I had some time off in that city; so went to see Shashank, an old colleague of mine.
Shashank works in Travel Section of an institute. It is a training institute. Simultaneously many workshops and training programs, meetings are held here. To pick up participants from bus stand, railway station and airport and to drop them at these places is his usual task. He manages a team of four to five assistants and the institute has as many as 14 cars and drivers to carry on regular services. In addition to this, they sometime hire vehicles.
It was one of his busy days as two workshops were concluding that day and two more were starting next day. After couple of frantic calls from reception area of the hostels (they have as many as four hostels!) Shashank asked me, “Would you mind ‘Walk a talk’?” He meant that instead of sitting in his cabin, we move around, take a review of what was happening, and talk meanwhile. I happily agreed. Then he suddenly became anxious, “You would get bored though easily”, he said.
That was a possibility. However I had nothing else to do. Also I had never seen the work of travel section in an institute/organization from ‘inside’ so wanted to grab the opportunity.
We went to the reception desk of the first hostel. A man was already shouting at someone. When we reached there he turned first to me and started shouting. ”Please Sir, she is another guest, in what way can I help you sir?” Shashank spoke politely.
“So, were you sleeping?” the man was not willing to tone down.
“What is the problem Sir?” Shashank asked again, again politely.
“My flight is at 12.00 and the vehicle is coming to pick up me at 12.00. How could you do this?” the man barked again.
Shashank asked the name of the person to one of his teammates. Then he patiently referred to a printed paper in his hand. He smiled. “Sir, here you have written 12.15 as your departure time.”
The man was surprised for a moment. He did not believe that he could make such a silly mistake. He came near to Shashank, asked for the paper. From his expression I could see that Shashank was absolutely right. The man thought for a moment. Then with added vigor he said, “You asked for departure time and I gave it, it is not my mistake.” Now it was time for Shashank to feel surprised and hurt.
Smita the training coordinator was nearby. She told the man, “Sir, when I circulated the paper, I clearly instructed that departure time means departure from training institute.”
“No, you never told that, you are lying,” the man accused her bluntly.
Shashank took charge of the situation. He calmly but firmly said, “Sir, if your flight is at 12.00 it is time for you to leave; otherwise you will miss the flight. Give me five minutes and I will arrange another vehicle for you.”
The man understood and nodded. Shashank made another call and on the fifth minute another vehicle was ready. The angry man departed without even saying ‘thanks’ to anyone of those.
Smita was furious. She said, “Shashank Sir, it was not my fault. The fellow gave wrong information and he was aggressive to hide his guilt. When it is not our fault, why do you accept it so politely? We need to teach a lesson to such participants.” Couple of her colleagues who must have taken the brunt of that man’s anger nodded sympathetically.
Shashank was in two minds. Then he said, “Smita Madam, people might accuse us wrongly, it is their perspective. By taking that accusation seriously, we harm ourselves more. And anyways, the person was our guest, I should not insult him. Never mind about that person, did I, for a single moment felt that you were wrong? Do not value the opinion of a stranger –whether right or wrong.”
Smita smiled. Everybody smiled. Shashank made few more inquiries. We moved on. Smita too joined us. We talked. We reached to a second hostel. Here too Shashank’s teammates were crowded around a man. The man was apparently smiling but the team was anxious.
“Hello Sir, Good morning. Good morning Madam”, the smiling man greeted us enthusiastically.
“Is there any trouble?” Shashank asked looking at the faces of his colleague.
“Sorry Sir. I have committed a silly mistake. Instead of writing 10.15 am as departure time, I have written 10.15 pm. I don’t know what I was thinking of when Smita madam was giving instructions. Now Sir, for obvious reasons I can’t wait for the vehicle for 12 more hours. I understand that you cannot help at the last moment. So, I was just requesting your team to hire a taxi for me, I will pay, don’t worry.” The man explained, with a guilty smile.
“So, what is the problem? Just call Meru” Shashank said.
“Shashank Sir, one vehicle is going to airport for pick up and we can accommodate this gentleman in that car. We are just trying to contact our driver. Instead of directly going to airport, the driver will come here and pick him up,” someone explained.
“But Sir, for my mistake, I don’t want to trouble you,” the man added.
“It is our pleasure to help you Sir,” Smita added firmly. And they all made that smiling man to travel in another car. The man shook hands with everybody, apologized a dozen times and thanked everybody. Everybody (even I) was smiling when he departed.
“Why did you decide to help him? It was anyway his mistake,” I casually remarked.
“Mistakes happen. We all are human beings. It does not mean that we should punish someone for a silly mistake.” Smita responded spontaneously and smiled. Shashank smiled mischievously. Others looked extremely happy.
I realized that the situation is not what matters, but it is our response to a situation that makes all the difference! We can respond either bitterly or with a smile. We can accuse others or we can accept the mistake and move on without guilt. We can create enemies or we can create friends. We can crate good memories or bad memories for others as well as for ourselves!
We have a choice in what way to respond. That choice will create a path for us. Always.