Monthly Archives: August 2009

A five thousand year old culture; yet no thank you?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I love my family too. That does not mean that I don’t criticise them. Consider this.

July 2003. I am in Bristol, UK. On a short assignment of about 3-4 months. I take up the membership of the Bristol Public Library. It is free. For borrowing books, or for browsing on their computers. You do have to pay for music CD’s, and movies – VHS tapes, and DVD’s. One pound per week per DVD. Fifty pence for music CD’s.  I have been borrowing books and music CD’s over the last two months. The process is simple. You make the payment when you check out the items. They have magnetic strips for the CDs and the DVDs.  Try to take them out without making the payment, and a sensor at the out gate will, well you know go beeeeeeeeeep.  🙂

The only day I can visit the library happens to be a Saturday, since they are closed before I reach home from work. Today, I am borrowing a DVD and a few CD’s apart from the books. I get to the counter to check out, and see only two ladies, instead of the normal three at work.  Maybe it is the Saturday effect. I greet them, give them my membership card, and walk through the gate to the other side. I take my purse out, and am waiting to hear the amount that I need to pay. The lady hands over the DVD, the CD’s and the books. She starts to attend to the next customer. Wanting to get back to my apartment, I ask her, “How much do I need to pay?”. “Pardon me?”, she responds. “The DVD and the CD’s – you have not charged me for them”, I say.

For a moment she is perplexed. “I didn’t?”, she says. “Oh! I’m sorry. Ooh! Thank you for letting me know!”. Turning around, she tells her colleague about this, and now both of them thank me again. All this for what? Two pounds?  Maybe three.

Now, please turn your attention to the country with the five thousand year old history now. I am sure, you, dear reader, have experienced situations, where you have handed over Rs. 50 to a shopkeeper for a Rs. 20 item, only to get back Rs. 80. Now, as some would say, that is his bad luck. Do not turn away “Lakshmi” when she is coming to you. We get cheated too, say others. So far, whenever I have returned the excess amount, be it in a neighbourhood grocery shop, or to a vegetable vendor, or in a large store, I have never heard a “Thank you”.

Why? It is that they feel ashamed to have made a mistake? Or is it the Lakshmi factor?

It is not us, say some. Not in our culture.  Saying “thank you” is alien to us, say others. Dhanyavad, Nanri, Dhanyavada in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada do not seem alien words to me.

During lunch time, we have some support staff who help clean the tables of spilled food. Then there are the security staff who are assigned to check bags of staff.  Doing their work diligently.  Someone holds the door open fractionally longer than they need to so that you can come through. Do we need to say “Thank you” to them? How many do? Should it not be embedded in our pysche?  What can we do to make this happen?

Integrity

My wife gets a call from a lady friend (ahem! am I sure? yes, I am :)) at 8:30 am every day. Let us call her RL. Is the caller a close friend/relative? Nopes. Maybe the mom of a friend/classmates of our kids? Nopes again. RL happens to share our maid. The daily call is to confirm that the maid is IN, and about her schedule – whose home is she bound for after ours?

Last week our maid did not turn up for two days. As the BP of my dear wife shot up due to the absence on the 3rd morning too, my wife reversed the role, and made a few frantic calls to RL. None were answered.

After some time, the phone rang. It is from RL.  Wifey’s BP comes down marginally, and with a smile on her face, “Tell me”, says my wife.

“Elloooo”, says a man from the other end. Wifey, puzzled, looks at the phone. It does say the call is from RL.

“I am calling from Chennai”, says the man. “The woner (not a typo!) of this fhonn, came to my restoront, and left it here. Kan you please ask them to come and kallect it from me – the manager of Saravana Bhavan.”

“Oh! The owner is in Chennai is it?. OK OK. Let me call her home here, and see if someone is there to take a message.”, says my wife, but thinking “Oh no! How will I get to know whether my maid will come today or not?”.

“Yess, Yess. Please ask them to come and kollact the fhonn from the manager of Saravana Bhavan on Rathakrishnan (Radhakrishnan) Salai”, says the man, and cuts the call.

Wifey made the calls, RL got her fhonn back, the maid came, and the BP became normal once again.   More about the BP connexions in another post.

Well, Mr. Manager of Saravana Bhavan – I salute your personal INTEGRITY.

Also, am wondering whether this simple act of integrity, could have created a life-long bond between RL and Saravana Bhavan? It would for me. Yup, I am sucker for shows of integrity.