Was I right? What would be the right thing to do? Was my action ethically questionable?
These are some of the questions that has been haunting me since past few days.
It was a nice Friday evening. After coming out of the Canara Bank in Hanj Raj College, I went straight to Hans Raj College Hostel Gate. I saw a rickshaw at the hostel gate. I asked the rickshaw driver if he would get me to Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station. When said yes, I asked him the amount of fare he would charge. He said 30 rupees and I said I could pay him 20 rupees only. I didn’t have much money. He reluctantly said “okay.” I boarded his rickshaw.
Out of any mode of travel in Delhi, so far the best I find is a rickshaw. You feel the breeze, you see things around in the best possible way.
It was a good ride. I saw my old college after a long time. Passing through the University Road, it reminded me of my college days, the morning walks.. Oh, the hostel life there!
He stopped the rickshaw far away from the metro gate. There were many other rickshaw drivers who apparently greeted him. I did not say anything since I thought I could walk to the metro gate. I took two 10 rupees notes out of my wallet and handed over to him. At that, he demanded 10 rupees more.
I politely asked him “kyun bheiya” and reminded him that we agreed at only 20 rupees for the ride. I also pointed out that he stopped the rickshaw far away from the metro gate.
But knowing that other rickshaw drivers were also there, he started demanding 30 rupees. But I was adamant and determined to stand by what we mutually agreed to before I boarded his rickshaw. It was a moral contract that both of us informally agreed to and in doing so would bind both of us until it expires, i. e., I leave his rickshaw by paying the agreed amount of money. I neither told him to cover more distance nor did I pay him less than the agreed amount. But he was covering less distance and asking more amount than we mutually agreed to. It was, I thought, a violation of trust between him and me that we informally established between the two of us.
His morally questionable intention to utilize his social capital that was immediately available to him to compel me to pay him an amount of money that was more than the mutually agreed amount was something that I could not accept.
He raised his voice. Knowing that some girls were also coming near us to board rickshaw, he told me to take away that 20 rupees or to give him 30 rupees. I politely told him I could not pay more than 20 rupees as it was what we agreed upon. At the same time, I also told him I would not take the money back.
Suddenly he handed over me the 20 rupees and said he could not take it. I started feeling embarrassed in front of other rickshaw drivers and some passengers. I again politely asked him to take the money back. He said he could not.
Well, I thought it was time for us to let the contract expire. I left him, the rickshaw, other drivers, the onlooking passengers and the place. I walked away with the 20 rupees in my right hand without even looking back for a moment. I could not compromise my principles for something I believed was wrong.
After walking for few meters, I sat under a tree. I looked around and tried to tell myself if I should continue to own the 20 rupees. I repeatedly thought it was no longer mine. I still thought that the rickshaw driver should have taken the 20 rupees.
After a while, I saw a woman with her six children. Her clothes were torn, her hair uncombed. Four of her children were fighting, one fell on the ground and was crying. The two girls were crying for food, asking their mother to give them something to eat and the mother scolding and mildly hitting them.
I looked at them now and then. I thought I should give that 20 rupees to the woman. Again, I thought of what other people around would say or think. Would they say or think what I was doing was for show off or what else? Would they laugh at me?
Again, I asked myself if I was doing the right thing. Why would I give them that money when it was supposed to be already owned by the rickshaw driver? Was it really my money still?
Amidst the thoughts, the sound of a little girl crying attracted my attention. I looked to see the little girl asking food from her mother. Now, I went straight to the woman who was sitting, trying to calm the little girl, and handed her the 20 rupees saying “buy some food for her” in my usual broken Hindi. I left without looking at anybody around and never looked back.
After a few meters almost near the metro gate I stopped for a moment. I turned back and went to the rickshaw parking looking for the rickshaw driver who did not want to take the agreed fare of 20 rupees. I wanted to give him ‘his money’ back. I could not find him! I did not know his name, nor the number of his rickshaw. Without them, I was not able to find him.
To this day, I still think of the rickshaw driver. I think that he should have taken the money. At the same time, I think that I should have given him 10 rupees more. The amount of 10 rupees sometimes hardly matters and is less than what we pay for a coffee. For a typical shirt or jeans we buy we pay more than a thousand. How much is Rupees 10 is valued by different people of different class. Yet, despite I have not started earning, I still could pay him 10 rupees more. That would make the rickshaw driver happy for the day.
But again, would not that encourage him to act similarly to other passengers? Would not that make him feel all right to ask for more money from other passengers taking advantage of their loneliness among the crowd of rickshaw drivers? Would not that make me responsible for his future actions that may harm the interests of others?
I am not sure if I am perfectly right of my actions in this particular case. But I do still think of the rickshaw driver and that he should have taken the 20 rupees. I wish that he honestly earns his livelihood and may he become prosperous. I wish him a very joyful and blessed life!
The kind of knowledge that we have been imparted has sometimes killed the humane in us. Sometimes, no one seems to have honesty and the feeling that people are not honest makes us kill the kindness inside us. We tend to see things the way we think right and we judge people on that basis. We hardly forgive people in the real sense. We do think for ourselves first.
It is my comprehension that the rickshaw driver might not be right in his actions but at the same time my actions also cannot be justified. The 20 rupees that I handed over to the woman and her children was given by the rickshaw driver from his hard earned money. He should take the credit, not me.