How much have we really degenerated? Two examples. And yet there is hope…

Last evening I was driving back from my daughter’s dance class. She was sitting right next to me in the front of my SUV. We neared a busy 3-road crossing near the Kali Temple in C R Park. As I drew closer to the turn I needed to take, I saw a Renault Duster parked at the turn. To understand the sequence of events that followed I need to explain the road I was on and where the Duster was parked.

On the left of the road is a row of houses with cars parked at right angle to the road. On the right side of the same road is the Kali Temple wall with car parking; the cars when parked would be at a right angle to the road. This leaves a 2-lane road, one lane each in opposite directions.

The Duster was parked at the kerb, which meant I had to take the turn by over taking him. To do this I would have to move into the lane where the traffic was on-coming from the opposite direction. This was clearly stupid not to mention dangerous and inconvenient. With a view to caution the driver, I drew up to the Duster to find a man in his late 20’s early 30’s sitting in the driver’s seat. I gestured to him to move on. He lowered his window and feigned ignorance. I then spoke to him gently, letting him know the danger and the impeding traffic jam. His response was he wasn’t going to move because there was no jam just yet; if there was one he would move. I insist he moved to which he asked if I could see a parking spot. I showed him one EXACTLY 2-car length away from him and in the designated parking area. His answer was, he didn’t want to go to the other side of the road. Within the minute of the conversation the traffic was holding up on all sides. It had to happen with me in the wrong lane.

I tried again, this time demanding he see the problem he was creating. He adamantly reminded to me mind my own business, and to consider my age before speaking to him. I am not sure what he meant but I did ask him if he didn’t pick up his brains from the store where he bought the SUV. He could only say “Oh, yeah?” repeatedly. He didn’t make any threatening moves and continued to sit inside his SUV probably praying I move on. I had to drive past him since the traffic was not going to get moving unless one of us moved. I also had to get my daughter home.

When we were passed him, my daughter asked me a simple question. “Why did the man not want to move his car, daddy?” Even this morning, I have no answer for her.

Perhaps it’s my age; I am told older men get cranky. I am sure in my 20’s or 30’s I too thought older people were cranky. But the owner of the Duster left me flummoxed. It was clear the man was educated; he spoke fluent English. He drove an expensive car. He was clearly waiting for someone who had gone to the temple and I am assuming it’s someone older than he is. The temple is on the opposite side of the road and this means the passenger would have to cross the road to reach the car. There is a perfectly good parking spot in the designated parking area. And most of all, standing on the road is going to inconvenience many more people than the simple convenience it brought him (the driver).

Given all these facts, I continue to wonder about the choice the man made. Why would he choose to inconvenience so many for such a trivial gain, even if there was one? It took me back to the meaning of success. Look at anyone who has made a mark in life and you will find them overcoming grave odds to ensure they did the right thing. It is the principle of disciplining oneself WITHOUT waiting to be disciplined that we are rapidly forgetting. And worse, we are not passing it on to the next generation.

The same scene played out earlier too. At the Savitri Theatre turning there is a sign clearly proclaiming NO HALTING, NO PARKING. It goes on to threaten penal action. To even a first timer crossing the junction one would know that if a single car stalled, the traffic would back up in 3 directions. But that doesn’t deter owners of large cars. The same morning a large Toyota stopped with its lights flashing. There was nothing wrong with the car. The driver got off to help his boss out of the car. I pulled up next to him and pointed to the sign. He pleaded he would be gone in a minute. The boss was an able-bodied, and rich (since he owned the car or at the very least had access to it), 40 something year old. He didn’t budge an inch till his driver came around and opened the door and his lordship stepped out. I left in exasperation; the traffic had already backed up quite a bit.

The same question of disciplining oneself kept haunting me. Why are we not responsible for our actions especially when it inconveniences so many? How much have we degenerated?

There was a refreshing change this morning that prompted me to write this blog. I have an automatic water (pump) sensor installed. It was malfunctioning and yesterday I had complained about this to the manufacturer. He sent a technician to look at it. The technician arrived on a bicycle that had seen better days. I went with him to the sensor installation. He checked the wiring and spent about 15 minutes tinkering with the system. He then tested it for me. I was visibly happy it worked. I reached for my wallet to tip the man and pulled out a Rs. 50 bill. He looked at me and refused to take it. He said he was just doing his job and there was no need for me to tip him. I stopped in my tracks. I asked if he would like to eat or drink something. He said he was thirsty and could do with some water. I asked for some water and also for a cold drink for him. When the drinks arrived, the man reached only for the water. I asked him to partake the cold drink. He said he was happy with just water.

He left leaving me dazed. In this day and age there was a man who was true to his work and lived within his means. He didn’t own a fancy car and didn’t speak fluent English. But he was clearly way above the others I encountered yesterday.

If there was an opportunity to work with any of the three people, who do you think would be the most reliable to work with…

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About Vivek Mehra

I am currently the MD & CEO of SAGE Publications India. But I wear many hats that make me the person I am. Between the (public) professional life and the very deep and private recesses of my brain lies a universe of thoughts, actions and beliefs. These have been shaped by events, people and perhaps Karma. It's this universe I seek to put in words. When everything else failed me professionally, it was the power of my words that not just resurrected a career but brought back life to life. It is with these words that I continue to make a difference with those whose karma connects mine. Sometimes it's direct and most times it's not. But the essence of who I am never changes and I remain a person searching for himself. Update: In 2014 I published my first book on Kindle. It was written in 1999 and it never saw the light of day. Reader input welcome... http://tinyurl.com/7shadesofgrey
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