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Eyes on China

It was a rainy evening in July and I was roaming in a fancy shopping mall situated in Beijing’s Business District.

A heavy downpour could not halt people’s movement and shops in the mall were full of eager buyers.

I had just arrived at the Mall after completing the shoot of a documentary on Artificial Intelligence sector in China, which was the main objective of my 10 day visit to China.

I wanted to freshen up and looked for washrooms. Soon I got their directions and entered one of them.

There I saw an elderly person holding a mop in his hand. With his vigilant eyes he was screening every inch of the facility and constantly instructing his subordinate, a young boy holding a portable dust bin.

I couldn’t control my journalistic instincts and noted the deep sense of dedication and professionalism in the body language of both of them.

Just like other parts of the Mall, the washroom was squeaky clean.

It not only showed the impeccable management of mall’s administration but also reflected the discipline and cleanliness of the Chinese people.

After using the toilet facilities I looked for tissue papers but found the tissue box was empty. I pointed it out to the elderly man, who was probably the In-charge of maintenance of that area.

The moment he came to know about the fact that there were no paper napkins left in the box, he visibly went into emergency mode and rushed the young boy to bring the new pack of tissues immediately.

He requested me to wait in Chinese and hand gestures. Within moments his assistant was back with a new roll of napkins.

I would like to mention that it was an ordinary shopping mall in one of the most populous capitals of the world and I was just another common visitor.

Such diligence by both workers to fulfill the need of one person really impressed me. I decided to show my gratitude to them and requested the elderly worker to accept a little amount of money as a good will gesture from my side.

His response shocked me. The moment he saw 10 Yuan note in my hand he almost frantically started shaking his head and refused to accept the offered cash. My Pakistani mind thought that the amount was less that’s why he didn’t accept it.

So I took out another note from my wallet. Since both of us didn’t understand each other’s language, I tried to convey with my gestures that it would please me if he accepted the money.

When I increased the amount of the money and insisted he accept it, his face turned stern and I immediately realized that I had hurt his feelings. I apologized, saluted his integrity and left the facility.

Next day was an off from work and after taking dinner at our hotel, I just could not sleep. Almost close to midnight I left my room to wander about on the streets of Beijing.

It was still raining but its intensity had decreased. I walked several blocks and found a McDonalds.

Yes, The American fast food chain. Following several economic reforms during past decades, China has welcomed different western food brands like McDonalds and KFC but, from what I have seen during my visit, very few Chinese take interest in them.

Seeing McDonalds, I wished to have a cup of coffee. I ordered for the coffee, paid for it and left.

Traffic had dwindled on an otherwise busy road of the capital and in the drizzling rain I once again started walking, this time with a cup of coffee in my hand. I had come several yards off the McDonalds outlet when I heard someone shouting behind me.

I turned and found the McDonalds counter guy running towards me. “Probably I have paid less”, I thought.

But when he approached me, instead of asking for the money he handed me change and receipt with a grin. I looked at him then looked at the coins and then thank him in disbelief.

Within 24 hours in the city of Beijing, two different people belonging to two different professions had revealed one secret to me. The secret behind China’s fast pace of development in almost every sphere of life; honesty and hard work.

Unconsciously, compelled by my cynical instincts, I figured what if I had found tissue roll empty in any shopping Mall of Lahore or any other city of my beloved homeland. In case of finding any supervisor of that washroom, what if I had asked him for the new tissues; what if he really had provided me with tissues and I had offered him some money… My thoughts switched to more recent happening and I thought about that too. What if I had left some change at the till of any fast food restaurant in Pakistan, would anyone come after me to return??

The answers we all probably know.


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