Bangali Babu


Humor story by Gasper Crasto...04.06.2019

Petrol stations in Kuwait were perhaps generally designed for self-service; the only crew at work being cashiers in a small drive-through cabin on the way out. 

Until a few years back, payment for fueling was done at the cabin. Quoting the pump number from the comfort of one’s vehicle enabled to make the payment. 

Attendants, if any, were kept only to assist females, old and disabled drivers so that customers did not need to step out of their vehicles to fuel.  

Recent times, however, most stations are manned by attendants.

Workers working at petrol stations are mostly Bangalis (Bangladeshis), Nepalis, or Indians. They do everything from opening the tank, filling petrol, and taking cash. All they expect from you is a tip of at least 100 fils (approx. 25 rupees). 

ZAKAT TIME 

Ramadan is a time, when petrol-pump attendants expect more tips than usual as this is a time for zakat (charity) by Muslims.

Few days back, I stopped at my neighborhood petrol pump which is full of ‘Bangali’ staff. 

I have noted the guys hardly move from their seat if an Indian driver drives in to fuel. Not that we don't give tips, they know we Indians are good at 'self-service'.

However, I noted, if a local Kuwaiti car came along, the attendants flocked over with starry expectations.

Many a time I find myself in long queues at petrol stations, I always do. One of the days, as usual, my car was far behind, waiting the crawl. 

The ‘Bangali’ at the pump saw me from far and made his face as sour as a lemon – as if I was some ‘dust storm’ coming his way (dust storms are very common in Kuwait especially in summer, they make people duck for cover).

Wide-eyed, the Bangali craned his neck to see other cars behind me. Usually posher the cars, fatter were the tips, or so the attendants believed. 

Of course, more luxurious cars like Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Bentleys, etc, were driven by the owners’ drivers who didn’t believe in giving tips anyway.

The ‘Bangali’ still looked disappointed. I checked in my rear view mirror, there was a 1990s model ‘khattara’ vanette, and a local taxi, behind me.

“Poor thing, the Bangali will get no tips for a while,” I said to myself. 

POSH CARS, POOR OWNERS

Perhaps one gets to see the best of cars in the world mostly in Kuwait. This is because of Kuwait’s policy of charging nominal import duty which is 5%, unlike other countries (for example India, importing a fancy car could cost as much as 200% of the actual price of the car).

The car in front of me was a brand new 2019 Corvette ZR - 2 seater with a  convertible top. A young Arab lady was behind the wheel. 

The Bangali threw a smile or two towards the lady every half a second in a bid to please her in advance.

The cars moved on.

“Salamaleikum,” the Bangali said bowing at the lady’s window like a soldier bowing to a queen.

I could see the woman, she was wearing gloves to protect her from the summer heat?

“Salamaleikum,” said the Bangali again, probably thinking she had not heard him first.

“Amala alsayara (fill the car)... Full tank, super grade!” I overheard the woman while she kept fiddling on her cell-phone.

The Bangali dashed to the car-tank, the cap had popped open by then. He opened the cap carefully almost caressing it with both hands. 

As soon as the tank was full, the Bangali closed the cap with great care – as cautiously as he had opened it.

The woman flashed a KD20/- note (approx.. Rs4500/-) without even bothering to look at the fuel-meter. 

The Bangali gave back the change and stood at the window salivating a tip. But the lady just vroom-vroomed and disappeared round the corner. 

No tips!

A total disappointment showed on the Bangali’s face. 

MOVE ON – YOUR TURN

I moved my car. 

“Let me see the Bangali give me the same royalty he just gave the Arabic lady, I murmured in my mind.

My window was already scrolled down. 

I waited. 

Your guess is as good as mine. The Bangali came nowhere near. As if he had not seen any car move up there at all. Quite the contrary, he went to the adjoining booth to serve another customer.

I got down the car, uncorked the fuel-tank, pulled the fuel pump, filled and closed the lid. 

Just as I was about to climb back into the car, the guy came idling over. 

Just to make him smile I said, “Hamar sonar Bangla, kemon achho dada?” 

“Ami bhalo ache.. kaise ho bhaiya?” he said in a slow motion voice as if he was about to fall asleep. 

He eyed the meter and then the cars lined up behind me; not bothering to even look at me once.

“Eh le lo dada, apke liye..” I said giving him a tip of 1 KD (approx.. Rs. 225/-) and poked the guy further with a jibe that I often use with Bangladeshis, “Ek bhasha jothishá¹­o noy (meaning - one language is not enough’, a popular Bangladeshi proverb). 

The Bangali seemed knocked for a six, he looked at me with his mouth gaped open. In all that moment, I was stunned by my own action; it was unusual of me to shed such huge tips. 

The gesture, however, seemed to have come from the divine.

“Bahoot bahoot shukriya bhaiya..” the Bangali said touching the note to his chest, giving me a look of utmost gratitude and respect.

I started my car and moved to exit. As I reached the turn, I glanced at the rear view mirror. 

The Bangali gazed towards me with a beholden look.

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