Who Cares about Honesty?

Some disruption in the Metro service had me waiting on the platform unusually long. Per the timing board, the train should have been there twenty minutes back. And, we didn’t hear any announcements either. When I saw a Metro staff come out of his office and stare down the tracks while talking to someone on phone, I sensed something was wrong.

When I inquired, he informed me there was some public agitation few stations back that was blocking the Metro service. He assured it should be resolved soon.

I requested more details, “How soon? Will it be five minutes or thirty?”

He had no idea.

That gave me enough reason to walk down the station and take the less reliable road transport. Since I was not acquainted with bus routes, I had to hunt down an auto.

Some five minutes later I found an empty auto. “Will you go to Dwarka?” I asked.

“Sure, it will be eighty rupees.”

“Eighty? Why don’t we go by the meter?”

“Okay, meter plus twenty.” He demanded.

It pinched me, like many times before. I took out my smartphone and clicked a photo of his number plate. “Go ahead. You guys will never change, and then you complain if someone files a complaint against you. But, I guess you need that.” I looked away, down the road for another one.

The trick worked. His voice softened, “Okay sir, come on in.”

As I stepped in, he felt obliged to defend himself, “Actually sir, the new meters are out… and I was only charging you the new rates.”

“If they are out, you should have got one already.” I gave a curt reply.

Then, he started complaining about how the auto drivers can’t make enough to survive. A big portion goes for the rent or loan instalment, auto maintenance etc.

“Well, if you guys stop bargaining with each customer, you may actually do more trips. Your per-trip profit might go down, but your daily earning will surely go up.” I offered a rational thought.

But, he did not seem open for ideas.

I persisted with my questions, “Won’t it be less stress free life if people just focus on hard work and try to live with what they make? Desperation to make a little extra every single minute may give you more money, but isn’t that such a big hassle? Whatever happened to honesty?”

“Who cares about honesty, sir?” It was a matter-of-fact statement than a question.

“Well, I think I know at least one guy who seems honest and hard-working. Have you heard about this new party, Aam Aadmi Party?” I asked.

“I know. He sounds honest, but how long will he stay that way? Power corrupts people.” Pessimism ruled his thoughts.

“At least he deserves a chance.” Then I asked a personal question, perhaps breaking the rules of democracy, “If you think he is honest, will you vote for him?”

“I don’t want to waste my vote. He is just going to split some votes and probably favour the opposition.”

So, in the land of Gita, results matter more than the right path. I wondered.

“So, honesty does not count?” I asked.

“Who is honest, Sir?” He asked, and then answered himself, “I will tell you who is honest… jiska daav nahin lagta, sirf wohi imaandar hai (one who hasn’t found a shortcut to make quick money, only that guy is honest).”

I continued to wonder if that has become a prevalent belief among the common men.

After a few minutes of silence, we reached the destination. I rounded up the meter reading and paid him.

Two days later, I learned the new auto meters would be effective the next day.