It was sometime in 2001, in dry and dusty Dallas where I was recently posted, to handle HR for the US arm of my Indian Software Organization. The hysteria of y2k was settling down and 9/11 had not yet happened. Feeling lonely, unhappy and missing home, I had not quite settled in to the US.

I had travelled out of the office that day, and was in a strange part of town at lunchtime. It was a large building with several eateries on the ground floor. I walked in to one and picking up something to eat and drink, and joined the queue heading towards the counter.

When I reached the counter, the plump African American lady expertly checked over my tray and told me the amount to be paid. I had the change ready and took the parcel from her hand, said thank you and was walking away when she said, ‘You have a good day now; I’ll be much obliged.’ I turned back to her, feeling rather stunned. She caught my eyes, nodded her head several times and winked. Even today, I can recall that warm smile and the kind eyes and her amazing ability that afternoon to banish all my feelings of unhappiness.

In that moment, I wanted to drop everything and run behind the counter to give her a big hug and say, ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’ Instead I managed a watery smile and walked out, blurry eyed. Turning back at the door at the far end of the hall I saw her exchanging a smile with the next customer – she must have made his day too!

Now I say it often to my son, on the phone, across the miles that separate us, ‘You have a good day now; I’ll be much obliged.’ We laugh, but every time I think of that amazing lady in Dallas who spoke those words to me I melt. Thank you Ma’m!