I was working in New Delhi when I had an unexpected call from my friend David in New York. He was coming to India for a conference the following month. He is a dear friend, and I suggested that, on conclusion of his conference, he should come and stay with us for the weekend before his return.
I thought it was an excellent idea, but regretted that most jewelry shops would be closed on Sunday. Then it occurred to me that jewelry shops in major hotels are sometimes open even on a Sunday, and there was a large five-star hotel near our home.
We then found there were two jewelry stores in the foyer of the hotel, practically facing each other.
We walked over to the other store, Punwani and Brothers, and were eagerly received by the store owner. When we expressed our interest in silver boxes, Punwani produced a large and varied collection. Once again I asked the price and mentioned that we might purchase more than one. The man said that his usual price was 500 rupees, but he would bring it down to 425 if we bought three or more.
Very reluctantly David and I returned to the other store, whose somber-faced owner was standing at the entrance all the time and watching our transaction in the rival store. Grewal knew we had returned to his store because we had not found in his competitor’s store all that we needed to find.
Then the miracle happened. David brought out five 100 rupee bills and handed them to Grewal, and Grewal – without a single word of explanation – returned a bill to David.
Totally mystified, I muttered, “But you said the price was 500 rupees and there could be no discount!”
Grewal did not change his hard, morose look for a second. He said, “But you did not tell me that your friend needed it for his old mother!”