One Rupee In Change

Feb 11, 2005

Before heading to dinner in Andheri, a suburb of Bombay, I was told that the rickshaw fare would be 40 rupees.

Now, drivers of big-city, three-wheeled rickshaws are not typically known for their compassion. In fact, if they see out-of-town travellers, they'll try to scam them one way or another. And ego always hurts when you get ripped-off. :)

So this trip, I came prepared with a different mindset -- simply account for a 10% "tourist tax" and considering that there are dozens of drivers competing for each passenger, you almost don't mind. Ironically, though, we've only had good drivers in this trip. Not just good, half of them have even started discussing dharma with us. Really.

And going to Ghatkopar was no exception. At a crowded stop, a young girl extended her hands through the iron bars on the side of our rickshaw to ask for some money. After we refused, our rickshaw driver started a discourse on giving. :)

"Giving is good. Every human should give. But we should know how to give." Guri, Viral and I looked at each other with a "huh?" face. The rickshaw driver continued, "Most of these kids, they are trained by this one guy who keeps all the money. It's run like a business. All of us should give, but this is just not the right place to give."

A lesson in giving, from a random rickshaw-wala? Bring it on! He talked a bit more, before we reached our destination. "Kitna hooa?" I asked to inquire about the fare. "39 Rupees," he said. Just an honest, straight forward kind of guy.

Now, most people who get ripped off end up saying, "Well, you know, I don't mind paying extra if it was a good guy but I refuse to be cheated." But of course, when times are good, we become greedy and conveniently forget that vow. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I remembered this time.

I gave him 40 rupees, and he gave me a 1 rupee coin in return (most folks would just round up). From his conversation and just an intuitive sense, I knew this was a good guy. So I put the coin in my wallet, and took out a 100 rupee note.

"Bhaia, can you do me a favor?" "Han-ji," he replied courteously. "We were talking about art of giving. You seem to know how and where to give. Can you put this 100 rupees to good use somewhere?"

Most people would be flustered, but this guy, without hesitation, replied: "Give me your address and I'll make sure I get a receipt of where I gave." I didn't understand him at first, so he repeated it. I smiled and told him, "I trust you."

Of course, we are not walking millionaires that we can drop 100 rupee notes in random places. So on the way back, instead of taking a cab back from the train station to my aunt's place, we walked for a while. It was almost 1AM, I had to wake up 6AM the next day, but Guri, Viral and I still walked.

One rupee in change, turned into 100 rupees of good karma. What fortune!

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

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