On Being Nice

December 2, 2013: Met a petrol pump attendant today who inspired me. He was an old man, with a happy face. He knocked politely on my window and asked me to check the ‘zeroes’, all the while smiling, informing me why it was important to ‘be aware’. He then took my debit card to charge me, but since it required a pin, came back and requested in the politest of tones if it wouldn’t be much trouble for me to step out of the vehicle to put in the pin. Once the transaction issued a receipt and I thanked him, he asked me to wait, while he quickly got a stapler to staple the debit card receipt with the petrol receipt and gave it to me respectfully on a writing board. He then smiled again while he bid me a great evening.

This was a man who wasn’t just extremely professional and efficient and doing his job to the best of his ability, but a man who exuded warmth and generosity in perhaps his umpteenth dealing of the day. Not only did the man ensure that his customer was satisfied, he also made sure that he extended a genial civility to the human being in front of him. This was a man who, just through the human decency that is so utterly lacking in people today, made my day. His name was Ketan.

It’s so easy to be nice, is it not? It only takes a smile, a warm ‘Thank You’, an affectionate ‘Please’ or a general kindness, which shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Why do we, then, not be like Ketan, when it’s easy, it’s nice, and it will make everyone’s day? Why don’t we extend common courtesy to everyone we meet? Why are we so eager to close the lift and stop the next person coming in, or walk inside a door without holding it open for the next person who is just a few feet away from us, or give our gratitude to anyone who offers us a service?

For that matter, why do we haggle for a couple of rupees with the sabziwala at his thela when we wouldn’t dare be caught doing that in a public supermarket? Why don’t we give a mere Rs 20 to the delivery man when ordering food for 500 bucks? Why do we ensure the auto rickshaw driver pays us back the exact change when it wouldn’t make our life any better but may definitely make his?

If, at 60+, I can be even half as happy doing the job I love as Ketan is (whatever that job may be), and if I wouldn’t hold all the shit the world has had to offer in those years against the next human being I meet in my line of work, I’d consider myself successful. Because really, as Ketan showed me today, a successful life isn’t one that’s earned with money, but one that’s earned with respect and love, and a little bit of niceness. That’s what Ketan had to offer to me today, and that’s what I offered him back, and hope to do for as long as I possibly can. And if all of us do the same, wouldn’t the world just be a slightly more happy place to live in? Thank you, Ketan

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