MY (ONLY) NEW YEAR RESOLUTION
We saw the frail old lady standing noontime in the hot Vizag summer, holding a cheap plastic bag in her left hand. Her hands looked more like dried twigs and grinding poverty was written all over her thin frame. Seeing us approaching slowly in the car, she waved the plastic bag at us with a tired smile on her face.
My wife looked at me and smiled in quiet assent as I stopped the car near the poor woman. We knew that the cheap plastic bag would be holding the season’s offering called ‘Tati Pandu’ meaning palm fruit in Telugu, a simple fruit full of watery juice for thirsty throats. Though quite a few passersby would stop for this cheap fruit, most others preferred the colas and other drinks to this rustic delight. Sadly, even many among those who paused to buy would bargain away any measly profit these miserable sun- burnt folks hoped to get after several hours in the merciless heat.
After we gave the amount quoted by the astonished woman for the full bag of maybe 40 or 50 ‘pandus’, she was even more taken aback when we gave the full bag back to her. She must have thought that we were totally crazy or something!
After I started the car, my wife looked back in typical womanly curiosity and said, “She’s running after us waving the bag!”
“What does all this have to do with a New Year Resolution?” Well , that brings me to the story of my irresolute ‘New Year Resolutions.’
I was very good at making New Year Resolutions… and at breaking them within the first few days itself. Till I finally gave up my smoking habit, that used to be my most irresolute but every year resolution… to shed the habit.
It had become a familiar joke in my friend circles that giving up smoking was the easiest thing to do, as proven by me! In fact, I used to really try hard and even succeeded for a few days and even weeks once, but the sight of a ‘paan shop’ peddling cigarettes or that of a friend letting out puffs contentedly used to weaken my resolve… every year.
But I never gave up on giving up, till I really one day gave up. My smoking habit one day literally went up in smoke due to my disgust with my excessive smoking during a party. But that is another narrative and credit is in no way due to any resolutions made.
There were many other such short-lived resolutions, like for example giving up alcoholic drinks. But I was never too serious about the drinks resolution as I was never addicted and was only an occasional social drinker anyway.
One more repeated yearly resolution was about my ‘determination’ to lose weight. The success rate (If you could call that) of this resolution was about one percent more than the smoking one!
Finally, after many years of failure like this and constant teasing by my friends and wife, I decided to resolve never to make any resolution again.
It must have been a couple of years after that. I was nearing retirement and thankfully been able to overcome my only real addiction to cigarettes. I had given up making resolutions, but learnt to discipline myself to do some exercises in spite of disliking them thoroughly.
Then a simple incident made me have a change of heart and prompted me to the only resolution I now make…not every year but every now and then.
One day after a round of shopping in the city, my wife and I went to our customary vegetarian restaurant and waited for lunch to be served. It was a decent eatery, with good food and ambience which we had been frequenting for years whenever we went out to the city on some work. We knew some of the waiters there, though there were occasional changes in the staff. They were very polite and well-mannered in spite of having to put in long hours at work and having to directly bear the irritable comments of the patrons when food got delayed or was not up to their expectations. In this regard, I have to confess that I had myself made some uncharitable remarks to many a long-suffering bearer who couldn’t answer back. After my wife gently chided me for bullying the over worked waiters, I realized my selfish folly and stopped bawling at them.
Then as we waited that day for our food, my wife looked around idly at fellow guests at nearby tables. She liked to watch the way people behaved and would occasionally make a snide remark or two about someone. Suddenly she drew my attention to a pair of young couples at a nearby table. They were probably newly- weds, quite obviously from affluent families.
“How happy they look,” she said “… and appear to be from decent families”
When our food finally arrived, we soon forgot about them. Little did we know that we were soon going to know just how ‘decent’ they were!
We had almost finished our food and were waiting for the bill when we heard a commotion from the very table where the couples had lunched. One manager-looking guy ran here and there and came back to shout at a hapless elderly waiter whom we had seen earlier many times. After the commotion had died down, I found the elderly waiter sobbing quietly into his kerchief. When my wife asked the waiter who had served us that day, he said, “Madam, those people quietly left without paying the bill. The manager is furious with the waiter for being careless and allowing them to go.”
My wife then asked him, “What happens next?” He replied that the amount would be deducted from the poor waiter’s salary. We were both aghast and outraged that the buck had to stop with the poor waiter who, with his hurrying hither and thither had no way of ensuring that the guys wouldn’t run away!
It was then that, on my compassionate wife’s request, I called the sobbing waiter and the useless manager and told them to send the miscreants’ bill to us.
‘Decent folks, my foot!’ I thought.
Till date, we can’t forget the looks on the face of the waiter, the manager and a few onlookers. The waiter was now crying tears of joy, the manager looked at me as if I was an imbecile, the others gave me amused looks.
That day, we both decided to have only one resolution… “To be kind and charitable within our means whenever an opportunity is given by the dear Lord.”
Written based on a weekly prompt by https://blog.reedsy.com/creativewritingprompts.