First Salary. First Learning.

I don’t read newspaper.

I didn’t read it back then. It depresses me to read so much negativity.

Sitting on my terrace, sipping early morning tea, 15 years back, I flipped the page of ‘Times Of India’. I don’t remember why, but I did. In the middle, on the double spread was a Samsung mobile phone advertisement. I clearly remember it was a silver colour mobile phone, you could flip it open from the centre.

I was fresh in college and the mobile phone was new to the world and were very expensive. Those days, even incoming calls were charged for Rs 32 per pulse. So it was just not the handset, keeping a phone was exorbitant. There were only 3 players in the market – Airtel, Hutch and BSNL/MTNL. Idea, Reliance, Aircel was yet to venture. Hutch was yet to be bought over by Vodafone. Mobile phone had a flaunt value since only few carried it.

None of my family members had mobile phone. I had not thought of buying it either till the time I saw that advertisement. There was something about that phone that was calling out to me. Mesmerised, I asked my father to buy me that phone.

My father looked at me and said,

‘If you need that phone, you have to earn it.’

I was per perplexed, I was 18, how will I earn such an expensive phone. I had never worked in my life. So I asked my father,

‘I don’t know what to do to make that kind of money. I am under graduate, unskilled, who will employ me? How will I earn money?’

He explained, ‘If you need things in your life, you have to work hard and find a way to make money, so you can afford what you want.’

That made sense to me but I was still direction less. How will I make Rs 16000 ??? It was a lot of money.

I wanted the phone. It had casted a spell on me, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was ready to work for it, I just didn’t know what to do to earn money.

Then one day, while walking through Bhikaiji Came Place in New Delhi, I saw an advertisement pasted on the wall of Hyatt Regency. They were looking for interns for some job. Since I had little knowledge about anything, I don’t clearly remember for what exact profile they were looking for.

The phone was on my mind so I applied. I filled the form, pasted my picture and dropped it in their office. A week later, I got a call for an interview. I appeared and was selected for the front office job.

Excited I went home and informed my parents about it. Hearing that, they were shell-shocked. They had bigger dreams for me and here I was wanting to work in a hotel for a phone. They didn’t say anything negative. They were more in wait and watch mode.

I worked for a month and got  Rs 12000 as salary. It was a big amount for that time for a 18-year-old undergraduate. I took the money home and gave it to my mother, she returned it back to me and happily asked me to do whatever I wanted to do with it.

I was still short of Rs 4000 which meant I had to work more.

As I was walking out of the house to meet up with my friends, my father called me and handed me Rs 4000 and told me to buy the phone. I didn’t understand why would he do that since now I was working and I could very well afford it in another month’s time.

He said, ‘I was wanting you to understand the value of money, nothing comes easy and nothing comes free. You have to work for it. And since you have understood that you don’t need to work  for money, any more. You should focus on your studies.’

I quit my job the very next day and went straight to Karol Bagh market to buy the phone.

Years have passed but his words are still fresh in my mind. After that, I have never ever asked for money from anybody in my life. I know, I have to earn it!

Gentleman

Couple of months back, on the very narrow Narullahali road, I met with an accident.

The road is so narrow that it can barely take traffic running in both the directions. At places, where unplanned farm houses and school emerges, it gets further tight. On one not so fortunate day, I was driving at the speed of 30-40 km/hr , I was to take the right turn and park the car in front of the school. So I indicated, and was moving the steering towards right, when a biker came zipping from nowhere and banged into my car from the right side. His bike skid on the road, he went flying in the air and landed right in the front of car tyres. I was fortunate and quick enough to apply brakes on time to save his and my life. I got out of the car and ran to help him. He was lying in pain. The guard of the school also ran and helped the gentle man get on his feet. We seated him on the chair and started inspecting his bruises. The guard ran to get first aid and a glass of water for him, while I waited with him,

‘Is it hurting anywhere’. I enquired.

He didn’t reply, he touched his elbow and looked in pain. The skin was peeled from being scratched on the road. He was bleeding.

‘Can I apply ointment here.’ I pointed to the elbow.

He nodded. I did.

He still had his helmet on. I asked him to remove it. He was unable to do so, as his hand was hurting. So, I did it for him.

‘Is it hurting anywhere else?’

He didn’t reply. He touched his back.

I lifted his shirt slightly, he was hesitant so I backed off and asked the guard to check.

Since he landed on his right side, his skin from that side was peeled. He was bruised badly and bleeding.

The guard applied ointment.

We was panting because of the accident and heat, so we asked  him to rest for some time.

Meanwhile a small crowd had gathered, one Ola driver, one auto rickshaw driver, one passer-by, another biker, the school teacher and one of the waiting parents have come out and was witnessing the event.

The guy though in pain was sitting calmly on the chair and resting before he could continue on his journey.

In our country, everybody likes to meddle in other’s business. So the crowd contributed.

The Ola driver, in authoritative tone,

‘Madam, you should be careful’

The Auto driver, in angst,

‘You were taking the turn, it is your fault.’

The passer-by, said something in Kannada. From his tone I knew, it’s not good.

The fellow biker, was trying to know what was the damage to the bike. Not to the guy.

I ignored all, and was focusing on the guy who was hurt.

The auto driver came towards us and started speaking rudely in Kannada, language I don’t understand.

I looked for translator to understand what his problem was since it was not his concern.

The guy with all the pain, bruises and hurt chipped in.

‘He is saying, I should go to hospital with you and make you pay the bill.’

The Auto driver continued.

‘He is saying I should ask for money.’ translated the guy with all the bruises.

The aggression increased in his tone, I asked the guy, to ask the auto driver to mind his own business and shut up.

He did.

And after that people dispersed and went on their way.

I apologised profusely to the guy though I believed it was not my mistake.  But the guy was badly hurt and too much in pain, it was visibly from his face.

For the first time he spoke, directly to me,

‘It’s my fault, I was in hurry so I speeded though you were indicating, I thought I would make it.’

I am driving for last 15 years and not once anybody has been so honest in a situation like this. I was touched and even felt guilty that the accident happened with my car, while I was behind the wheels.

How you behave under stress defines who  you are. Most of the people crumble under the slightest of difficulty. It takes a man of great character to own up to his mistakes.

After five minutes, still in pain, he got up, thanked us and left. What a gentleman!

I regret not asking his name.