Some months ago, the Government of India allowed the retailing of petrol by private players, breaking the monopoly held by state-owned oil companies like IndianOil, Bharat and Hindustan Petroleum. Some companies got the requisite license for the same, two of which are Reliance and Shell.
Shell put up one of its first petrol filling stations in the country in Chennai. This bunk, which is about 3 kilometres from where I live, is hard to miss. It looks very posh, and is extremely well-lit and maintained. Newspapers don’t care about petrol bunks. But this one was praised by all the broadsheets. It was a hit even with the auto-wallahs because the people at the bunk dusted and clean every vehicle waiting to get filled up. Normally such service is the prerogative of only swank cars.
To find out how different this new phenomenon was from the usual filling stations, I took my trusted old Caliber this evening. The queue wasn’t a big one, and when my turn came, the guy at the pump came up, and did a traditional vanakkam bringing together his hands. That was kinda funny because he really didn’t need to do it. After the petrol filling and card swiping formalities were completed, I went to the Air and Water booth. The person there duly inflated the tyres and gave me the Go.
As is my routine, I proffered him a one-rupee coin. He smiled; the hand that proffered the coin was still in the same position, the coin still between the fingers. His smile was still there, and he said, “Air and water are free in our bunk, Sir!” That was the case everywhere, but clients dished out the customary coin nonetheless. It was taken in every other bunk, sometimes it was solicited. But this man was unmoved. He showed no reaction, except of a man dead certain on not receiving a tip. I insisted that he take it, saying that it was my wont. But he bluntly refused repeating his line. Clearly he was tutored; but such tutoring cannot make a man curtail his body language, his natural reactions… unless he had imbibed the philosophy behind the action.
Mr. Vijay Krishna, B.E., Software Engineer at a billion-dollar IT behemoth, then kickstarted his bike to leave Shell’s new petrol bunk, feeling, for the first time in his life, like a pauper…
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