08/31/2016 03:08 EDT | Updated 08/31/2016 03:59 EDT

This Beautiful Memory Was A Gift From A Kind Stranger In India

We've had an exceptionally hot, humid and dry summer, in Toronto. I always feel parched and can't seem to get my fill of ice cold water. Which has, for some reason, made me think of flowers.  

Maybe because I can identify with how thirsty they must be, given the heat that's been relentless. Or, maybe because the sight of even a single bloom can brighten any day; and any mood. No matter how dark.  

I love all flowers. From the simplest daisies to masses of brightly-coloured bougainvillea, trailing willy-nilly over fences and walls. From tulips that droop gently over the side of a vase, to window boxes crammed full of cascading geraniums and petunias. Unassuming garden variety posies. More exotic varieties, like orchids and calla lilies. I even like buttercups.


Image of bougainvillea by Fransi Weinstein, taken in Kerala, southern India

Sometimes all it takes to make me happy are a couple of sunflowers, cheering me on. Sometimes I crave something much more over the top -- like dozens of the palest of blush-coloured roses, informally 'plopped' into an old cut glass bowl my grandmother gave me. And sometimes I want to play, mixing all kinds of different flowers together, in colours that range from fuchsia to scarlet to burgundy to almost black -- shoving the whole bunch of them into a shocking, deep turquoise pottery pitcher. It all depends on my mood.

But all this talk about flowers has sparked a memory, of a glorious month-long trip I took to India several years ago. Talk about flowers!

I could write dozens of stories about that trip (and perhaps I will), but this time I'm confining myself to an experience I had on our last day there. We were in the South, in Kerala; and just getting ready to leave Munnar -- a tiny hill station where we'd spent a couple of days. We were headed for Cochin. There we'd spend our last, remaining day, until it was time to catch our flight to Mumbai -- and yet another flight back home.

As I was about to get into the van, the driver, who had been with us the entire time we were visiting the South, stopped me and, with a shy, gentle smile, whispered: "I have a surprise for you."

That was it. He wouldn't say anything more. And, with a small shake of his head, off we went. After about 20 minutes he pulled off the road, into a long driveway and eventually into a large parking lot.

We were at an enormous nursery.

Unbeknownst to me, this man had noticed that whenever we stopped anywhere -- for a bio break, for lunch, for tea, for gas, to stretch our legs or, for unscheduled maintenance for the van -- which we seemed to need on a regular basis (a whole other story) -- I'd be off. Crawling around the ground looking for flowers to photograph (I also love photography). And he took it upon himself -- on this our final day -- to take me to the one place close by where I'd be able to see -- and admire -- and photograph -- hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of flowers of all shapes, sizes, colours and origins.

A stranger who, prior to that week had never laid eyes on me; and who would not, in all likelihood, ever see me again. But none of that mattered to him.

What mattered to him was the fact that I was a visitor to his country. What mattered to him was the fact that flowers seemed to mean a lot to me. What mattered to him was that he wanted to make me happy. What mattered to him was that he wanted to give me the kind of gift upon which it is impossible to place a price.

He gave me a beautiful memory I will re-live over and over again for the rest of my life.

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