Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Trusting a stranger

Swami Nikhilaananda asked: 
"What would you base trust on, when you trust a stranger?"

 I have a very interesting experience to share. This happened perhaps a year back. I was riding on the outer ring road, in Marathahalli, where the roads are really broad. I had to go a little beyond my office and then take a U turn to go on the service road and come back a little to reach the office. Since I was on the main road and had to come to the service road, I had slowed down considerably and was on the extreme left, ready to make the turn. The road is really broad and hardly had vehicles. And then suddenly, someone rammed into me from the rear, and I jumped off my bike. I didn't fall, and landed on the pavement, on my feet like a cat. I turned back and saw my bike on the road, and behind it an Activa lying on its side, and a man sprawled, face down, doing the saashtaanga namaskaara.

Within a few seconds a small crowd gathered, asking if we were alright. They picked the vehicles and helped him up. I was a little confused. It was a JD (from Scrubs) moment for me, where I tilted my head to the side and drifted off, imagining - "It was like putting a chair in the middle of a ground, and seeing a man trip over it." The whole road was empty, and he picks me in the side of the road to ram into. One man came to me and said 'Don't leave that man, make sure you collect the money'. A few minutes later, on seeing that both of us were alright, the crowd dispersed, leaving us to our fate. The man, brushed the dust off his clothes, and looked at me. I asked him, "Are you alright?" I was genuinely concerned. The way in which he lay sprawled a few minutes earlier, was like he had died. And he said "Yeah, I am. Ok, see you buddy".

SEE YOU BUDDY? "Hey hey, wait a minute, who's going to pay for my bike?" I asked. "Why should I pay?" He replied. I got annoyed. "You are the one who came and hit me, I was all the way over here" I pointed to the side. "Yeah, so what? Even my bike is damaged" - Seriously?!? I said "Dude! That is also your fault only. What kind of an excuse is that?" Finally, he said "Ok, I am running late for a meeting. Here, take my card. Let me know what the estimate is." He offered his visiting card to me. I took it, looked at the man - he was in formals with a tie, and the card showed he was from a reputed IT company, and was in a good position. "Ok, fine." I said, and he rode away. I had to slowly push my bike to a service centre which was fortunately 200 metres away.

I sent him an email with the cost of repairs and my account number. Called him up and told him. He promptly transferred the amount to my account. Note that I am not as gullible as I might sound. I have a policy of taking photographs  of the number plate with my phone, as well as miscellaneous images like probably the other driver, which I did take that day as well. Worst case, I could have filed a hit and run case if he did indeed renege.

Today I was riding home and a car in front of me slammed brakes for some reason. So did I. I was wondering what would have happened if I bumped into him from the rear? Well, I would have had to apologise, say it was my fault, promise him to pay the money. But assume that I had a meeting. I would say "I have a meeting, here, take my card" just like what was told to me. Well, it occurred to me that I was not carrying my card (I don't have one now) but I remembered that I have the card of my personal banker. If I did give him that card, what would have happened?

What I am getting to is, what if that man had given be a card that belonged to someone else? You either trust him or you don't. If you don't, you can create a scene, take him to a service centre and get the money out from him. If he was running late for a meeting, it is his funeral. You didn't ask him to come hit you. That is how you would have thought. Fair enough. But if he did have an urgent meeting, he is in trouble. On the other hand, if you were a trusting person, and he gave you the card of his banker, and you call up subsequently and the banker is as lost as you are after a few minutes of incoherent exchanges of words, you will realise that there is no way to trace that guy if you had not taken down his vehicle number. The banker's card is given to a hundred different people.

Thus, what is the basis of trusting a stranger? There are innumerable cases of strangers duping people. But will you follow a policy of eternal cynicism? Better safe than sorry is a smart approach in my opinion. It is fortunate that a gentleman bumped into me. But if you did encounter a smooth talking, polished looking guy who gave you his card, I would still recommend taking photographs. Almost everyone uses a phone with a camera these days. Never go by face value. In fact, glib people are often slimy.

Comments from Facebook

Sriharsha Sistalam M: You can do nothing at that point if he gives a big smile & apologizes sincerely..

Skanda Guruanand: @‎Sriharsha Sistalam M: I think, u can't expect that from a guy. If its a girl, then to some extent it can be possible! :P

Murlidhar Baliga: I believe that in US it is an accepted practice and when bills are presented they are paid too.

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