I love quotes. I love them for their impressive content, their ability to make us introspect, their insights, and the deep meaning that they convey with every word carefully crafted.
Yesterday I happened to read one such quote that ended with the above words. I have chosen to write about the quote today as I recalled an experience that I went through in the year 2016. I am sure that each one of you will at least have one such experience that resonates with you so much that it keeps coming back to you.
Sometime in July of 2016, we were returning to Gurgaon after a long drive in South India covering various districts of the southern states. This was the day when we drove from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh to our home in Gurgaon. Every time we drive from Gurgaon to the South or the other way around, we use the Lalitpur-Sagar highway, crossing several toll plazas on the way. One of the toll plazas on this route is the Babina toll plaza. Located just outside the toll plaza on the other side of the road (if you are driving from Sagar towards Lalitpur/Jhansi) is Mukesh Tea Stall. A place where you get outstanding tea plus freshly made bread pakoda or samosa or even a sweet depending on the time of the day. We always stop at Mukesh’s tea stall and share food with him while enjoying the tea, snacks and highway talk with the owner. He would always hesitate to take money and we would always pay saying, this was his business and we shouldn’t be taking anything free.
On this particular day, as we were about to reach Mukesh’s Tea Stall, we found that there was no sign of the shop. It just seemed to have vanished. We were concerned about Mukesh ji and since we had his phone number, we started to pull out our phones to call him. Even before we could get to his number, Mukesh ji came running towards our car and waved at us to stop from across the road. He crossed over and told us that he had shut his shop to renovate and clean it fully. When we told him that we had not had tea at the hotel we were staying in because we wanted to have tea at his shop, he immediately invited us over to his house, located at about 300 metres from his shop. We immediately locked the car and went with him to his house. His house was part of a tiny village that was bang on the highway but hadn’t had electricity for nearly 20 plus years. We sat on the “charpai” or woven cot that is used for sitting and sleeping across India. He made tea for us and also some freshly made breakfast even as we shared what we had brought with us. He introduced us to his wife and spoke to us about his children staying and studying in Jhansi. We spent a good hour at his home before leaving.
As we were about to leave, I took out my wallet and gave Mukesh Ji Rs. 500 saying he should buy something for his children on our behalf. But Mukesh ji refused to accept the money. He then told us, “Sir, when you come to my shop to have tea and/or other items, you can pay as that’s my business. But when you have come to my house, you are my guest. It’s not right to accept anything from you except your love and affection. Next time when you pass by this side, please get something for my children.”
We left the place, waving him goodbye…
What Mukesh ji said that day is, in fact, very profound. We kept talking about Mukesh ji on our way back home and have shared this incident with innumerable people. This single incident broke several assumptions that we had about people, places, money, poverty and sharing. That Rs. 500 would have helped him get groceries for a whole month !! but he refused to take it on principle. What an amazing individual.
Here is the quote that I read yesterday on Twitter which reminded me of Mukesh ji, and this incident from 2016.