A week before Diwali last year, when I answered the phone, a suave male voice wanted to talk only to my wife, Sarla. She took the call, thanked profusely and promised to be there. What rendezvous was being planned, I wondered. Seeing my puzzled look, she explained that the call was from Greenways Emporium. As a privileged customer, she had been invited to be among the first to make her Diwali selection from an exclusive range of saris just unpacked. When Sarla went on her Diwali shopping spree, she did not forget to visit Greenways to look at the new arrivals. Sarla was lyrical in her description of the sari she'd purchased. "It is just out of this world, exquisite in color combination," she gushed. "The floral design set on pink background has a lovely hint of shadow. Its classic elegance has the right accent for any occasion and more so for Diwali."
Retaining the sari, the shopkeeper informed her that a matching blouse would be stitched. To avoid the snarled up Diwali traffic, Sarla took a cab when she went to collect the sari ensemble. Hours passed and she did not return. Later I learnt that she was still at the store waiting for some Diwali lottery organized by the store. On the strength of her purchase, she too was a participant and could win a prize. She returned late in the evening. Trailing her was the young taxi driver who'd so graciously offered to carry the bulky bag Sarla had won. The man appeared happy to handle the gift hamper just as Sarla was proud to have won it. It was packed with boxes of sweets, dry fruits, chocolates and cans of soft drinks.
Sarla took out a big round tin of cookies from the hamper. While giving that to the young man, she said, "It will be impolite to refuse a small gift from an elder sister." It was a great human message. The man's face lit up and while leaving he just uttered, "Aadab." Then suddenly Sarla remembered something and loudly called the receding figure, "Yusus bhai, Yusuf bhai." The man turned around and approached her. "Oh, I am so sorry," she said. "In the excitement of Diwali, I forgot to pay your fare."
"It will be impolite to even talk of the fare with the elder sister," replied the man, his voice hoarse with emotion.
By G. K. Gupta
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