On March 24 afternoon, we landed at Pune railway station to attend a seminar. We asked an auto-wala to take us to YMCA. “Seventy rupees,” he said. We bargained and he came down to fifty rupees. We felt we were being cheated, but couldn’t help it as we had no other way of getting there.
Quite a different experience on the return five days later. A Muslim driver in white kurta and cap took us. At the station, the metre read 2.10. We thought it told the fare too as in Mumbai, so my husband took out twenty rupees. “It’s only fifteen rupees,” the man said, “the figure is for kilometres.” Hubby was so touched by his honesty he complimented him and they shook hands.
In the train, a young shoepolish-wala came round offering his service. Hubby shook his head. But on seeing the expression on the polish-wala’s face, i asked hubby to hire him. His fee was five rupees. We had a ten rupee note, no one had change. So we told him to keep it all. His face brightened as he said “thank you.” After another round as he was getting out, he again thanked us. A gift of five rupees had made him that grateful.
This reminded me of another incident in Bangalore station a couple of years back. Hubby and son had gone to fetch some stuff while daughter and i waited. Porters were mobbing us and we shooed them away as best we could. But one chap hung on, practically begging us to let him carry our things for only twenty rupees. But we didn’t. When the guys came we just picked up our bags and left. We’re in the habit of travelling light and carrying our own baggage. Habit won, and so deprived that poor man the chance to earn a little income. I still feel bad when i think of that.
Each day we’re faced with many small decisions that have to be made in a moment. To cheat or be honest. To be kind or indifferent. And a little kindness has such a way of brightening the day.