The Tip – An airport story from yesterday

I was just walking out of Chennai’s Anna International airport when I realized I needed a taxi to get home. I quickly got myself a receipt from the state owned (and hence cheap) taxi service and walked into the open area. Right there, stood a short worker dressed in the ‘Public Taxi service‘ uniform who took the receipt from my hand, gestured to me that he would take care of my bag and took it.

Firstly, I wasn’t aware that this was the system. I was used to walking all the way to the taxi parking lot as I’d done so before. Anyway, our man took my bag and just before he began walking ahead of me, turned back and flashed a warm smile. I smiled right back and felt ‘Welcome’. I followed him as he hustled his way through the crowd intensely focused on getting me to the parking lot quickly.

At the parking lot, there was a crowd around the desk where our man took the receipt. The next step was to allot a driver. It turned out that the crowd around the desk were all joking, laughing, talking (in true Indian style – I am saddened to add) and goofing off on their job. Our man persistently stood till the guy in-charge put in a taxi number. This was a tricky issue as a driver got upset that he wasn’t being chosen, and screamed till he got his way. Our man still stood patiently, and once the driver had been chosen, hustled to the taxi nearby and put my suitcase in the trunk.

As his job was done, he was now all set to go. At this point, I took out a 10 rupee note as I was determined to give him a small tip. I generally HATE giving tips especially if it is ‘culture‘ and not deserved. But this man thoroughly deserved it for his outstanding dedication to his job. I gave him the money and patted his shoulder.

Just then, he said his thanks, or tried to do so would be more like it. It struck me right then that his speech was impaired. And I was struck dumb as I stood still grasping this fact. As I was kicking myself for not having taken out a bigger amount, I could make our friend out in the distance, walking briskly to serve his next lucky customer. I considered chasing him but I didn’t want him to feel I was doing so out of pity, and most importantly, I didn’t want to stop him from doing his job..

I realized that this situation is a microcosm of the biggest challenge India will have to face if it has hopes of ‘making it‘ as a nation. Our people will have to stop talking and get to some doing. It’s only a pity that people like our friend our few and far between..

I’m still grasping the learnings from this incident. Clearly, there is so much for us to learn!