Manjunath (name changed) cleans our car. Since the time (back in 2008) we have been in our complex, he has been attending to our car. He has not changed his fee over the last 9 year. It was 300 Rs. a month in 2008 and it continues to remain the same. His charges have been a striking anomaly to how prices have gone up on every other product or service. I have discussed this a couple of times with my friends. I wondered if we should give him a raise ourselves.
It sort of never struck my friends that Manjunath had never raised his rates. But very quickly they decided that the quality of his service has been going down. They shared instances on how once they noticed the car was not cleaned as they had expected. Or that Manjunath and his boys had not cleaned the inside of the car.I was left to wonder. These complaints came up only when the awkward subject of the cleaning fees came up. Till then no one had any issues.
All said and done, 300 Rs. a month in this time and age is hardly anything. A one time job of car cleaning costs us more than 300 Rs in many places. today. And I know for a fact that every week he takes the key from us and cleans the insides of the car as well. And till date, I never heard any instance of theft of any item about Manjunath and his group.
I asked Manjunath one day as to why he never raises his price. He said no one would pay if he raises his price. I told him, he may be wrong on that assumption. Truth be told, most of us have seen our salaries double over nine years and we could certainly afford to pay more for this service. He did still did not raise his rates.
Over time I noticed that Manjunath was picking up additional work. He was walking a resident’s dog twice a day and earning a handsome amount for it. He still did not let go of the car washing business. One day we started talking and I realised that he and I were of the same age. The only difference was he had a daughter in her second year of engineering! And a son studying in 9th. I was surprised, well actually shocked. He said his dad married him off very early. He was married off when he was just 17 years old. Very soon his dad passed away. He still nurses a lot of angst towards his dad. Because of his dad he was stuck with having to work hard and long.
But Manjunath himself is a great dad. He is doing everything he can for his children. He is proud of his daughter. She is doing well at studies. She understands the family situation and that drives her even more. He is looking to get her a laptop now. The costs seem prohibitive, but knowing him he will get it for her.
He is an inspiration for me. Under stiff constraints, he is making one heck of an effort to move his family out of their trying circumstances. At the same time he holds his dignity and self-respect at high levels. The honesty, hard work and authenticity he demonstrates on a daily basis are great lessons for his children growing up as well as for others all around.