I'd like to share two such incidents, happened sometime back, but never faded away from my memory.
I was on my way to office. My stomach said it would be grateful if I feed it. The time was ten past ten. I was already late by 40 minutes; but how could one say no to the earnest request of the stomach? So, if not for me, at least for my stomach's sake, I had to get inside a local eatery near Valluvar Kottam :-).
One of the valuable lessons life in Chennai has thought me - the hard way - is never enter a restaurant/mess for the first time, unless or until you have strong testimonials of friends, colleagues, relatives (remember they have to be your well-wishers too), or you're starving to death, and convinced whatever you eat would relish divine.
But sometimes before hunger, my dear friends, rules and lessons vanish like how the fact I was running late to office got vanished just like that.
I asked for iddillies (playing safe!) but settled for a plain dosa, and then for two pooris. Every lesson ignored has its own price. That day it was 24 rupees. I took a fifty rupee note and gave it to the eatery owner, who was busy parcelling the food items. He received the money, and gave me two ten rupee notes and a few coins.
I got the balance and came out. While pocketing the change, I found he has given only 2 two rupee coins and 1 one rupee coin. I rushed back, immediately.
I showed the change to him and said, "Anna, you have to give me six rupees...but you've given only five?"
Looking at the coins in my hand, he asked: "How much did you give? What did you eat?"
"One dosa and two puris....I gave 50 rupees."
He extended his hands expecting me to give the money. So, I gave him the coins alone.
Looking at them, he said, "Thambi, see...I've given you only the right change."
He stretched out his hand with the coins and gave the change back to me. In disbelief, I checked again. They remained the same!
I asked, "How much dosa and a set puri cost?"
"See you have given me only 2 ten rupee notes, 2 two rupee coins, and 1 one rupee coin...” I demonstrated, and added, “What about the remaining one rupee?"
Once again, he got the change in his hands, and without a sense of regret or alarm, he said, "Oh! I thought it was three two rupee coins," and gave me the exact change - six rupees.
With his look, I was not able to read his face; but I felt he didn't do it by mistake. At first I thought he was just careless. But when he began to persuade me after seeing the coins, even while having them in his hands, I understood he was trying to deceive me.
An act of deception for one rupee!
Do I sound silly? Please read the next incident too.
Some times, after my work is over, I head to Nungambakkam Landmark, close by my workplace, for checking out the latest books, magazines or just to read something randomly. If I find an interesting book or a movie that's worth my penny, I'd also go that extra mile of standing in the lifeless queue and buying it.
As I was browsing through the piled up books, I chanced upon Jeffery Archer's Cat-O-Nine Tales, a collection of short-stories, at a discounted price for 99 rupees. Damn cheap! I thought and grabbed it.
Having found a worthy treasure (at least I believed so), I lost interest to browse other books, and went straight to the bill counter. Luckily, there were few people waiting. I gave the book for billing.
After scanning it with the bar code reader, the guy in blue asked, "Ninety-nine rupees. Cash or Card, sir?"
I readily gave him the five-hundred rupee note.
Receiving it, he keyed in the amount, and hit the enter button like a golfer hitting the ball.
He kept the printed bill - its size was enough to neatly wrap and cover the book I bought - on the counter table, and four hundred rupee notes on top of it. He placed the book inside the Landmark cover and handed it to me.
I got it, and stood sincerely hoping he'd give me the balance - one rupee! Seeing me standing still, he added, "Thank you, sir!"
I was annoyed by his complete negligence of my balance. But...I gave him my best possible smile, and asked, "So, sir, what about my balance one-rupee?"
I guess many customers who shop there would shy away from asking one rupee. He gave me a startled look and opened the table drawer, saying, "Sir, do you have two rupees?"
I was puzzled. How could two rupees help him in giving the one rupee balance! Are three rupee coins doing rounds! I wondered, and without searching my pockets, I said, "No!"
Then, he slowly gave me a coin, and intoned, “No sir. We didn't have the change."
Thinking he was giving a two rupee coin, I said, "If it's two rupees, then, fine...have it." But to my surprise it was just one rupee coin. This irked me more.
"Even if there is no change, won't you guys have the decency of at least saying it - if not - taking the pain of getting it from the next counter (which is an arm's length away) and giving the right balance to the customer?"
My mind shouted; but I remained silent and walked away.
Yes. It definitely matters! That too, if people begin to deceit for one-rupee, I think, it matters more than anything else!
Why didn't those guys have the honesty to give me the exact balance?
By losing one rupee, I’m not going to lose my precious life. If I’m deceived for one rupee - by God’s grace - I’m not going to get bankrupt (at least, not in one day!). In fact, as Ramana Maharishi says, “Whatever you’re doing for others; you’re doing it for yourself!”
So, if someone cheats, he's cheating none but himself.
But, here, the dishonesty of tricking the customer for just one rupee or fifty paise is something a matter of concern. Something, I find very cheap. Very ugly. If we are willing to cheat others for just one rupee, imagine what we will do for big money?
Whenever, we talk about corruption we think only bigwigs aka politicians, bureaucrats, government servants and high-profile officers are corrupted. We think if we eliminate them, our society would be as clean as hounds tooth.
But, are they the only corrupted?
If a bill-counter-guy desires for one rupee from 100 rupees, politicians expect a crore or may be 10 crores from 100 crores. But the percentage more or less remains the same. The dishonestly remains the same. And it remains the same everywhere; from the top to the bottom of the pyramid!
And FYI, these two incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. If you commute in Chennai share autos, you'll know how the auto-wallas fleece (though, I think, this is ubiquitous). If you commute in bus, you’ll know what bus conductors do to your balance fifty paise. No! I am not saying everyone out there is like that. There are many honest people too. There are policemen who don’t take bribes. There are auto-drivers who honestly return lump sum money, left by the commuter, to the police station. There are shop-keepers who ask to keep one rupee instead of 50 paise.
But, like exceptions in politicians, they are very few.
And, what disturbs me the most is the lack of guilt even after they are caught naked. I didn't see a sense of regret or shame in both the persons (Or am I expecting too much?).
Disintegration of values in the individuals results in the disintegration of values in the society. What is society, but a group of individuals, isn't it?
So, if at all, we wish to cleanse the society, where should we begin?
My dear friends, what's your opinion? Have you come across such incidents? Or do you feel I'm a stingy pig whining nonsense since I can't let go one rupee? :-). Whatever it may be, please feel free to share your views. I'd love to hear from you!
See you there :-)