Naraaz to Nahi? (Hope you are not upset)

Sometime back on my way to office I was lucky to get a BEST Bus (Mumbai public transport) at Ghatkopar railway station, and even luckier to get a seat, though on the last bench. I was immersed in my thoughts about pending tasks at office; meetings to attend, reports to make, mails to answer etc. and unknowingly a small frown had appeared on my brow. “Naraaz to nahi?” asked the conductor as he approached me for a ticket. A smile appeared automatically on my face at this inquiry from a stranger who seemed concerned at the worried look on my face. I assured him it was only day to day tasks nothing else. The conductor left after issuing the ticket but that smile stayed with me and I followed the conductor as he went enthusiastically about his routine task of giving out tickets on a busy morning day and I noticed that he would ask that question to anyone who didn’t smile during that transaction. He would tell people not to worry, have a good breakfast, that their worries would not solve anything. “Mazya bus madhe koni hi naaraz nako,” (I don’t want anyone in my bus to be unhappy) he told one passenger in Marathi. He had no solution to a problem nor did he attempt to offer any, but his sheer enthusiasm and a sincere desire to connect made everyone smile when they had to interact with him for the ticket. He had befriended a few regulars and they discussed other matters including work and family between the stops. As the bus approached the station he went about saying ‘Thank You’ to everyone in the bus. The one good thing about long commuting times in Mumbai is that it gives you time to reflect and I wondered what made the bus conductor do what he did. It wasn’t part of his roles and responsibilities, he wasn’t going to get an incentive or a salary hike nor any reward or recognition. Yet single handedly and in a simple and effective way he was doing what many organizations have been struggling to do since the recession started setting in – remove the negativity and make people happy. The atmosphere in that bus was infectiously positive. That day the conductor thought a few lessons on Happiness. The first one was that Happiness is also an attitude. The bus conductor had everything to crib for; a job that required him to stand all along, a salary that wasn’t exactly shattering and customers who would be cold and business like often, rude or irritable at times. Yet unlike most of his ilk he chose not to complain or comply but create his own world of positivity. And that world of positivity was not just for him, he wanted it for everyone on the bus. That was the other big lesson; that Happiness comes from giving and not from an expectation to receive. One of the greatest lines written in Bollywood has been Jan Nisaar Akhtar’s lament for a hopelessly in love Razia Sultana (ai dil-e-nadaan aisi rahoon me kitne kaate hain / arzoo o’ne har kisi dil ko dard baten hain). Expectations and desires often lead to disappointments and even when they are met you only feel satisfied, of having received what you feel was due. Lasting happiness can come only from an act of giving not receiving. And that for giving you need not necessarily have an abundance; you only need, what Stephen Covey calls, an abundance mentality – the thought that you have enough to share with others. How these simple lessons unknowingly demonstrated by a bus conductor could be applied at today’s workplace where consultants and senior management have been trying to make a difference for years and been only marginally successful. And the one reason for that could be we live in a world of huge expectations; of big pay rises to fund large EMIs, of quicker promotions but reduced stress, of more amenities with lesser responsibilities. And that the giving back will come only after we have received enough. Is it possible to overlook what we receive and think about what we can give to our customers, our organization, our community, our country? Like that conductor on that crowded bus can we turn to the next person we meet with a frown on his face and ask, “Naraaz to nahin?” It may be all that may be needed to bring about a positive change.

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