No baksheesh please.

'Auto Rickshaw'! Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
‘Auto Rickshaw’!
Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is a bad, bad world indeed is the common consensus. Everybody seems to be so selfish and indifferent these days. But I don’t agree. There are many good Samaritans from all walks of life who continue to do their work quietly and without any fuss. They represent the Silver lining in today’s troubled times. 

This incident took place two years ago. One of my parent’s acquaintance live in Madras. Their daughter, who works for a local company there, had some urgent work to attend to in Pune and she made a sudden train trip to Pune. She didn’t have time to inform us about her plans and hence we were unaware about her arrival at the station.

This was her first visit to Pune and she could not speak Hindi fluently. She just had our address to go by and as luck would have it she reached Pune at two in the night, courtesy the Indian Railways whose trains often are delayed and arrive late. She somehow managed to catch hold of an auto rickshaw driver and made him drive to our address. He did so and dropped her at the chowk.

Late at night and with no one to consult, the young girl couldn’t make out our flat in the maze of buildings. The rickshawala sensing her dilemma came to her rescue and knocked on doors of strangers to ask our whereabouts.

Naturally people don’t like to be disturbed at such an ungodly hour and so were rather tight-lipped. But determined as he was, he continued to make the effort to find our house.Only after finding us and confirming that his passenger had reached her destination safely did he prepare to leave. Meanwhile we learnt the whole story from the girl and I asked him why had he persisted in helping her out.

His answer was one that truly moved me. “I knew that the lady wasn’t well versed in Hindi and was a stranger in the city. How could I leave her just like that at this hour of the night. It was my duty to see her home safely.”, he replied in matter-of-fact manner.

I offered him some money for his trouble but he declined saying that he took only what he had earned. ‘No baksheesh please’ was his prompt reply. As I watched him disappear round the corner, I fervently hoped that his tribe increases.

This article appeared under the column ‘ Silver Lining’ in a local magazine Citizen published by Indian Express in Pune, India on August 19, 1993.

It was based on a real life incident and again represents an era long gone by – there was no real-time communication in those days, be in mobile phones or email. We did not even have a landline at home. An emergency would be heralded by the arrival of a Telegram which always held the portents of bad news. In today’s digital world the Government of India has had to shut down this service – a recognition of its anachronistic nature is today’s fast world.

However the moral of the story is ageless – one hopes that people would continue to value and display selfless behaviour to aid others in their hour of need.

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