“May I use your pen please?” I have come across this request any number of times in the bank, post office and railway reservation counters. Sometimes, even “please” and “May I” are eliminated. Just “Pen” and a finger pointing at the pen in my pocket. As a sort of right. We understand that. I have asked for the pen from strangers too. We don’t think twice before requesting some small favour from others, even absolute strangers.
“Doctor, looks like you are going to the market. Please bring me a kilo of Potatos” My neighbour's wife spots the shopping bag and shouts from their balcony.
I have asked for such favours from my neighbours too.
“Is your next seat vacant? Here, put this there” a stranger hands over his hand kerchief through the window of the bus, while a crowd jostles near the door. Accepted form of reservation. We usually oblige.
“Are you travelling up to Hubli? Please take care of my mother. She is alone” a stranger hands over his old mother’s responsibility to you in the railway station.
“Will you take care of my luggage for a minute? I will be right back" the man runs to buy a cup of coffee with out waiting for your answer. We don’t say no.
“Will you fill this form for me?” an illiterate person hands over the money order form in the post office. He will not even consider the possibility that you may not oblige.
These are accepted as a matter of fact. But this morning’s request by a stranger was quite unusual.
I had gone for a walk as usual. I reached the outskirts of our small city. There was a herd of buffalos in front of me, well spread out and completely occupying the road, moving in their own pace enjoying the morning weather. A man was walking along making odd noises and shouting “hai, hai” trying to keep them to one side of the road. When he shouted, the buffalos obeyed and moved to the edge of the road.
Their destination must have been further ahead at some distance. The man did not intend going with them all the way. He probably had other business. He was expecting them to remember his order, maintain lane discipline and walk to their destination in single file. But as soon as he turned back, the buffalos spread out on the road and he had to come back shouting and force them to a side. This happened a few times. The man could neither walk with them all the way nor just leave them to themselves and go away. At this moment he spotted me.
“You are walking the same way aren’t you? Keep shouting ‘hai, hai’ as you walk and they will remain to a side” he shouted instructions to me, turned and walked away.