This happened a few days ago but I have been delaying writing on this topic primarily since I had requested my friend Shyam Chandrasekar to write on it as a guest speaker on my blog. He has refused my offer and hence, I must write it myself. The reason why he should have written it is that the incident largely involved his resolve to do the right thing.
Few days back, upon a strong craving of ice cream, I and a group of friends had hit Boulder’s Pearl Street to find and plunder the tasty Glacier Ice cream company’s stall. We found a girl managing the stall and asked her for various flavors and made our order. She completed the delivery and whipped out her cellphone to tally the bill and tell us the whole amount but I insisted that she write it down on paper as one of us was going to pay and then everyone would give their share back to that person…
She agreed to the demand and looked around helplessly to find some paper to write on. I took a pen out of my pocket and gave her some tissue paper from her own stall to write down the bill on. She quickly summarized a bill of about $19.40 and I took the money from our today’s bakra(We still need to give our share of the money back to this person!!!) and handed a $20 bill to the girl. She casually commented that it was so late and she was so tired after having studied at the University that her mind was just not working. Having said this, she gave me the change and thus ended our transaction.
As we walked off, my friends enjoyed a nice, cold, tasty ice cream treat at the expense of our bakra while I wondered as to who it really was at whose expense we were really enjoying! You see, there were a total of 6 people in my group and most of us had opted for a single scoop of ice cream with a waffle cone which is slightly costlier than usual. So a total of under $20 was just quite not right. As I pondered over this, my friends chided me for going into deep thought again, as is my habit and asked me to join them in the conversation. I did that, but before doing so, I called Shyam to one side and told him about this dilemma which we now faced. I did not know the correct prices of a waffle cone but I knew that we had under-paid the woman by a huge amount. Shyam too expressed his suspicion of the same and having been more resourceful, quickly summarized the actual bill. We found that we had to pay this vendor a total of $28, that is, we had paid her $8 less!
Now it was time for either action or debate. While Shyam was more interested in the former, I chose the latter and brought the matter out to my friends. I told them that it was a matter of not paying what was due but also reminded them that it may be eight dollars for someone but it’s nearly Four hundred rupees for us! Most of them chimed in with the opinion that we should not pay the money back and someone even went on to say that we’re already paying through our nose just by being here for our studies so why not save some money while we can! While I was enjoying this debate and the reactions of my peers, we were joined by my friend and roommate, Abhjit Kaul, who had till now been talking to his family members on phone. When we told him about our situation, he instantly voted in favor of returning the money, pointing out the most important thing which tipped the scales of the discussion – that it may be eight dollars for us, but it’s an hour’s work for the girl!
That did it. Those reluctant were now quiet and Shyam quickly went back to present the money to the girl. He did not return for quite some time.
Oh, he did return eventually and told us triumphantly that the girl had been nice enough to give him a dollar off on the bill for his honesty!
Thus nearly ended a night when we had a taste of good ice cream and crowd mentality. We saw that Gelato is good and greed is bad. Finally, we saw that it’s not the amount of money which matters, it’s the amount of work which goes into making that money which counts and this reminds me, I better talk to our bakra and give back the money! 🙂