Once all of the customers had cleared, he held out a box of ladoos sweets toward me and with a kind smile, said, “Madam, please”. I froze for a second, as he had caught me off-guard.
Was my reserved, ever-busy grocery boy, actually talking to me?
This boy, I have admired from day one.
The little two-stalled shop that he works at is the busiest shop on the lane, constant bustling, and I feel that his honest dedication is what makes it so successful. As I pass by on my way to class, I see him engaged in dynamism, the small red tika on his forehead glimmering as he eagerly reaches up to grab the freshest bread, locates the right type of dal lentils, races up and down the staircase to bring the 1/2 kg of sugar, opens and closes the cash box to make exact change. Like swift clockwork, he anticipates every move of the customers.
Of course, by now, we know each other. When he sees me climbing the three steps leading up to the shop, he always considerately has my half-liter of cow milk and eggs waiting, and when I pass by in the afternoons on my way to the library, we give each other polite nods of recognition.
However, it is a rare occasion when he actually makes conversation. Not once has he stepped out of character to pass the time like the other boys in the shops, making jokes or poking his nose into my business when there is a rare lull in the store. No, with his professionalism, I’ve always felt safe and respected. With his courteous, honest service, I have been a loyal customer for almost two years.
Finally when I composed myself and understood that it was really me he was talking to, and that he wanted me to take a sweetened piece of prasad blessings, I asked, “But what for?”
“Laṛakā ā gayā hai”, he replied quietly with a clearly excited gleam on his face. A boy has come!
My heart melted into happiness. I was touched and ecstatic for him, as if a brother was telling me this news. I wondered why? Here was someone, whom I knew nothing about really. Someone whom I had never even talked much to. I didn’t even know his name! Yet over time we had become like family – he treated me like family, sharing his good news, and I felt like family, honored to take part in the subtle celebration.
There is something special, rare, and incredibly humbling that happens here in India. This is only one small example of countless times I have had experiences like these – each one just as powerful.
I can’t quite put my finger on it exactly. The best way to describe it is as if there is an underlying unity of brotherhood and sisterhood that silently shines beneath the words, the languages, the class differences, and boundary lines that try to separate human beings.
I am certain, that in any place you live long enough, you can meet good people and build relationships like these – with, say, your fisherman, bread-baker, barista, dry cleaner, babysitter, ice-cream shop owner (mom!), and the like. It may require a few more words. It may involve a different mental processing. It may not come as naturally as it does in India. Yet, it is possible.
I will treasure and remember these moments and these relationships that I have built up over time. I am understanding how important and rewarding it is when you realize that everyone is your brother and your sister on this Earth.
What a good way to start the day.
- interviewing intuition.