Thursday, April 12, 2007

Refused a plastic bag

I got caught in the rain this evening. Totally unexpected. It was nice & hot in the day, and I thought it was alright to walk home from work.

It would have have been a different story if I had walked home from work without going anywhere else. But I did. I had 36 rupees left, and I wanted to buy 'pal-gova' (sweets made from milk) for Dahlia. She loves them, and I had tasted these at the place where I buy lunch.

I went to Karthik Sweets, and asked him how much I could get for 36 rupees. He said '200 grams'. I said, "Alright, give me 200 grams".

"Why would I need money? I'm walking home anyway".

I paid for the sweets and proceeded on my way (without a paise). I was approaching the overhead bridge on 100ft. Road, when it started drizzling. I made some calculations and thought I would make it at least to Irene's place. But then, I didn't want to impose, i.e. I didn't feel completely comfortable. I upped my pace but the rain beat me in that aspect, and within a minute, it was raining VERY heavily. One of those heavy sudden summer rains.

"Alright", I thought. Nevermind me getting wet, my books shouldn't. I'd get a plastic bag from that shop I see, and use it to cover my books. I approached the shop, and as you can expect, it was crowded at the counter (with people taking shelter from the rain). There were some customers, of course. Let me describe the shop first.

It was a corner-shop, meaning it has 2 counters - one facing the main road where I was, and one facing the side-street perpendicular to the main. It's a typical corner store, with counters on both sides, and a narrow passage somewhere for the workers to go through. Customers not allowed. We stand outside, and the shopkeepers hand products and take money over the counter. You probably know what I'm talking about.

Coming back to our story, the main counter was crowded. It was also manned by a serious-looking man with a moustache. I peeked over the counter and saw that the side counter was manned by a kid. "I'll have a better chance of getting a plastic bag from the kid", I thought. And so I made my way to the side counter.

Unfortunately for me, the kid suddenly became busy with something else, and I eventually was noticed by Moustache-man. He came to me and I asked him for a plastic bag to cover my books; and I showed him the books I was carrying. He raised a finger, to indicate one, and I said "Yes, one is enough". He took a white plastic bag and handed it to me. I was about to slip my books into the bag when he showed me his index finger again, but this time with the words "One rupee".

I told him, "I don't have any money". He reached out for the plastic bag and took it away.

Yes, my first reaction was that of disbelief. My second was of disgust. My third was to walk away and look for other shelter (not his shop). My points to note :

First, his defence..

1. I wouldn't blame him for not believing that I didn't have any money. I mean that is something you hardly come across. Even beggars have money! But he didn't know what I did prior to approaching him, so no surprise. He probably thought I was lying.

Now, his prosecution..

1. A plastic bag does not cost more than 10 paise. That's one-tenth of a rupee. But he probably would have incurred huge losses if he gave me the bag for free.

2. My sister and I have been taught for as long as we can remember, to respect books. If we don't want a book, we don't destroy/mutilate it; we give it away (in our case, we usually keep it anyway). But this incident was enough to tell me that not necessarily everyone, even here in "reverance-zealous" India, respects books.

3. Whatever happened to plain kindness?

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