An Era of Goodness
From the pages of memory and nostalgia, a reader remembers a thoughtful act by an unknown man
A long time ago, when I was posted in Ahmedabad, we would often drive to Mount Abu for short trips—it took us anywhere between seven to eight hours to drive up. That year, my close relatives were visiting from Lucknow during the Dussehra holidays, and we made a plan to visit Abu for three days. Since there were seven of us, including my brother’s family who also lived in Ahmedabad, we hired two cabs. We packed ourselves into the vehicles, stacked our luggage on the carriers on top and started out.
A good time was had by all, and soon it was time to return. During the journey back, we stopped at a dhaba for tea and snacks near the Mehsana district.
That’s when I noticed suddenly that the rope with which the luggage was tied in one of the carriers had come loose and one of the suitcases was missing. It must have fallen off somewhere along the way.
Although it didn’t contain any valuables—just clothes and some cash, we decided to retrace our steps, driving back four kilometres, looking for the bag. But luck wasn’t our friend: We could not locate it and returned to Ahmedabad dejected.
After about a month, one day, while in my office, I got a call from my assistant that a certain Mr Shah wanted to see me. I was in the middle of a meeting so he was asked to wait. After I got done, I called him into my cabin.
I was looking after the development of small industries in the state at the time, so my immediate query was: “How can we help you? Do you want to set up an industry or are you facing any issues in your enterprise?”
To which he said, “No, sir. I have not come for any official help. It is a personal matter. Did you lose something recently?”
The incident of the lost suitcase had completely slipped my mind. “Nothing comes to mind,” I said.
“Did you lose your suitcase?” he pressed on.
Of course, it all came back to me and I told him about the lost suitcase from the cab en route from Mount Abu a month ago.
Then Shah Narrated his side of the story: “I was driving back to Ahmedabad with my friend on my motorbike when I noticed a suitcase lying by the side of the road. I picked it up and waited there for an hour or so. Since no one turned up to claim it, I went to a nearby petrol pump and gave my address to the manager with a request that if someone approached him for the suitcase my details may be shared.
About a month passed. Since I did not hear from anyone, I broke open the lock and found your visiting card, with your name and address, inside. So, here I am.”
I was stunned and quite speechless, too. I could not find the right words to express myself: How do I repay him for his honesty? Can I thank him enough for his thoughtfulness? I somehow managed to string together a few sentences, but nearly not enough to convey my feelings on his exemplary act of kindness and generosity. Of course, I mentioned that I would visit his residence in the evening and collect my bag. But ever the gentleman, he insisted on delivering it to me.
In the evening he and his wife came to my house with the suitcase. We chatted over tea.
At one point, he said, “Please open the suitcase and check your belongings.” I could not do it. “Am I to reciprocate your integrity by checking the bag?” I exclaimed.
We remained in touch for quite some time afterwards, until I was posted to Delhi. Since that was an era without electronic communication, we eventually lost touch with each other.
Sometimes I wonder if I would have got back my suitcase had I lost it now. Those were different times—and different people—clearly.