In the West there is little or no contact between human beings except if they are colleagues, friends, family. The society is basically impersonal and increasingly so. In the US, you cannot even talk to a person when you call a business until you navigate thru a series of computer-prompted questions. In India, at least in Vrindavan, there remains a very personal level of exchange in every dealing. Buying fruit from a fruit seller who knows your face and you know his. His friendliness is part of your shopping experience. You get something extra when you go to purchase tangerines.
Vrindavan, being a small town or large village, allows for varieties of personal relationships. Even with the ricksaw wallas, who are immigrants from West Bengal and other parts of India, you can have a satisfying exchange. This trip being short, i decided to be generous with the ricksaw wallas, and rather than the usual practice of haggling and pre-negotiating a price before getting on a ricksaw, i paid them 50% more or even double what i thought the fair price was. That allowed me to be more friendly with them and to see their good qualities. When i paid them, many of them were touched that i gave them something extra. Some were just happy that they were not being treated like trash, that i was showing them a kind of respect by being generous. You know, it's only an extra 10, 20 or 30 rupees. Fifty cents. To them, it meant recognition, a small moment of appreciation.
Since i could not have a regular conversation with the ricksaw wallas in Hindi or Bengali, i could only look at their faces to read their reactions. Those faces showed character, dignity, humility or humor. For me, they were the faces of the struggle for existence, more real and honest and open than the faces i see in the West.
"Bhai Saheb," i called them, "brother sir." Although i was sitting behind them on a seat attached to their bicycle while they were pedaling thru Vrindavan, and although it was a commercial exchange-- their energy for my rupees-- still i felt some kind of personal connection with many of them. Although they were in a subordinate position and i was directing them and paying them, we were both sharing a moment of time together, each in our own way. It is an experience of human dimension and quality that i can't find anywhere else than in Vrindavan. Even the ricksaw wallas can be sages and yogis in Vrindavan.