahn”! (“Yes” in Hindi). He then walked over to the entrance of the store and gave me precise directions in Hindi. He stood at the entrance watching as we walked up the street and I waved to him as I turned in the direction of the Museum. “Who knew” said my daughter in English, “that one has to speak Hindi to get directions in Boston”!