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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The boy who taught us the Value of Values

This is a recent true story of a poor young boy who spellbound all of us with his strong value system.  It happened just a few days back, and impacted our lives for ever...
Yet again, we realised that it is our "Value System" that forms the base of who we are - and at absolutely NO cost, we should be compromising on this end.

I was getting late. I had to pick up my daughter on the way from her school today. She had an inter school competition and I was already late to reach her school. The last minute meeting at the office was to be blamed. I never understood why they cannot finish the meetings on time. I knew I  was tight on schedule now. 

And as it always happens, the traffic signals I was encountering today were more than my fair share of usual Reds.

I kept patient. My "value system" was not allowing me to jump the signal, though there were definitely more than one tempting opportunities until now. I just had 30 more minutes in my hand to reach the school, and I was still more than 20 Kilometers away.  It was tough, but I had done this earlier. 

Another Red signal. I kept patient.

"What if I am the last parent to pick her up? What will my daughter think about me? Am I such an unplanned guy? She might also feel embarrassed in front of her other friends at school. What will her teachers think? How will my wife react when we reach home? She had given me just one task in this week and I couldn't even complete that without hassles?"

While all these thoughts were criss crossing my mind, I saw another traffic signal turning from yellow to red.

"OMG... 3 minutes wait time.. I am surely going to be late today." I murmured as I looked at my car clock impatiently.

And then, the temptations seemed too overpowering. There was no vehicle in front of me. There were no traffic police person on duty at this traffic signal. It  also seemed safe since there was not much traffic. 

"If I  don't jump now... I just cannot make it in time.. And the day ahead is not going to be easy." I thought aloud.

I decided to jump the traffic signal.

No hassles at all. It all went smoothly. I reached my daughter's school just in the nick of time, though I had to over speed at a few places on the way. But of course, no one noticed. You can attribute the day's success to my smart thinking, astute driving skills and all round ability to meet deadlines - for that is what we have come to be experts at.

In the night, we went out with our in laws for a birthday dinner party. The party might have worn a completely different attire had I not taken those smart decisions today evening while picking up my daughter from school.

Everything went as per the script. We had a great get together at the Janakpuri Club. 

Food was delicious. The company, the bonding, the chit chat - a superscript. 

Post dinner, we had just come out of the club towards our car parking. It was close to around 10:45 PM. We were having a small chit chat before boarding back in our cars. Somewhere from behind came a 'papar' seller. He was perhaps on his way back home but was still selling his papads close to this time in the night. He must be around 8-9 years - younger than my youngest daughter. He was small in height and felt weak. But make no mistake, he was still very active and alert - and that is what caught attention from all of us.

We all kept watching him, as he was about to walk past us. He looked hard working. He looked poor. He was a small kid who should be studying and playing at this age. He definitely deserved something more in life. My brother in law, the gentleman that he is, stopped him and offered him Rs. 20 to keep. 

And you know what this weak, tired, needy young chap did? He simply refused to take it. 

"Why? Keep it. Just as a tip." asked my brother-in-law.

"No sir, I won't take it like this." pat came the response - sure, firm and to the point - hitting hard at all of us. He was surely not refusing for the sake of refusing. He seemed to be absolutely clear in his mind.

"Means?" asked my brother-in-law, and we were all suddenly getting interested in the discussion.

"If you really want to give it, you will have to buy my papads in return." responded a childish but firm voice.

We were all amazed and shocked.

He started to walk off handing Rs 20 back to my brother in law's open hands. For a moment, none of us knew how to respond.

My brother in law called him back. "OK, give me a papad and keep this Rs 20."

"No sir, you will have to take 3 of them. 3 papads cost Rs. 20"

"OK give." said my brother-in-law, as if he had been offered any other choice.

The boy quickly put down his papad container (the container must be the same size as the boy, if not more), bent and took out 3 papads. He sprayed some magic masala on them, and handed them over to us. 

"Here you go..."

Then, he accepted his Rs. 20 income and kept them in his pocket - with honour and pride. He was about to leave when my wife requested him to stop and give us the honour and privilege of taking a snap with him.

Here it goes - My wife and my brother in law with the famous papad wala. 


We all praised him for his value system and encouraged him to continue to protect his values for his lifetime (as if we were champions at it). He took his basket of papads, which was almost empty by now, lifted it on his back with full force, and walked away - as if a child was going to a school with his back pack. His strides were long, his head held high. He seemed to be on a mission. He will back to selling those papads again early morning - at least it seemed that way.

We were all so astonished at the value system of this papad wala that we even failed to ask his name.

Through our 15 minutes drive back home, the incident and the papad wala kept recurring in our discussions in the car. He had made a permanent place for himself in our hearts. We realised that it is ordinary people, with a strong value system, who go on to become Abdul Kalams of the world. 

And then it stuck me...
It is our values that create an impact in this world - not money, not stature, not power - nothing but our values. 
And it is during tough times that our values are tested - and are also exhibited most glaringly. 

The boy was tired, hungry, poor, needy - but he refused to accept money without working hard. There is never ever any excuse for compromising on one's values. If the young boy did not have any excuse, how can we, as a more privileged section of the society have excuses?

And what did I do today evening? A small test and I gave up on my value system. I broke laws just so that my daughter is not embarrassed among her school friends? 
Would she really have been embarrassed had I told her the entire story truthfully? Perhaps not. She might have even felt proud of me if I had explained her that I had chances to break traffic rules but I did not. 
Would my wife be difficult to deal with, if I would have told her the truth? Perhaps no.

As we slept that night, I made a firm commitment for the new year
I will stick to my values - come what may. 
Sticking to my values, even if I fail in a particular event - I would be rather proud of it. Honesty, Truthfulness, Compassion - these are my core values - and I will stick by them. No other grand plans or resolutions for the coming year except for holding on to my values - especially in testing times - whatever be the hardships and consequences of the same.

The simple this resolution of sticking to our values looks - the grander it is.

Have you identified your core values? Are you ready to take on the new year with a challenge to stick by them?

Recommended Read : When Life Squeezes You

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The book Happiness Unlimited shows you many such lessons to lead a happier, contented life.

Cheers


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