The Story of a Sandal and a Monogrammed Handkerchief
Musings on Courtesy and Kindness...
Each time that I think of the impact courtesy and kindness create, it's the same incident that comes to mind. I was a witness to it as a child and even after all these years, the memory is so vivid.
My father worked for DCM in New Delhi, India. It was run by one of the famous industrial houses in India – the Sriram group. Lala Charat Ram was at the helm of DCM and each Diwali he would host a family gathering for all employees. As a child I remember going to the triangular park in ChanakyaPuri that was transformed into a magical paradise for kids – with giant ferris-wheel, merry go-round, clowns, jugglers, magicians, puppet shows, children's competitive events, and stalls for 'softies', 'kulfi', 'chaat', 'tikki', and other mouth-watering savories and sweets.
On one such Diwali 'Mela' (Fair), my mother, in tow with her two young daughters, was trying to find her way to the children's games section. I was barely six years old, my sister four, and mother twenty five. My sister and I were very excited and were trying to pull mother along as we rushed ahead. Suddenly, the front 'upper' of mother's sandal came apart. She was unable to walk and extremely embarrassed at her plight. We weren't much help either as we were getting impatient because she could not keep pace with us. My father must have been with his sales team at the other end of the park and completely oblivious to mother's plight. Mother started hobbling along and then finally removed her broken footwear. With a broken sandal in one hand, and two children tugging on the other, we must have been quite a sight as we moved from one end of the park to the other.
Suddenly Lala Charat Ram appeared and after greeting us offered mother his monogrammed handkerchief. 'Mrs. Jain, please use this hanky to secure your sandal. You'll be able to walk.' My mum was quite surprised and didn't know how she could use Lala ji's hanky on her foot. According to our values and Indian tradition, this was unthinkable. After all, he was as old as her father and the head of the company where her husband worked. She mumbled something but he would not hear any excuse. He showed her how she could tie the hanky to secure the sandal to her foot.
Her sandal now firmly secured around her foot, mother walked with us comfortably. Though her face was flush with embarrassment, she held her chin high and her eyes shone with excitement and gratitude. Lala ji perhaps would never have given a second thought to this incident, but for us it was so inspirational. It has been told and retold many times in our family as a benchmark for courtesy and kindness.
Courtesy and kindness are values that transcend age, position, social status…it is seen in the smallest of incidents. A small act can go a long way and create an unforgettable experience for many. Someone has rightly said 'With your footwear, wear courtesy and kindness as you step out of your home'. Perhaps in the current situation of virtual meetings, it would be more fitting to say ''With your dress-shirt, wear courtesy and kindness as you step into your Zoom calls.'