Palwasha is currently working as a Corporate Responsibility Specialist at Telenor Pakistan, a leading multinational telecom services provider. She is also an advisor at ‘Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi’, a reputable organization working to improve the education sector in Pakistan. Palwasha is an avid reader with a keen interest in CSR, sustainable development and human rights and passionate about travel and volunteerism.
I walked down to the chemist/grocery store today to get some stuff before heading back home. Stopped at the ATM, got some cash out. Didn’t bother looking at the receipt or counting the cash. Random thoughts flickered through my mind as I walked..... need to send that email before day end; should I enroll Zoya in summer camp or for swimming; hope the tailor didn’t ruin that lovely suit I bought; have to read those new stories to the kids at the shelter this weekend like I promised to........
At the store, I asked for the cleanser I came to buy, then picked some random items merely because I can never just buy one thing. A man walked in and mumbled the name of some medicine. He is evidently a laborer. Dirty shalwar kameez (national dress of Pakistan), torn shoes, scuffed hands and feet. He looked exhausted, his breath is ragged and he looked clearly very ill and weak. The shopkeeper asked him gruffly to speak louder, and finally managed to decipher what he wanted. It’s a calcium sachet, one of those that you take dissolved in water for energy. The shopkeeper tossed it rudely on the counter. The man meekly asked, ‘How much’?!'
‘8 rupees’ is the reply. (8 rupees is the equivalent of 0.09USD)
The man stared at the shopkeeper and said ‘Can I just take it? I don’t have the money.’ I stood with a 1500 rupee face wash in my hand and stare in shock....something snaps inside me…my heart bleeds for this man. What is 8 rupees?!!! The shopkeeper loses his patience (not that he had much of it in the first place). He snatched back the sachet from the counter and said, ‘Either pay or get out’. I failed to fathom why he could not find it in his heart to just give the man the sachet. Or speak kindly. Yell at the whole world, be impatient, be rude….but never ever ever speak to a poor person harshly. I finally found my voice and interrupted, ‘Just give him what he wants, I’ll pay’. The shopkeeper reluctantly handed it over. The man hesitated, glanced my way. ‘Go ahead, take it’, I nodded. Relief in his eyes as he walked away.
I hurriedly paid for my stuff in a daze. I rushed out after the man when the shopkeeper called me back telling me I’d forgotten to take my things. When I finally got out, the man was nowhere to be found. Slowly I walked back to work, cursing myself. Why didn’t I ask him what was wrong? Why didn’t I think to offer to buy him the entire pack? Proper medicines for whatever his ailment was. He could probably do with a good meal. I could have bought him food. A few thousand rupees is nothing to me. It could have made the entire month so much better for this man. What sort of a life must he live? No food to eat, no money to pay for medicines, maybe a family to provide for and no work. My handbag alone cost enough to provide for his family for a month. God has blessed me with SO much…He has given me enough to be able to easily help someone in need. It had only been two minutes. Oh, where could he have gone!!
The guard opened the door. The air-conditioning soothed me. I smiled and nodded hello to colleagues. The elevator took me up to my desk. I logged back on to my laptop. It’s someone’s birthday at work. There was laughter and clapping and the cake.
But just one thought resonated over and over in my head. 8 rupees, ….8 rupees, …..8 rupees!
The value of 8 rupees? Worthless! The value of the lesson behind those 8 rupees? Priceless!
One of the deep secrets of life is that, all that is really worth doing is what we do for others. — Lewis Carroll