Bohni – the first earning

| 1.5 MINUTE READ | A tryst with an auto driver

Painting by Ranchhor Meghwal

My work life began with extensive travel. At airports, railway stations and bus stands – across big cities and mofussil towns – auto and taxi drivers often refused to turn on their meters. They instead sized you up – local/visitor, composed/uncertain – and accordingly arrived at a suitable price for their services. It hardwired into me an instinct to sense an inflated fare and negotiate it down.

Early one morning, I rode to my grandmotherโ€™s home from the airport at Baroda. On arrival I stepped out of the rickshaw and engaged in this ritual of conflict with the driver. As this continued, disturbed by my self-righteous insistence, the driver left without wanting any of my money. As I stepped in and related this tryst with an unusual end to my grandmother, she empathised with the karma of unjust indignities faced by the auto driver. It was a gentle slap on my face. I felt a wave of penitence.

I got into her car and drove in the direction of the airport, glancing into each passing auto, propelled by a hopeful certainty. The significance of the moment slowed it down. I could feel my heart breathing as my eyes roamed the streets. Ten minutes and twelve autos later, I was driving alongside him. We looked at each other and I hailed him to a stop. His face was a mix of tightened anguish and surprise. I apologized and handed him his fare. He touched the currency, his bohni or first earning of the day, at the altar on his dashboard, then on his forehead and placed it in his pocket. His eyes filled up in the face of this confluence of faith and redemption. I watched him with relief and sadness. There was nothing more to be said.

From my grandmother I learnt that a cloud can be dispersed with grace by evoking the seed of introspection instead of swinging the hammer of judgement. She taught me through her actions, that some knots in life are untangled by waiting. But on that day she drove me towards swift action and muted my appetite for unwarranted negotiation.

51 thoughts on “Bohni – the first earning

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  1. Anand . Normally you do not bargain at all. But I am happy you found the auto driver . The joy becomes double both for the auto driver & you & is worth sharing as well. Indeed admitting a mistake is a great virtue with grandma’s advice.

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  2. It takes a while to listen to wisdom. Sometimes it is a gentle whisper and others a confronting face off as you said…but to really listen takes great courage to step beyond the ego’s world, our world, and hear what is waiting in the silence. But first the noise so we can recognize it. A beautiful post Ananda, thank you for sharing its discovery ๐Ÿ˜€ โค๏ธ ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฝ ๐Ÿฆ‹

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  3. “she empathised with the karma of unjust indignities faced by the auto driver. It was the gentlest slap on my face I ever received.” so lovely.. empathy comes from a bit of personal experience to know how it feels from the other point of view or just plain wisdom to be able to see the other person’s outlook

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  4. What a powerful message given by your grandmother,I admire your prompt action soon after.Your chase and rectifying your deed was commendable

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  5. I would do same thing what your grandmother did .many times I have conflict with my children on such trival issues. in the beginning when we were students and started working for earning, I also used to bargain but I always did bargaining before start of journey. at the end of the journey whatever was agreed was promptly paid, some time more than agreed amounts. but long time back I stopped negotiating/ discussing about non delivery days or quantity with small time operators who may be vegetable vendors, newspaper delivery boy , milk wallah , gardener etc.I mostly pay them more than their dues.

    I highly appreciate the corrective action taken by you very promptly which shows human side of your personality, which you really are even today.
    Pardon me to link it with myself but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

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  6. Whenever indignant, I found that nine out of ten times I was in the wrong.
    To know that is a blessing.
    And to act and correct it is saintly.
    Well written Anand. Cheers

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  7. “…a cloud can be dispersed with grace by evoking the seed of introspection instead of swinging the hammer of judgmental recrimination.” True and wise words beautifully stated, Anand. Thank you for a lovely story and reminder.

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  8. A nice anecdote about life’s hardships, that people with public service face. I enjoyed that immensely Ananda and loved the way Granny made you realise it was worth going back.
    It also reminded me of the time I bargained with a road side craft village vendor on the streets of Johannesburg for a pair of ebony figurines.
    It suddenly struck me that I was trying to bargain him down by 20 cents, and when he conceded (I could see the tiredness on his face) it was I who felt like the biggest fool!
    Needless to say when I realised my folly, the smile I got from his cracked lips when I paid him his original asking price was worth the lesson in my life.
    I have those figurines on my office desk and view them each day as a lesson never to be forgetten.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very well done Anand. Vulnerability, humility, restitution, action, all in one short essay. The feeling tone is right on point. The better angels of our nature do grant us grace when recognize our shared humanity. One of your better pieces. Thanks.

