Thursday, September 21, 2006

Being Smart

A month ago, I was traveling to my native place Bokaro by Rajdhani Express. Rajdhani Express is the best train provided by Indian Railways in terms of speed and services. So the fare is also the highest here. So I was expecting that the passengers will be more or less decent enough compared to those traveling in some other class of trains. But this is what I actually experienced.

There was a guy, about the same age as myself, in our compartment who had returned from USA and was going to his native place Ranchi. He offered the attendant a dew dollars (not much for a guy returning from US) as some kind of advance tip, so that he would take proper care of this US returned gentleman. And it turned out to be exactly like that. The attendant used to keep coming to our compartment every now and then asking "koi dikkat to nahi hai saahab?" (are you having any problem sir?). He made sure that we were given all the services on time.

But the best was the food service. Normally the amount of food provided to a person in Rajdhani is fixed. If you need extra you have to pay apart from the fare. But since our attendant was given a tip in dollars, he made sure that everyone in our compartment (actually we were only 3 - 4 people) ate to the fullest of our satisfaction. He even asked if anybody needed any extra icecreams.

Then that US returned fellow started stating in a tone of moral authority that if one pays to people from lower strata of the society, they tend to remember it and pay you back in some way, but the fellows from the upper strata will just grab your money. Hence we should always keep such people (like waiters, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, and attendants in train) happy by giving a few bucks. And that would improve the quality of their services by an unimaginable extent.

The guy was right, or let's say, was smart, and he demonstrated his formula effectively. However I was wondering whether what he did was moral? Was that the really right thing to do in those circumstances? First of all, the attendant was serving us with extra food which was not his. The money spent on to get that food and other services comes from the Indian Railways. So in a way the attendant got paid for something which was not his by right. Secondly, this led to the discrimination among the passengers who had paid the same fare to Indian Railways. How did they feel about all this?

Just to make a comparison, suppose you go to a shop and you give tip to the person who is making a bill of the items purchased. (Its a big shop, so imagine that billing is being done by an employee and not by the owner of the shop.) And you get the goods at a very low price. Isn't that equivalent to stealing? And here our US returned Indian hero was proclaiming that this is the moral thing to do, whereas in fact he was acting like a thief.

By the way I did not participate in all this. No extra food and any stuff like that. Another passenger who was sitting beside me was a fellow who did MTech from IIT Kanpur. He was offering some advice about waste management for the Railways. He suggested that the compartment should be provided with small windows through which this garbage could be thrown from the train while running, so as to litter the area nearby the track with all sorts of garbage including plastic, food, aluminium foils etc.. I objected immediately that because of such an attitude the country is dirty. The waste should be disposed in proper way by throwing them in dustbin which are collected by the municipality. The attendant also said that all this Railways waste is dumped in dustbins at various stopping stations.

I was glad to know that this guy was just an MTech and not a BTech from IIT, thereby saving the cream of the country from a bad name.

Now both of these guys were perfectly good natured in all other respects. "Nice to have friends like that" kind of people. The US guy showed us a comedy movie on his laptop and kept us entertaining all throughout the journey. So I must say that I had a great time with them, perhaps one of my most entertaining journeys.

I am really perplexed by such phenomena. There are criminals, thieves and other bad elements in our society, but they have at least some sense of shame and guilt. That's why they keep hiding themselves and their actions from the general public. But here we find people who are well educated and having lots of money who behave like a thief and somehow proclaim that they are moral or smart.

Being smart is not about fooling people, but about doing things a better way (efficient, economical etc.) compared to others. When you bribe someone you are not actually being smart, but you are committing a legal crime.

And from my very limited experience with girls, I find that these are the kind of smart men who are preferred by them for their mate over the more principled ones. The reasoning is that they have the kind of survival talent which the current world requires. Thus according to Darwinism they are making the right choice. I wonder what these girls would teach to their kids when they have one. Probably they would create an even smarter kid. God bless them all!!


Blogger Dinesh said...

paaji tusi senti ho gaye...
dont worry.. u will find a girl who values more the principles than the darwinian choice..
anyway.. i absolutely agree with your viewpoint.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Abhishek Ghose said...

A freind of mine once told me that one should pay auto-rickshaw drivers more than what the actual charge is since their work involves a lot of hard work. Go figure!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes me want to update my own blog. Good thoughts.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Deepesh Yadav said...

I don't see a very clear distinction between that 'tip' and bribe. Only differentiating factor would be, in case of bribe most of the times, the briber gets regular service and others less than regular. But turned into practice, won't take long before lack of tip will result in less than expected service.

10:31 PM  

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