“Madam, why did you pay him five hundred rupees?”
It was almost 7.00 in the evening. Yesterday I had a hectic day – yesterday morning from 4.00 till 1.30 today morning. So, I was feeling bit tired– especially after a heavy lunch with three of my friends. I was relaxing. I was listening to one of my favorite pieces of classical music with eyes closed. And then suddenly this query is little surprising.
“Oh! Ashokjee, it was very late and your friend dropped me with great care. I am really thankful to you both”, I try to convince the speaker at the other end.
“Did he ask you for more money? Why did you pay? You should have paid only three hundred and fifty rupees. Next time, we will settle the accounts.” Ashokjee is not satisfied with my answer.
“No, Narayanjee did not ask for extra money. I paid by my choice. It was kind of you to arrange drop for me.” I try to explain. But Ashokjee is not satisfied. He insists, “Next time, we will settle the accounts.”
I have known Ashokjee just for a week – and I am using the word ‘known’ in a very broad sense. Only last Friday, I returned from a 10 day long travel (to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). When I came out at the Pre Paid Auto Booth at Pune airport, I realized that there were no auto rickshaws. Two flights had arrived at the airport at almost the same time and hence there was shortage of auto rickshaws – taxi service is not popular in Pune.
A man was standing near the booth. “Are you alone?” he asked. After I nodded, he asked “Is you baggage only this one?” I answered. Then he took my bag and took me to a rickshaw parked at a distance. Then I realized that he was not a police man but an auto rickshaw driver.
It takes about one hour to reach my home. On the way we talked. Actually Ashokjee talked and I listened. He is an office bearer of Rickshaw Drivers’ Union at the airport. He had stories to tell - of various customers, police, and other auto drivers. He had many experiences to share. I listened attentively and I enjoyed those experiences. Within minutes I realized that I was talking to a ‘good’ hearted man. We may have different occupations, but our attitude towards work matched and I felt that I was able to connect with him easily.
While dropping me at home, Ashokjee gave me his mobile number. He ensured that I store it in my cell phone. I did not want to hurt the feelings of the man: so entered the number. Somehow I forgot to delete it from my phone. I actually forgot about the whole experience.
Yesterday I went to Delhi for couple of meetings. I took 7.00 am flight to Delhi. Did my work whole day, which was more than satisfactory. My return flight to Pune was 20.50 Kingfisher flight.
Reaching to Delhi airport, it became clear that my flight to Pune was delayed. I opened laptop, connected internet and kept on working for couple of hours. At 9.00, it dawned upon me that the flight was still not announced. I realized that I would be reaching Pune after midnight. I realized that getting auto rickshaw in those hours would be most difficult.
I have good many friends whom I could call and ask me to pick up from the airport. But I did not want to disturb them without exploring other means. While checking one SMS, I suddenly saw the auto drivers’ number in the contact list. I decided to take a chance. I called him and asked whether he could drop me home after midnight.
Ashokjee confirmed. He told me, “As soon as you land, give me a call. By the time you come out of the lounge, I would be there.” I was happy with myself on this idea.
My plane landed at 12.20 early morning. I called Ashokjee. “Madam, sorry, I cannot come, but I have arranged an auto for you. When you reach Pre Paid Auto Booth, ask for Narayan. His vehicle number is 3893” explained Ashokjee. I was bit worried with this sudden change, but had no options.
When I inquired about Narayanjee outside, a tall man came forward. He asked me to wait and drove out his auto from the parking lot. On the way we talked. Again I listened and Narayanjee talked. This driver had waited for more than two hours for the arrival of my flight. He was staying at a distance of 12 kilometers from my place. He had waited because he respected Ashokjee. He felt that it was his responsibility to drop me home safely.
Honestly speaking, for a moment I was scared, especially while traveling during the lonely patch in Khadki area. Our mind can think of worst possibilities, and I thought so. I was not sure whether to travel alone in the midnight in the auto of an unknown driver was a wise decision. In the past I have come out of such situations without scratch, but that does not mean that I keep on testing my luck. I should have asked my friends to come and pick me up, or at most I should have waited at the airport till 5.00 in the morning. I was anxious, but I kept on talking.
After a few minutes of conversation I realized that I was once again lucky to meet another good man – dedicated, committed, simple, and honest. Why both Ashokjee and Narayanjee should feel obligation to ensure safe travel for me was beyond my understanding. I was touched by their act of taking care of me. They were treating me as an old friend (a family member would be a better word – suited to their personalities) and in the process they did not expect me to pay a penny more.
After reaching home, I paid five hundred rupees to Narayanjee. He hesitated. He did not accept. But I insisted. I told him to share some money with Ashokjee. For me the matter ended there. I know paying extra money was not equivalent to the value of my thankfulness towards both the men – but that much I could at least do.
And here is Ashokjee today evening, not ready to accept that extra money. He insists that he cannot take that extra money.
When everyone is running after money and those who have money are interested in exploiting others, here are two exceptional men. They honestly feel that they do not deserve hundred and fifty rupees – the extra amount I paid them voluntarily for their service. They want to return that money to me. Ashokjee calls me and tells me that values in life are more important than money.
There is no dearth of good people in this word. I have always been lucky to meet good people – and mind you, they come from all walks of life. Good people, committed people, honest people are there everywhere around. I speak to people with open mind, appreciate them and I build relationships. The credit goes fully to those simple people. I am proud that I know such men (and women). I am sure there are many more around me. Instead of focusing on bad people in life (there will be always a few!), it is better to remember good people.
If you ever want an auto at Pune airport, I suggest that you contact Ashokjee and have first hand experience of goodness. You will certainly enjoy the interaction.
I am not going to delete his number from my contact list. I need Good Contacts.