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  10. This was a very touching share for me. Having lived in these situations, I have always found myself unable to Be the right presence – confident enough to be charged appropriately or to go into conflict later. Your story gratefully brings back the humanness of it all.

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  11. With age arrives wisdom. Your grandmother expressed her views and you instinctively realised and acted like James Bond. Kudos to you. A golden lesson to all. Thanks Anand.

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  12. Beautiful. Your grandmother was clearly a shining spirit.

    On a more prosaic level, at one stage in my legal career I did commercial property deals. The course on negotiation I did then taught me many life lessons, the most important of which was that the best deals are win-win. That works as well for an exchange with your taxi driver as it does for the lease of a shopping centre.

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  13. What a thoughtful reminder โ€ฆ to heed older wisdom, tune into the needs of others, get out of our own way, and do the right thing.
    A Powerful reminder and lesson Ananda.๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ’›

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  14. Stinginess towards a “Reasonable Demand” = SIN = Generosity towards an “Unreasonable Demand”…!!!

    “Justice” is a product of discrete & thorough understanding…not emotional judgments.

    “Sympathy & Empathy” resulting in blind “Indulgence” should never cross the limits – that can promote poor & exploitative behaviour in the society…as also “Parasitic Tendencies” within…

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  15. The pleasures are bargaining and heckling has become so much a part of our life! whether it is corporate negotiations or hiring. Without that the spice of life is off. But grudgingly I concede we shouldn’t be doing it with Autodrivers and Bajiwala. As usual wonderfully captured simple message.

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  16. Auto drivers! They do get your shackles up, don’t they? But more often than not, in my experience, they have turned out to be nice humans. They are the one of the ones that make Indian life wholesome. Thanks for sharing the story that most of us can relate to.

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  17. Anand,so beautifully and powerfully naratted..
    I loved the ending when you located the driver and his reaction.Very touching and humbling.
    I too , when I was younger used to haggle.
    Now I do not esp with the vendors and drivers.
    There is so much poverty, !!

    I loved your prompt response and your reaction to your Grandmas advice.

    Very well written.
    Mina

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  18. A very thought-provoking incident. Simple which could have been lost in oblivion in our ever busy lives. I still remember your grandma who was so gracious & had a heart oh gold.
    You having learnt such a valuable lesson after relating this to her & her words made you spring to rectify your thoughts is indeed commendable!! Kudos Anand!

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  19. This happens in everyday life, but instead of negotiations, it is better to accept terms as it is. your grandmother’s advice is to everyone. great advice. momu

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  20. Nice write up Anand. This happens in everyoneโ€™s life. Who is right who is wrong is difficult to say. At the end of the day the giver must be generous.

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  21. Perspective is everything, no matter how sure I am of a position, it can change when someone offers me another perspective. I love the journey you took once your perspective shifted, determined to rebalance the equation. Thank you for sharing this. Be well, my friend.

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  22. I am sure Anand that you negotiate very hard in your business dealings. You are a good negotiator but when it comes to what you did with the autorickshaw driver, I salute you. Your grand momโ€™s admonishment did not fall on deaf years. With your action of locating the autorickshaw driver you have done a noble act and cleared your conscience. In sum, each one of you has lived up to what a human being should be .

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  23. A nice read and good lesson. Compared to the amount we spend in malls & big restaurants little over charging by poor people is negligible

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  24. Sometimes we need to slow down our hearts and minds. Rash decisions influenced more by emotion and past experiences have a way of coming back to us in unique and harsh ways, Kindness and benefit of doubt are so important. I could relate to both your initial decision and then its rectification. You are brave to dismiss your judgment and allow grace to take its place. Beautifully written, Anand. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  25. A tale full of lessons. It do happens with everyone among us. Once you start believing in the laws of KARMA, such doubts will automatically vanish & you start gracing any situaion with a pinch of humility.

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