Little gesture, huge impact!

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!”

This post is in response to Indispire Edition 26. This post was a part of the post Little gestures, huge impact! originally published on November 18, 2013.

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18 thoughts on “Little gesture, huge impact!

  1. It is not merely a gesture, but a plain and simple matter of attitude at dealing with a fellow human beings in keeping with Indian tradition of “Athithi devo bhava”, a trait not normally seen in other regions.

    • Nagesh, I agree we Indians are among the most hospitable people in the world. (Of course, I have had the privilege of visiting a couple of countries where the hospitality is much better than ours.) However, we are selective in our hospitality. As Beloo Mehra says in her comment below, we tend to “see people not as fellow human beings deserving respect but with the tag of social or economic success/status.” In our scheme of things, people like Govind are not ‘devo’.

  2. I second Nagesh Kini’s comment! But would also add that the sad reality these days is that most so-called successful Indians have forgotten this tradition of Atithi devo bhava and see people not as fellow human beings deserving respect but with the tag of social or economic success/status. A very thoughtful post, Pro!

  3. I strongly have one thing drilled in my mind by my father and grand father .. TREAT OTHERS as you want to be treated yourself..

    back home in punjab labour comes over from up-bihar during harvest time, and they are treated as untouchables almost, have separate utensils , have to sit far away to eat their food and when pouring food in their utensils , our utensils dare not touch theirs.. But I did not see this much hatred at our place , my dad would say that we actually have made so much money because of these labourers , they have worked so hard to make sure the harvest is done on time nad properly so we could go and sell and earn all that money .. so why should we treat them like that ..

    The post and your little incident actually reminded me of my granddad and dad , PRO .. Thank you so much , you are a good person with a beautiful heart .. we need more and more people to make this world a beautiful place ..

  4. such a simple act of kindness Pro 🙂
    It reminds me of my mum (everything reminds me of mum nowadays! Maybe its because she’ll be here soon!) and how she hasn’t kept separate utensils for our maid. She gets hot food too. Ma makes her chapathis hot hot and gives it to her. She stands outside the kitchen and eats the dosas hot hot from the tawa and then goes back to her work 🙂

  5. I have been brought up in a family which offers tea/coffee to anyone who comes home. Carrying forward the same tradition, I always offer tea/coffee along with some eatables to whoever comes home. Once I had called the plumber and carpenter for some repair work at our tenant’s place which is just above my floor. While they were busy doing the repair work, I prepared tea at my place and served with biscuits. My tenant tells me, “Why do you have to offer tea/coffee to anyone and everyone? Yeh log chhote log hote hain. Jyaada sar nahi chadana chahiye.”
    I replied: “Next time repair ke liye aap koi bade log bula lijiye. But I doubt if bade log will be able to help you repair your wardrobes and leaking taps/drainage.” She had nothing more to say.

  6. I am amazed at the way people believe in ‘high-level’-‘low class’ still. I remember, when I gave tea to the woman who helps me in my household chores for the first time, she had her tea and washed the cup and kept it outside in the balcony. I asked her to bring it in and keep it with the rest of the utensils. She was shocked and couldnt believe that I had offered her tea in the cups which we use for ourselves. I wonder when this discrimination would go away from our society!

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