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Sunday, January 20

Service makes the difference.

The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons. Aristotle

One of my colleagues had an interesting experience last week which prompted me to put it on record. This may seemingly have no connection with the topic of my blog but I think it is most relevant when it comes to the public sector employees in Kerala.

My colleague, a charming young lady is new to the small island nation of Ireland. Last Sunday she decided to visit her sister and family residing in the southern city of Cork, some 200km from where she lived. She decides to take the 9.15am bus, one of the only two services by Bus Eirrean, the State-owned bus company, from our small midland town to Cork, the other service being at 5.30pm. Public transport is one of the very few woes in this country and without a private mode of transport you are stuck...well and truly stuck! And on public holidays and Sundays the situation is worse with less than half of the weekday schedules operational.

Well, my colleague reached the bus station in a taxi precisely at 9.00 am. She took her ticket from the automatic ticket machine by inserting a 50 Euro note and received the fat change, all in coins! And then, to her shock she finds out that the 9.30 service to Cork is not there since its a Sunday. The lone staff at the desk informed her that the only service from the station is to Limerick, a city on the western part of Ireland. The heavens decided to make the situation worse, opened up the sluice doors. Stranded on a deserted bus stand in an alien country, alone, amidst heavy downpour with the prospect of traveling to an unknown territory...not a very pretty situation for a countryside bred Kerala girl.

Now the man in the counter who perceived that the girl is in difficulty, offered assistance. After listening to her circumstances he contacted the driver of the ready-to-depart Limerick service. The only option for her was to travel to a town midway through Limerick, where there was a possibility to catch another service to Cork. They reassured her and calmed her nerves, offered her coffee, helped her to cancel the ticket & collect the refund, secure a new one in the proposed route, assisted to heave the luggage in the carrier and helped her to a comfortable seat in the bus. But 15 minutes before reaching Limerick, the driver came across the Cork service coming from the opposite direction on the highway. He signaled the other driver to stop, went over to him & briefed him about the circumstances. The two men came over to my bewildered colleague, greeted her, collected her luggage and escorted her to the bus to Cork, leaving her wordless to express gratitude.

I was not entirely taken aback by her story when she was narrating it to my wife, because this is just one of the innumerable pleasant experiences me or my friends had in Ireland. Remember, the Good Samaritans in the above story are Govt. employees working for Bus Eireean or Irish Bus, same league as our own KSRTC. How many of our aanavandi drivers would have done the same? Not more than a handful. Leave KSRTC, just go through these complaint forums to see how our National flag carrier Air India is defacing our country, with their appalling service.

'Service' has different meanings in different parts of the world. One who has been to Kerala Govt offices or travelled in our State owned transportation modes will understand the difference very well. The recent East Fort lightening bus strike in the capital city wouldn't have occurred if one would have thought about the hundreds of helpless people, including women and children, stranded in the late hours of the night.

But that's the way things go on in God's own country...

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