After all, what you do comes back to you…
A few incidents in the recent past have left behind some bad taste in me. After spending quite a bit of time and effort in helping my friend overcome a difficult situation, I felt let down when he did not even respond back with a small ‘thank you’. This relative of mine has a habit to call only when he requires a favour and hardly speaks otherwise. My inbox popped up with a read receipt of a six-month-old email. My friend had read my email wishing him a happy birthday six months back! I did receive an email from him the next day with a heart-warming reply and on the sides, “By the way, can you please help me with this favour?”
While I was perturbed in anticipation of appropriate reciprocation, revelations disguised in the form of a retreat to the Nilgiris and a few subsequent incidents not only took me down the ‘reality path’ but also paved way for me to look beyond.
We were at the highest point on the Blue Mountains, gazing at a large water body and the steady flow of water down a steep waterfall. We heard nothing but the chirps of the birds and the thunderous sound of the water hitting the rocks, taking us into a sublime experience. The place was bursting and flowing with life. After spending considerable amount of time in the serene atmosphere, we started our trek back and one of my friends exclaimed, “Ah! What a contrast to the Dead Sea!” Indeed, the water body we saw at the top of the hill was taking in a lot and giving out almost everything, enhanced in a way, so to say. No wonder, in the whole atmosphere there was rupturing with something that could only be experienced. On the contrary, the Dead Sea, which is below the sea level, was constantly taking everything, slowly trickling into it by sheer gravitational force but nothing really flowed out of it. There isn’t any giving out, and no wonder, it is lifeless and nothing could survive in those waters through the ages known.
Is this not a lesson for me?
My brother-in-law, a very sharp and intelligent person, after a lot of struggle and hard work succeeded in setting up a start-up that offers a very niche service to its market segment. He and his partner, an equally talented person, have something very common, and that ‘virtue’ makes one envy: they both celebrate life. Challenges in running start-ups are for sure increasing by the day, making availability of time for socialising a premium for both of them. They make it a habit to take stock of their activities every day by jotting things on a notepad, which includes professional, personal and social actions.
While many of us do this, what stands out is the way they respond to the social obligations with the same attention and focus as that of the professional and personal ones. If one seeks a help for a school or college admission, career guidance or suggestion on medical assistance, whatever type of request it might be, the request gets promptly recorded on the notepad and tracked. They follow it up with calls and updates on the progress being made. This is done, irrespective of whether the individual seeking the assistance is a first-time acquaintance, a long-time associate, a friend or a family member.
Ah, here is another one to learn!
While I travel with my husband, who is a frequent traveller, I have noticed his interaction with the staff of his regular airline and a restaurant chain. A warm handshake, a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and a job-well-done pat leave the folks in all smiles and energy filled. I honestly do not believe this is because of his frequent interactions with the people at the airline, as he does the same when we visit other places too. I definitely started to feel a deep meaning to his actions.
And this taught me something.
The streets of the great temple town of Kumbakonam were jammed with vehicles on account of the Mahamaham festival, which happens once in 12 years! Vehicles took siege of the small streets and there was not an inch to manoeuvre. As luck would have it for us, the famous Murphy’s Law on probability started to kick in. “If something can go wrong, it surely would! We were stuck in the middle of a huge traffic bottleneck, with just a few drops of fuel left in our tank. We cursed ourselves of not being proactive and filling the tank. Lo and behold! We spotted a petrol bunk which was just opposite to where we were. The sad part was that it was just next to impossible to cut the huge pile up of vehicles. So near, yet so far! My first instinct would have been to squeeze my vehicle into the narrow gap and wriggle out, for I have seen this technique of our auto drivers work quite well! Our driver chose otherwise. He got off the vehicle and humbly requested one of the vehicles to give way, instead of doing what generally most of us do, like honking or cutting across the vehicles! As soon as the queue starting moving, not only did the other auto driver give way to us, but he also offered us bottled drinking water to cool ourselves and ease out the stress!
Through my driver, yet another lesson was learnt!
My brother-in-law and his friend have, by this small virtue of reciprocation, built a network that offers help in the moment of need. My husband by his appreciative gestures has made his frequent long haul travels comfortable and enjoyable. Our driver at Kumbakonam made the impossible to happen by a small gesture of respecting the other person.
It is all about positive reciprocation! The icing on the cake is that nothing was really expected in return.
When we do something nice, people will feel compelled to do something nice for us in return. It is so easy to implement, for all people who are sane of mind enjoy the experience of helping others. How difficult is it to reciprocate a “Good morning, Sir” with a “Have a wonderful day” instead of a dignified head nod. As we give, we will receive, for it is the ‘Universal Law.’ We see this working everywhere, in day-to-day life, in economics, in relationships and in professional life.
A warm handshake, a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and a job-well-done pat leave the folks in all smiles and energy filled.
As the old saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. It’s true and hence we see it work. The retrospection taught me that sometimes my personalised note or wishes on the occasion of birthday or wedding or festival may not be reciprocated even with a namesake ‘copy-paste’ return wish. Yet my gesture is bound to build a positive outlook in time. Responding back sincerely to a phone call that may have come with an agenda would help me build on my positives and not in being judgemental in due course. It doesn’t matter even if I don’t get the feedback for going out of the way to help someone. I would gain the satisfaction of doing something good by avoiding the ‘but.’
You see, it’s all about positive reciprocation. Responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions, is so easy to implement in our day-to-day life. Positive reciprocity is generated best when you do things not expecting anything in return. When the smallest idea of receiving more gets in, we get into a fear syndrome and stop giving and of course become the ‘dead sea’ incapable of giving out.
Confucius wasn’t wrong when he said, “There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life – Reciprocity.”
The key ingredient of our culture and tradition is the Law of Karma, which states that what you are today is because of what deeds you have done. So, why should I not positively reciprocate, for it will only come back to me and make me better…
As the Sanskrit verse goes, “Panko hi nabhasi kshiptah ksheptuh patati moordhani” – Mud, thrown at the sky, falls on the head of the person who throws it. Well then, let me take the positive reciprocation challenge and play it on every day, instead of the ‘ice buckets’!