I have been a working professional for the past 2 years. In this small period of time, I have had plenty of experiences, adventurous or not, conversations worth remembering. One such conversation shook me to the core, an advice which I had never received nor thought of. A part of me and a nature of many. Something that happened today.
As I hopped on from one road to another to catch an auto-rickshaw, I crossed a herd of cows, street dogs and a pandora of cow dungs lying on the street. It’s always a marvel to witness people and passerby happily living a pungent life.
Discarding any further thoughts and ignoring the mischievous crows aiming their excreta from the trees, being glad that cows don’t fly, I saw an empty rickshaw making its way through the traffic. “Auto!!” I shouted, trying to grab its attention. As usual, I was getting late for work.
“AUTO!!” I shouted on the top of my lungs. This time I successfully caught hold of the auto’s attention.
Without a further glance, the auto driver made his way towards me cutting through the traffic and stopped by me.
“Uncle, metro station chaloge? (Will you go to the metro station?)” I asked.
“Of course! I’ll take you to the moon and back if you asked me to!” He replied.
Laughing at his rhetoric I said- “Save your horses, the moon won’t help me but the metro station will. How much will you charge?”
To the people unaware of the city of Delhi, the auto rickshaw’s have a fare meter which calculates the distance and the fare. But if you are a local, you must be aware that Delhi is not an easy place and at times it’s better to fix the travel fair beforehand or get robbed by the distance they take you to.
He looked at me, slightly amused. “Pay me whatever you want to.” He said.
His glance was a bit confusing, yet I bargained “Fifty rupees and no more” while sitting in his auto. The driver somehow seemed familiar. Yes, I have been in this auto before. Somehow, he remembered me.
As I looked at him again, he laughed- “Sir, what’s there for money? Maintaining a smile on a customer like you is what we wish for.”
Further confused, I replied “Don’t call me Sir. I am half your age, presumably the age of your children.”
Looking at my confused face he further clarified “Let me address you as sir. I feel comfortable that way”… “You see, I drive this rickshaw from 5 a.m. till 10.30 p.m. every day” *coughing slightly’ he continues* “In this tenure I’ve seen all kind of customers, people who abuse and swear a lot, people who disrespect us… drunkard, perverts, and kind souls who are respectful towards us. Despite their behaviour, it is our duty to take them to their location. And if they seem or appear to be disrespectful we avoid carrying them at times.” As the air cuts by, he continues… “That’s the reason you’ll notice some auto drivers ignore their customers despite an encouraging pay”.
He paused and looked at me again. This time while driving…
“You know, you always get an auto here during peak hours, at times when people next to you aren’t getting one. There is a reason for that.”
Doubtful, I wittily replied, “that’s probably because am professionally dressed up, and this portrays me as a customer worth being robbed.”
Chuckling at my answer he replies “Probably. But the real reason is your SMILE! That smiling face of yours. Everyone loves to be near a person who is always smiling and is able to spread some smiles around… On a tacky schedule and disrespectful profession interacting with a person like you who is respectful towards us, glistening and beaming with happiness, it’s more than that fifty bucks you paying us for.”
Listening to his thoughts, I did notice that I was carrying a smile. Probably his words made me smile or nature. But it was worth.
Gleefully looking at him I replied, “So I don’t have to pay you the fifty rupees, my kindness would be enough to repay you, right?”
Laughing together, we did reach the metro station. I paid him the sum, and started to leave when his final words impacted:
“Smile is the reason everyone lives and survives. There is no food or love good enough if it doesn’t bring a smile to our face. Have a happy day ahead.”
I looked at him, unsure, I turned back and rushed towards the station. His words imbibed.
As I sit at my office desk, sipping my daily cup of tea, the auto driver’s words fail to leave my sight. Smiling sheepishly, I wonder, was it my nature or his wisdom that reasoned this smile.
Wait, does it matter? After all, he was just an auto-driver. Wasn’t he?