Little gestures, huge impact!

spicysaturday[1]Govind, who seemed to be in his sixties, was an uneducated man whose writing ability was limited to signing his name in the local language. He was employed by one of our customers, a medium-scale automotive ancillary. He had no designation and no fixed duties. He did whatever job was assigned to him by his employer. Whenever he had visited our office to take delivery of spare parts, he had worn a white half-sleeved shirt, knee-length khaki shorts and a smile!

Usually, Govind’s work in our office would be over in less than a minute. He would hand over the payment to our receptionist, who would then give him the package and the bill that had been kept ready in anticipation of his arrival.

One morning, Govind’s employer telephoned me. He needed a spare part urgently. Since the part number could not be found in the parts manual, he was sending Govind to our office with the damaged part. He wanted me to identify the part and to arrange to supply a new part as soon as possible, today if possible.

About an hour later, when I was told that Govind had reached our office, I asked our receptionist to send him in to meet me. He entered my room, greeted me and gave me the damaged part. I returned his greeting and requested him to sit, but he remained standing. After I insisted that he sit, he sat on the edge of the chair’s seat. He was clearly uncomfortable.

“Mr. Govind, would you like to have tea or coffee?” I asked. Looking shocked, he answered, “No, sir.”
“Mr. Govind, it is now tea time in our office. Do you normally drink tea, coffee, milk, or anything else?” I asked.
“Tea, sir,” he replied.
“With sugar?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
Over the intercom, I ordered 2 cups of tea.

I inspected the damaged part and identified it immediately. Fortunately, we had one part in stock. I telephoned Govind’s employer, who requested me to send one part and the bill along with Govind, who would pay in cash.

As I called our Accountant over the intercom and instructed him to prepare the bill, our Office Boy entered my room and served tea. I could see Govind was extremely uncomfortable, and I knew why! Saying, “Please have your tea,” I picked up my cup and started sipping.

After he had had his tea, I requested Govind to collect the spare part and bill from the receptionist. He stood up and said, “Sir, can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” I said.

“Sir, I was served tea in a cup identical to yours. When my Sahib comes here, is he served tea in the same cup?”

“Yes. Why do you ask that?” I asked.

“Sir, my Sahib and you are high-level people. I am a very low-level man. In our company, only Sahib and his guests have tea in nice cups like these. Everyone else has tea in ordinary glasses. I am confused, sir!”

I smiled and replied, “Mr. Govind, your Sahib is my customer. Since you work in your Sahib’s company, you are also my customer. That’s it!”

With tears in his eyes and his palms pressed together in a Namaste, Govind said, “Sir, today, for the first time in my life, a high-level man has given me so much respect. Thank you, sir!”

I remembered this incident after my friend Jaya (one of the main characters in Kindness Begets Joy, my guest post on Everyday Gyaan) sent me the following SMS after reading the replies to Kindness Begets Joy:
“Happy about response. Rather surprised at comments. Didn’t think people would find this so out of the ordinary as to merit so much kudos!”

Another instance involves Kumar, a car driver in the company I worked with some years back. One day, the Admin. Manager asked me if I used to tip Kumar regularly or whether I had loaned him any money. I replied in the negative and asked him why he had asked me that question. He replied that Kumar generally tried to avoid working overtime, except when I was the executive involved. Since my curiosity had been aroused, I asked Kumar about this without mentioning the Admin. Manager’s conversation with me. His reply: “Sir, to be honest, compared to other Sahibs, you make me work harder. But you treat me like a human being. Others treat me like a machine. Unless you have a visitor with you, you sit in the front passenger seat. On long drives, you talk to me in a friendly manner. You tell me to stop whenever I feel like having a cup of tea even if you don’t want tea. That’s why I don’t mind working overtime for you!”

What was the truth? I liked to sit in the front passenger seat because I found it more comfortable! I chatted with Kumar on long drives to ensure he is wide awake! I encouraged him to take tea breaks for the same reason. According to me, I was being practical. But, according to Kumar, I was being humane!

Treating our support staff in a humane manner costs us almost nothing. But it means a lot to them.

Please do share your experiences and thoughts.


21 thoughts on “Little gestures, huge impact!

  1. I just adore the way you bring such simple but important aspects of our everyday existence and thus our interaction with the world in such elegant manner, PI. I completely agree with you. You get what you sow. Another heartwarming post.

    • Everyday life has many lessons to offer. We only have to keep our eyes, ears and minds open.

      Archimedes and Newton are two examples of people who made amazing discoveries while engaged in routine activities.

  2. From my long experience in the audit profession, industry and now in civic society, I’ve come to firmly believe that treating the support or Class IV staff a little more humanely does work wonders when it comes to inter-personal relations, more particularly when it costs nothing to speak kindly. It is the old zamindar adults and the present nouveau riche brats that treat them harshly and naturally can’t expect any better treatment.

  3. Your stories are always inspiring and you sir, remain a true inspiration to all your readers. Although the incidents you mention in this post are probably very simple and extremely practical from your viewpoint, the fact remains that 90% of people in our country don’t quite view things as pragmatically as you do, and that is what makes you and your blog posts so special.

  4. Kindness and humanity begets joy and commands respect. A very beautiful post!

    I have people within the family, who have problem with the domestic help having food in the same plates that we have or drink water in the same glasses as we have. I ask, “When you can have food or drink water in the plates and glasses that she washes, why do you have trouble with her using the same plates or glasses?”

  5. I so agree. And, honestly, this is a practice our elders inculcate in us many a times, because of their prejudices. Just to please them, or show respect to them, you start following it. But later, it becomes a part of our lives. My birth-parents never followed such practices but unfortunately, my MIL believes it. I hope I do not succumb to it.

  6. I have tears in my eyes. And I read kindness one too at Corinne’s I could relate the two of them perfectly. I am serious you and your writing have a way of connecting people. And somewhere I can say it with safety, you will have a very loyal fan following my friend 🙂 very very 😉


  7. I loved this blog post. Brings back amusing memories to my mind. When I am visiting some of my family, and talk to and treat their servants in a way how one human should interact with another, not all, but some relatives will say, ‘Don’t spoil them’ or ‘Don’t treat them so familiarly.’ How can kindness spoil anybody?

  8. Pingback: Spicy Saturday Picks - Awe-inspiring posts written by Indian bloggers.

  9. Wonderful examples Proactive Indian! Instantly reminds me of “Jadu Kee Jhappi” from Munna Bhai … the sweeper was so happy just receiving a hug. But we forget such small gestures in our daily lives so easily. However, my experience has taught me that humility shown to wrong people can also some times leads to humiliation. I have tried to share my thoughts on that in one of my posts –

  10. It is the trivialities in life that are important most times! It’s not really the big picture here, but in the details, right from your smile, to the inane everyday queries, the greeting, the talking, that makes another feel he/she also matters!
    We all matter.
    I wonder how many of us really understand that! 🙂

  11. Pingback: Little gesture, huge impact! | Proactive Indian

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