Meeting inspiring people is like chancing upon a fine poem
A prominent name in the literary arena, British author, biographer and historian, Victoria Schofield, has over a dozen titles to her credit. A regular contributor to the British media, Schofield is too high-profile to break bread with a person who had just managed to wriggle out of obscurity.
My meeting with Schofield is a leaf straight out of a movie plot. During the 70s and 80s, a slew of Bollywood blockbuster movies were based on brothers splitting up in a fair only to reunite in adulthood, often on the opposite side of the law. Such plots garnered a lot of traction among the audience.
My childhood dreams may have been quite lofty but as they say, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” London was always on my mind and it was in 1998 when my dream of visiting the city became a reality.
An acquaintance with a young man in London was the only ticket to my dream city. It was only a matter of time before he gave me a go-ahead to apply for the visa. A friend, who knew a young man working for a German airlines, requested him if he could assist me in the visa process. He needed a visa for himself too. The man not only helped me fill the form but also wrote the name of the contact person in London we were supposed to stay at.
“It’s a formality,” he said. I didn’t pay much attention but it looked like my “mentor” knew her well. On one of her visits to India, Schofield had stayed at their home.
I got the visa and on October 20, 1998, I flew from New Delhi to London in a Gulf Air flight. The touchdown at the Heathrow Airport was pleasant. My heart missed a beat. Luckily, my acquaintance was waiting for me right in the lounge, and after a hassle-free immigration check, I had already hit London without bothering much about Schofield.
After spending four months in various parts of the United Kingdom, mostly Nottingham, I returned to India and quickly slipped into the daily routine of life without thinking too much about the trip. In the meantime, my perseverance paid off when after many years of hard work, I began to make a mark in journalism. Working as a journalist gave me an opportunity to rub shoulders with many influential figures. Schofield became my friend on Facebook.
In 2015, I had an opportunity to visit England again to attend a conference and this time around, I got in touch with Schofield over phone. Coincidentally, she was in the same area that I was in. I called her up in all my nervousness. Much to my delight, a sweet voice on the other end greeted me. We decided to meet the next day at the conference venue. I waited anxiously for the moment to arrive. She was dot on time. Her gait was graceful and I recognised her instantly as she walked up to me. We talked for about half an hour. She spoke with the most kindness and we deliberated upon many things of common interest. Before leaving she told me she and her husband had plans to visit India.
Meeting such inspiring people is like chancing upon a fine poem; people whose handshake is like a brimful of unspoken fondness. Meeting Victoria Schofield was one such experience.
Three years later, Schofield and her husband visited India and the duo came to my home twice. It was incredible that a person whose name I had written on my visa application some eighteen years ago — casually, without knowing her at all — would come to my home to have dinner with us. She is a family friend now. Coincidences just don’t happen in reel life alone, do they?
Farooq Shah is a journalist and columnist based in India
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