Rahim, a.k.a. Abdur-Rahim Khan-e-Khanan, Akbar’s general and writer of moral couplets that we still learn in school, wrote: “Rahiman dekh baden ko laghu na dijiye dari/Jahan kaam aavey sui kaha kare tarivari.” Meaning that on seeing something big we should not promptly discard the small. Where a needle is needed, a sword is of no use.
Echoing similar sentiments centuries later, the English poet William Wordsworth wrote: “Small service is true service while it lasts/Of humblest friends, bright Creature! Scorn not one/The Daisy, by the shadow that it casts/Protects the lingering dew drop from the Sun.”
Every day, from morning to evening we depend on the services of people like the newspaper boy, the milkman, the domestic help, the liftman, the sweeper, the watchman, the plumber, the dhobi, the taxi-driver: the list is endless.
They serve us day after day, come rain or shine. Do we truly value their service? How often do we spare even a thought for them? Some might ask, “Don’t we pay them?” Yes, we do. But their services are worth much more than the little money that we pay them. We need to give them more in return.
How to value small service can be learnt from Sri Rama’s dealing with Kevat, the boatman in the Ramayana. All he did was to ferry Rama, Sita and Lakshmana across the Sarayu when they left Ayodhya. But Rama gladly allowed himself to be ‘fooled’ by the simple boatman into granting absolution to him and his family.
We can begin to emulate Sri Rama’s gracious behaviour by at least showing our gratitude through small gestures: a smile, a thank you, a kind word of appreciation or an occasional polite enquiry about the welfare of those who help us in so many ways.
It would show that we value them and their work. Perhaps, we also need to have more patience with their imperfections.
Many of these people serve us despite great personal difficulties. Let us give them their dignity. Our own self-respect derives from this.