One early morning I was travelling to some remote rural place from Mumbai. After a three hour journey, I took a halt and stopped my car in a small town on the way. I decided to take my breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Those days I was undergoing medical treatment for my severe acidity and was prescribed some medications before eating anything. As I searched for the medicines, I couldn’t find them. Perhaps I had forgotten them at home.
I decided to purchase the tablets and headed for a medical store. The store was open but the owner was busy in daily prayers. There were a number of photo frames of various deities on the wall behind the cash counter which he was adorning with garlands. He was fervently chanting hymns. As he turned to light the incense sticks, he saw me standing across the counter. Without uttering a word, he simply waved his hand asking me to wait for some time. I stood there patiently expecting him to finish his rituals and prayers.
Just then another customer rushed into the store hastily and demanded some medicines urgently. This disturbed the owner’s attention. He angrily shouted at that person, “Can’t you wait for a couple of minutes till I finish my prayer? Why so much hurry? People like you always expect the service providers like us to dance to your tunes. If you don’t wish to wait, find another shop.” The needy customer had no option but to wait.
When the owner completed his worship, he turned to me first and asked my requirements. Instead of replying, I pointed towards the other man and requested the owner to serve him first. Before leaving the store I expressed my disappointment to the owner, “Sir! I think today your worship remained incomplete. Also, God must be disappointed as you didn’t recognise him.” He looked me in utter bewilderment and asked what really I meant.
I then explained to him, “Look Sir! I am also a shopkeeper but have never humiliated my customers. On one hand we proclaim the customer to be a king but seldom give him due respect. You have made 2 mistakes. First, you could have finished your worship and prayers well before the store opened. Second, you are not an ordinary shopkeeper, but a medicine supplier. You ought to serve the patients first anticipating any kind of medical emergency. Prayers can wait, but death doesn’t.”
Friends, I have started my career from a tiny grocery shop in Dubai and today our Al Adil group owns a chain of 43 super stores across the GCC region. It was the blessings of the customers that transformed a small shopkeeper like me into a Masala King and bestowed me a fortune. For anyone in business, the customer is not a king, but like a God- and serving him is the real worship. Swami Vivekanand aptly says- If you want to find God, Serve man first.