Overwhelmed by Indian spirit
I have been to England and the United States numerous times and have met scores of interesting people of all nationalities including Indians living there. I however, have very fond memories of some of our countrymen who despite not doing as well as many others financially are nonetheless keeping India’s traditions alive.
Yes I am referring to the likes of Hardev Singh who drives a Cab in New York. During one of our visits to this magical city, we hired him by chance to take us to the University of Columbia where we had to meet a family friend. Since he was a Sikh I spoke to him in chaste Punjabi and he responded warmly. In the 25 minutes ride from some place in the vicinity of the Times Square to our destination, he talked at length about his village near Shahbad in Haryana.
When I told him that I knew the area rather well, he became emotional. When we reached our destination I took out my wallet to pay him 16 or 17 dollars. First he refused to accept the money and when my wife and I insisted, he agreed to take only 12 dollars. However, out of these, he gave five to my son and told him that they were from the `Cabbie uncle’ who hailed from India. I did not know how to respond to this situation and thanked him and told him that we will perhaps see him some other time if God wished.
Similarly, at an Italian Fast Food restaurant on the corner of the 42nd street between the seventh and eight Avenue I encountered a clean shaven Sikh from Punjab who almost looked like an Italian.
His name was Jassi and he asked me if I was from India. When I told him that I came from Delhi, he started talking about his village in Punjab. I had a long chat with him on Punjab and its rural people and their simplicity. He told me that he would give me a 20 per cent discount whenever I came to the restaurant. The gesture itself was overwhelming in a city where no one gives you even a glass of water for free.
This happened at least five years ago and whenever I have gone to NYC, I have made it a point to visit this restaurant not because there is a 20 per cent discount but because someone like Jassi works there.
A fellow Indian whose heart still beats for his country.
In the same city, at a hotel, a Tibetan receptionist once gave us a huge discount on learning we were from India. He told me that his countrymen were grateful to India for giving refuge to lakhs of Tibetans and of course their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He approached his manager to get us this discount. He need not have done it but that was his way of paying his respectful gratitude to the people from this part of the world.
There have been some bitter experiences also. Like the one time when we hired a Taxi to go to the airport on the New Year day. The new year day in NYC is a day when you do not see too many people on the roads after the all night partying which takes place at the Times Square with the ball being dropped etc. This Cabbie was a Pakistani who mistook us as people from his country and offered to take us to the airport. He soon discovered that we were from India and his tirade against our country started. He went on and on on how Narendra Modi had massacred Muslims and how we were mistreating Kashmiris. I tried to correct him but he would not listen. Finally I had to warn him that he should keep quiet otherwise I will be compelled to report him to the police authorities. After which he clammed up and drove us to Terminal 4 of the JFK without any more bad words for India and Indians. I paid him the money and advised him to mind his own business rather than telling his clients what was happening in their country.
There are many more interesting anecdotes too but I will dwell on them on some other occasion.