Almost the entire month of September this year we celebrated our silver anniversary in Mongolia, and Ulaanbataar is the capital of Mongolia. Of this month in Mongolia, about eight to nine days were in the capital Ulaanbataar, at a very popular hostel by the name of Zaya Guest House. Zaya is the name of the lady who has set up the hostel and it is currently managed by her son-in-law Amar, and his brother, Anand. The brothers are well educated, friendly, know their business very well and have built a reputation for Zaya for its cleanliness, high standards of hygiene and value for money positioning. The place is thronged by travellers from all over the world especially the west.
We had booked our first round/leg of stay for five nights and were promptly sent an invoice for the same by email along with a list of dos and donts as an attachment. Basis the invoice, we had paid Anand on the day of our arrival at the hostel. The brothers, Bindu and I had lots of conversations over breakfast and tea, and had become good friends. A day before the start of our road trip, while having breakfast it suddenly occurred to me that Anand had charged us less by a day. When I went to him with my calculations to pay the difference, he refused to accept the amount saying that his calculations cannot be wrong. On my insistence to pay, he got out of his excel sheet and looked at my simple paper notes and realised he had indeed charged us one day less. The difference between our calculations was just $40. Anand was so happy, and remarked that not many people would have paid the difference and shared his positive experiences with Indians in US when he had gone to study there. Bindu and I emphasised the point that irrespective of the amount, people and place, we would have done the same thing as we stand by our values of character and integrity. After this first leg, we came back to stay again at Zaya towards the end of our Mongolia tour for a couple of days when Anand gave us a hefty discount on our bill. In fact he had given us his extra SIM card to use during our stay in his country.
Cut to a few days back. We were driving from Gurgaon to Hyderabad on Saturday. We stopped at Mukesh Tea Stall, near Babina toll plaza, where we have stopped on earlier occasions too, for the good quality of tea, freshly made Samosas, and of course Mr Tiwari’s smiling face. He recognised us instantly and made excellent tea this time too. When we asked for the enticing sweets that were on display in his shop, he told us that he would not like to sell them as they were not fresh. Despite our insistence, Tiwari refused to let us taste the sweets. A fantastic display of integrity by Mr. Tiwari and the lesson reinforced that your bank balance does not affect your value system !
In the month of June this year, we were driving from Madurai to Sivakasi to participate in the activities of one of our ShikshaDaan partners, Udhavum Ullangal. On the way we stopped at a road side coffee shop serving Kumbakonam degree coffee and snacks. After we had enjoyed the delicious, original “degree” coffee and some snacks, we wanted to buy the peanut chikki (like an energy bar) being sold there for eating on the way. The lady at the shop declined to offer us the product as it was dated, and also apologised for having displayed the item. She promptly removed the packets and told us to pick some of the other snacks. The coffee shop is run by a mother daughter duo and they have just started out. We are sure that they will do really well because they hold themselves to the highest standards of integrity.
Experiences like those mentioned above have reinforced in us the point that sticking to values and having integrity is not exclusive to any one class or society or color or country in particular. May this breed grow and multiply!