It was a regular evening. Over with the day’s work, I left office and began scouting for an auto rickshaw. As soon as I found one approaching, I got in and dialled my father’s number to share the day’s pursuits. Due to my preoccupation with the conversation and simultaneous attempt to secure my laptop bag and purse in the other hand, it escaped my attention that the auto I’d just got into was different from the autos I use every day.
It was a shining black and yellow auto unlike the usual worn out ones. As I chatted with my father happily, I noticed the auto’s pleasing interiors. There was a distinct fragrance of chandan (sandalwood) and something citric.
By the time my call ended, I had reached home within the twenty minutes of perfect travel time. As soon as the auto halted, I looked at the meter reading and started digging out Rs 60. That’s when the auto driver turned back and said: “Madam ji, aap hamare pehle customer hain. Yeh saath rupaye meri pehli izzat ki kamai hai. Abhi Ganpati bappa ki puja karke aaya hoon.” It translates to: Madam, you are my first customer. The income of Rs 60 is my first respectable earning. I’ve just come after seeking the blessings of Lord Ganesha.
I paused for a few seconds to soak in what he just said, and noticed that the source of the citric fragrance was a garland of marigold flowers at the auto’s front portion, besides a dozen incense sticks lit on both sides of the seat. Wow! I was his first customer and the money I was going to give him would be the first official earning of his life. I smiled and looked at him. He was elated. His eyes shone with glee. There was a shade of innocence in his smile. He just couldn’t stop grinning at the thought of making his maiden income. And I felt so blessed by the coincidence that I was in a way a small part of his successful journey called life. Not just some passenger but ‘the passenger’.
My mind was immediately transported to the time when I had received my first salary. The sheer excitement and contentment I felt that day is unmatchable. It cannot be compared with any amount of hikes in pay that I received thereafter. After all, a first is a first. It’s not just fresh or novel, but also pure. Whenever we experience a welcome first moment in our lives, we reflect the qualities of a child, we experience the first just as it is, unadulterated and selfless. There are no expectations or benchmarks or biases that mar the beauty of the first action or the first step. And that’s what makes the first of everything in life so special.
I congratulated the auto driver heartily and asked him to wait for a few minutes. I wished to offer him some goody to make this first moment even more memorable. Since there was no sweets shop in the vicinity, I bought a box of chocolates from the provision store next to our building. As I offered it to him, he beamed. Just like sunshine. And so did I! Thank you so much auto driver ji for immersing me in the simple beauty and pure joy of experiencing ‘a first’!
This article was published at Hindustan Times.