The Porter- Are First Impressions Really the Last Impressions?Published: Nov 6th, 2019 08:01 pm
It was the late 80s.
On an oppressively hot summer afternoon, our train chugged into the Meerut
Cantonment railway station. Among our possessions of household items was a prized
Tibetan carpet, which was packed neatly in its canvas cover. Even before the train
could halt, the sight of a tall, wiry porter who jumped into our compartment
confronted us. “Jai Hind Saab” he bellowed and started to lift our bags from
the coach. “Wait,” I thundered. “What is your name and how much will you charge
for dropping us at the cab stand outside the railway station”. “Saab my name is
Rahman and I will surely not overcharge you”, he replied. By this time, the
train had halted and Rahman, agile as a hare, leaped on to the platform with
our bags. We too disembarked with the carpet clutched in my hands. I again
asked Rahman how much he would charge. “70 Rupees, Saab,” he said. ”70 Rupees is way too much for such a short walk with just a few bags” I responded
testily. Annoyed, he said, “No Saab, we are not asking too much”. I thought it
was a bit too much but I was also acutely aware of being caught in an impending
thunderstorm unless I ended the discussion as fast as I could.
We agreed mutually
for a princely sum of 50 Rupees and Rahman dropped our bags near our cab. We
reached our destination in the Defence Colony. “Welcome young man,” said Colonel
Sheoran, a veteran, who was our landlord. “Trust you folks had a pleasant journey”.
”The journey was nice but the porters here are really a hardened lot,” I said. Suddenly,
my wife called me aside and said anxiously, “Where did you keep the Tibetan
carpet? I’m not able to find it anywhere?” We both searched frantically for the
carpet, which we soon figured, had been left behind at the railway station. I
resolved to go to the railway station at once and complain that my carpet had been stolen. I confess that I was barely hopeful of seeing
that carpet again.
As I stepped out
of the house, I was surprised to see an auto-rickshaw coming towards me.
As I watched, the three-wheeler screeched to a stop right at the gate. I was
completely flummoxed to see the passenger bounding out of that vehicle. Lo, behold!
It was Rahman. “You forgot something Saab,” he said with a lopsided
grin on his face. He reached into the luggage space and there was our prized
carpet, safe and secure! A wave of relief flooded over me and I fumbled to find
words to thank Rahman. I sheepishly thanked him and offered a 100 Rupee note as
a token of our appreciation. “Thank you, Saab, but I cannot take this money as I
felt it was my duty to return this carpet immediately. I was sure you would be
very upset about its loss”. I thanked him profusely and insisted that he should
at least accept the fuel charges for his trip both ways, and gratefully handed
over seventy rupees to him. “Shukriya Saab” he said as he accepted the money
with a smile and then left for the station. I castigated myself mentally, for having immediately jumped to the conclusion that Rahman had taken my carpet. To
this day, I reflect on this incident, which now lends credence to my belief
that first impressions are not always the best impressions!