What’s in a name?

Parents tell you lots of things and try to pass on all kind of advice. Not all of it sticks though. Sometimes, somethings make an impression. One such piece of advice that my dad gave me that made an big impression was this:

“Always ask people their names and refer to them by their name. No matter who they are, what they do, try to remember their names. Especially the names of the people who serve you.”

This little piece of advice really stuck with me and it has now become an unconscious part of me. I make it a point to ask people their names and try to remember it and refer to them by their name. In a country like India, with so many people, this really makes a difference. I know the names of several drivers who have driven me around, the kid who brings tea to my dad’s office, the ladies who wash dishes and clean bathrooms at my work, and the man who sells fruit at the end of my street. Whenever, I meet them I greet them with their names, stop for a minute or two and ask them what’s going on. In return, I get surprise, delight, friendship, concern, and love.

Most of these people get treated like they are part of the scenery all the time and not as the unique individuals that they are. When you make an effort to remember them, they make an effort to get to know you as well. Sometimes you learn hear amazing stories, learn new things, and get to know some great people. For instance:

-My driver supports his wife, their new baby, his mother, his sister who was abandoned by her husband and her kids. His father and brother drank themselves to death, so he never touches alcohol.

-The kid who brings tea to my dad’s office – actually its 2 kids, they are brothers and they are from way north, near Nepal. They work here and send savings back to their family. They visit them once a year, mostly around Raksha Bandhan, because they miss their sister so much. They have only been here a couple of years but can speak Tamil quite fluently.

-One of the ladies who washes dishes and cleans the bathroom, she is covered with burns all the way from her neck down. One day I noticed the burns on her hand and asked her about it. She said that she set herself on fire when she was a young bride because her mother-in-law scolded her about something. She says she doesn’t even remember what she was so mad about. A couple of days ago, she noticed I was limping and stopped to ask me about it.

-The old guy who sells fruit down the street, he had been semi-retired and then money got tight and he started working full time again.

These are little stories I gleaned from them over many encounters. Some of their stories take my breath away. They teach me about human resilience. Its amazing to glimpse into the life and personality of someone you pass by every day. I believe that these experiences make my life richer.

I now remember to pass on this valuable piece of advice to my children. hopefully, they too will be richer for it.

So next time you see someone you pass by every day, stop for a moment and ask their name.

-AB

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