That Time a Stranger Saved my Life | Lisa Steingold

That Time a Stranger Saved my Life

Taj Mahal
We never trust life and yet if you think back on your life, there was surely a stranger who stepped in and saved your life.

This is outside my normal writing themes but I’m writing this blog in the hope that I can one day thank James, the stranger who saved my life.


Once upon a time in Nepal

When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I decided that my parents did pretty well with accounting, financially I mean so I chose that.

Well needless to say it didn’t end well. I dropped out in the second year and decided to work and save until I could travel. Which is exactly what I did. 

So this is the short intro as to how I met Janes in my small guest house in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the year 1999. (Well know you know how old I am we can just move on from that.)


Meet James, the South African with no surname

So I hear this South African accent in Kathmandu and of course, I’m stunned. I say hello to James; the bronzed-bodied, eyes glowing super-bright-smile guy standing in front of me.

He gives me a hug and we chat. 

James was on a trip prior to getting married to a girl in the UK.

Anyway we chatted but he was leaving the next day to go trekking and I was going to India.


Fast forward to the Taj Mahal

So there I was a naive blonde travelling around India by herself. I can’t say I’d do it this day in age but anyway. 

I was determined to see the Taj Mahal. And off I trotted to Agra. 

People tell you how they love India but I struggled. There were so many people and it was sensory overload.

So when I found a quiet clean guesthouse, I was happy.

That was until the owner of the guest house decided that we should get married. I was freaked out. He invited me to dinner in his hotel and not a couple hours later, I found myself violently ill. I’ll spare you the details but just to say that I pretty much spend the night with my head in the toilet and the door locked shut.

All I knew is I wanted out ASAP.


Enter James. Again

The next morning I went downstairs to have black coffee and bottled water on the balcony and who walks past but James!

James! James! I called.

He stopped, looked up at the balcony from the passing sidewalk, tilted his sunglasses and immediately smiled. 

He walked over to me to give me a hug but could see I wasn’t well. 

I told him the story and he asked if I’d like to travel with him. He’d organize us train tickets to Jaisalmer.

FYI Jaisalmer, nicknamed “The Golden city”, is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, located just off the border of Pakistan. Back then it really was off the beaten track.

The hotel owner was outraged that I was leaving but with James there he couldn’t really do anything.

So the following day we climbed aboard the train.

The train from hell

I don’t remember much but I remember having my head facing down the tracks and wishing I would die. I felt like I’d thrown up even my insides. I was dizzy. I prayed for it to end. 

Then I passed out. 

Next thing I woke up in a hotel room. James had undressed me and cleaned me up. He had carried my bags. And he was urging me to drink some Gatorade or something like that. 

I stayed in that bed for 5 days while James nursed me back to health. 

After that James and I travelled for a week together. We took a guided trip into the desert on camels where two men offered James two camels for me but thankfully he declined.

We talked a lot. We laughed. And we reflected on life.

Then James went on to travel to where I don’t remember where. I had his email address and I think we swapped emails a few times. 

That was way back when I had a Hotmail email address. Then I swapped email addresses – I think Google came around – and I lost his email address.

I had nothing to go on except that James was South African and lived in the UK.

I never got to thank James for saving my life. 

My wish is that one day I’ll be able to thank him. 

We can trust life

How often has a stranger stepped in to save your life? Even in the smallest of ways. Even if it was just to give you change to pay the parking.

I often think we learn to defend ourselves because we don’t trust. But there are earth angels like James who show you that you can trust life.

PS If you know a South African named James please let him know I’ve been waiting 24 years to say thank you.

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