The power of a smile.....
Last time I was in India my team, as we always do, took a minibus from Delhi to Agra. The vehicle was the usual white tourist bus you see on the main transit routes all over the country. It pulled up outside our hotel and my team began to head to the door. Before we got there the bus driver was already there and had opened the door for us. We were met by his huge beaming smile.
Over the next few days we spent a lot of time with our driver who, we soon became aware, was called Ahmed. He couldn't do enough for any of the team and, along with guiding our bus calmly through the craziest of Indian roads, he was always looking for ways to add value to our experience. Most of all, however, he was always smiling.
His English was poor (but far better than our attempts to speak in his language!) but, as I was usually sat in the front seat of the vehicle, we still managed to talk a lot. His parents and sisters lived in a rural part of a the country, he explained, and he had moved to Delhi 9 years ago. He now lived in a small rented apartment in the centre of Delhi with his young wife and 3 small children. He valued his job with the tour company because it allowed him to scrape a future for his family and he was very proud of his country.
The team all loved Ahmed. He was an amazing ambassador for India and, even on those occasions where you walked out of a hotel with things on your mind and a frown, Ahmed's welcome face ensured it wouldn't last long. His joy was infectious. When the team discussed his tip on the last evening it was actually quite hard to keep them in check. There is always a danger or over tipping (and setting a precedent for future visitors) just as you want to be able to give an amount that was a reflection of the service you'd received. Needless to say Ahmed's tip was at the very top end of the scale and we were all reluctant to say goodbye to him. He had made the Agra phase of the expedition a joy for everyone.
Last week I travelled with another driver. He was also staying with us for the Agra phase of the trip and he was also competent, professional and courteous. He was everything Ahmed had been but he wasn't big on smiles just as he didn't, I felt, particularly go that 'extra mile' with his service. I made some small talk conversation with him on the initial part of the journey but it wasn't a level of interaction that made me want to carry things on. I didn't have a desire to find out the detail of his life as I had those years ago with Ahmed. He was missing Ahmed's smile.
When the team discussed this drivers tip there was, as you may have guessed, much less enthusiasm. The bond hadn't been formed and, although everyone was happy to tip him and did so generously, there was no desire to stretch the boundaries as we had with Ahmed. I can't, even after just a few days, remember his name.
This story may not be one worth telling and, if you've stuck with it this far, I hope you will excuse the indulgence. But, of course, it's a simple tale about the power of a smile and the value of great service. Hopefully, as some of us go about our day, there may be a few more shared than there might otherwise have been.
Have a great day.
Posted by Paul