Last month we accompanied our son to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for the finals of World Robotic Olympiad. The event was at the International Convention Center — an impressive venue, with a picturesque backdrop of mountains, with excellent facilities to host an event like that. Since we were mostly at the venue, all three days of the competition, on the last day, we decided to step out, as the teams were busy with their trial runs before the actual runs started. It was Sunday, and there was a flea market very closeby that we had spotted from the bus on the way. We headed there and were quickly disappointed, as it didn’t have anything we would have liked to carry back home. As we were heading back, we saw a small convenience/grocery store. We wanted to buy some Thai rice and so we stepped in. It was like a family run store. The proprietor (we assumed) was an elderly man.
As we were done with our very limited shopping expedition (this wasn’t Walmart, after all, just a small local grocery store, in a primary non-residential, remote, part of the city), we approached the payment counter. The glass countertop had a bunch of international notes displayed like souvenirs. As we paid with local currency, our guy asked us where we were from.
“India”, we said.
“Ah!” exclaimed he. “I have these currency notes for many countries, but not for India. Are you carrying any Indian currency?”
We were. I pulled a ten rupee note and handed it over to him. He checked it out.
“Gandhi”, he said, looking at the note.
“Yes! You have heard of him!”, exclaimed my wife.
“Yes”, he nodded.
“Have you heard of Modi”, she asked.
Then looking at the note again he said, “A good man!”
“Yes he was”, we nodded.
“How much do I pay for this?”, he asked.
We brushed off that idea, of course. “It’s a gift from us”
“I’ll display it”, he said, happily.
“Can we take a photo”, I asked.
“Yes yes”, he said, getting ready for one.
A good man, I recalled again, earlier this week, as the controversy over a statue in Ghana hit the news. The small man on the note. The small man who runs that convenience store, with a happy, eager smile. A good man. That’s how one would like to be remembered, no?