Lessons from the Past 83: Travel Tales- The Kindness We Encounter Amid Commutes
The Mumbai Mirror of 16 July 2023, carried a feature on the new metro trains in Mumbai. There is wide appreciation for this development, especially from people who live in the distant suburbs. But nearly all of them have the complaint that after they arrive at their final destination, they do not have any choices of transport to reach their homes. And here the auto/ taxi driver literally takes them for “a long ride”. This has been the oft-repeated complaint against auto drivers in Mumbai - not just now, but for many decades. Many meters are tampered with or they are not going in the same direction; or the charge will be RsX more, ‘since we will have to return empty’. 
Is this special to Mumbai? Of course not. From the large number of cities I have visited, I have been cheated even more by cab drivers in Moscow, in Goa, and in Rome. There are many other cities where cab cheating exists, but at lower levels.
It is therefore refreshing for me (and I hope for others) to relate some situations in the recent past, where cab drivers have not just NOT cheated but have shown kindness and generosity and touched our hearts.
Last year, I went to a wedding reception in Bandra, Mumbai, by cab. We reached the venue and paid the fare. Half an hour later, my host came up to me to say that there was a cab driver waiting to meet me outside the gate. He had described me and what I was wearing, and had wanted to hand over a bunch of keys that I had left on the back seat of the cab. He asked that I be called, so he could be sure that the keys got to me directly. 
He later told me that he had seen the keys soon after he had dropped us, and therefore knew that they were mine, and that they would be important to me. I was so grateful. They were my house keys which had dropped out of my pocket. I offered him a large tip, as a token of appreciation, and he politely refused!
Six months ago, I took another cab from my suburban home to downtown Mumbai where I was scheduled to attend a meeting. I picked up a cab at the head of our road, where there are cabs parked – generally the same ones every day. En route, I had asked the cab driver if he would be available to drive me home after the meeting, which would take just an hour. He said NO. It would not be convenient, since he could soon pick up another passenger, and then keep moving for the day. I was in a rush and in no mood to push this request. But in the hurry to get to the meeting, I forgot my Blackberry on the seat of the cab. I finished the meeting in an hour. 
Imagine my surprise, when I came to the entrance of the building, the cab driver was waiting for me to return the cell phone. He said he knew I would come down eventually, and so he waited. I tried to compensate him for his loss of business on my account, but I could not pay him enough for his concern and care!
Some years ago, I took a cab at Mumbai airport, when they had a queue system- and I got a cab that did not want to go in the same direction as I was headed. It was the luck of the draw. After we got started, the cab driver began to grumble aloud about how he wanted to go to the western suburbs and how inconvenient it is for him to now go to the eastern suburbs. I did not respond to his irritated and loud monologue. Seeing no reaction, he was further infuriated and midway, at Sion station, he halted and asked me to take my bags and take another cab. He refused to go any further. When I made no move, he became loud and abusive. Rather than create a scene, I paid him and got out. 
As usual in Mumbai, a small crowd had immediately collected to enjoy this fracas. In a few minutes, a cab rolled up and agreed to take me to my home in Chembur. When we got there, I asked him how much the fare was. Nothing – he said. I was surprised. He said he was ashamed of the way the other cab driver had behaved, and he was making amends for it. Not all cab drivers are the same, he assured me. Did he know the other driver? He did not. It was just that this driver was a kind and just soul. Bless him. And bless all those like him who restore our faith in the essential goodness of human beings!
My mind goes back to some years ago when I was visiting Pune and was returning from dinner at a friend’s home at Vaswani Nagar, at about 11pm. I had grandly told the host that I will get conveyance on the main road, and there was no need to be dropped to my hotel in downtown Pune. I managed to get an auto only after a 40-minute wait. I was really grateful – and prepared to pay even double the fare.  
When we arrived, I did pay him double, and said grandly, “Please keep the change- and thank you very much.” He looked at me squarely in the eye and said, “No sir. Here is the change. I do not accept charity. I like to get paid for the work that I do.” 
I waited to ask him more about himself. He was a PhD student at Pune University. He was poor and drove an auto at night to pay his way through college. But he was paying his way through, not asking for charity or donations. I was shocked and also greatly impressed. 
I came across the face of a new India – an India one does not encounter too often.
And I began an examination of conscience that night. Was I as honest as this PhD student, who refused to divulge his name but exhibited his principles without inhibition? It was a profile in integrity and courage!
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
10 months ago
Small acts of kindness does leave an impact on our mind and confirms our belief in humanity. The positive difference these few handful people make can hopefully add more faces to the new India.
10 months ago
Very well written. In general the world is an empathetic place, I find. But the bloody minded get more airtime, I guess.
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