Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'Watch' It !

In early 90’s, in my college days, I used to get my shining black Royal Enfield serviced from a particular mechanic on much disciplined schedule. He used to regard me a lot and money for his services was never an issue among us. Many times he would refuse charging me anything, many times he would ask me to keep his fee with me safe only for his emergency time and many times he would ask me (and usually would get) for some money for his ‘half’ of whisky without any account. But story I am telling today is not of that mechanic but about something else.

The ‘workshop’ of that mechanic was so small that it consists only two hand held tool kits and one stool for himself and he used to sat outside a spare parts shop. While every service I had to buy some spares from that shop and the shopkeeper was very shrewd and used to charge too much for even cheep spare taking advantage of his only shop in that area. Being an experienced bike owner, at every purchase I used to insist him for genuine prices as I was very much aware of the prices and brands of the spares but he would simply not listen to me. I never liked his attitude and always advised my mechanic to shift his place to somewhere else.

One day there was some extra repair had to be done to my bike and some parts to be replaced. In the evening, when I went to collect my bike after repairs, while settling the account of spares I noticed some prices charged unnecessarily and other too high than actual rates. Though I filed with irritation but I had decided not to say a word. While checking his hand written bill, I saw that the shopkeeper had made mistake while calculating the amount and had wrongly written lesser total than actual. The difference was of around Two hundred fifty Rupees which may sound tiny amount today but it was a decent figure in 90’s and that too for a college student like me. The wrong calculations of that shopkeeper brought a smile on my face and I thought, “Here comes the judgement day”. For a minute a sense of honesty came to my mind and impelled me to correct his mistake but my disliking for his attitude stopped me immediately and ordered me to take advantage of his mistake. I paid his lesser calculated amount to him and inside my ego was bit satisfied by giving a slap of two hundred fifty rupees to that cunning shopkeeper.

Few days later, I had to visit a marriage function of a friend in a remote village. I along some other friends drove in my car to the nearest road around 60 Km from my town and then we had to walk uphill around two kilometers above the road to reach that village. Though we reached the village easily and enjoyed the marriage party, we faced great difficulty returning back downward on that trek. Trek was too narrow and was turned very slippery cause of the fallen needles like leaves of deodar trees. Some of us slipped and fell very dangerously including me. Luckily no one was hurt badly.

Next day while getting ready for college I saw my wrist watch was missing. “I surely have dropped that watch when I fell on that trek”, I thought while rubbing a small bruise on my left wrist and after uselessly searching entire home for my watch. Damn, it was Titan Fast track and I really loved my watch. I felt too bad for the loss. All the day in the college, I remained engulfed in bad mood and kept thinking of my watch. “You tried to be very smart buddy by saving two hundred and fifty bucks, now enjoy the party, your seven hundred rupees worth watch is gone”, my conscience started bothering me now. I felt like a defeated soldier with injured body and crushed ego. I had no answer.

On the way back home from college, I stopped at the same spare parts shop and went to shopkeeper. I handed him two hundred fifty rupees and told him that I checked the total at home and found his mistake. While handing over the money to him I expected a genuine thank-you gesture from him filled with greatness towards me but that creeper showed no such sign, put the money in chest and got busy in his business. I stand there for a second and then left his counter filled with rage for him once again.

“What was the use of this stupidity”, it was now my hurt ego’s turn to drill me. “You already had lost your watch and now you have thrown more money into waste, and that too for such a thankless person. Be shrewd, man! Who gives a shit to sincerity and honesty these days? Stop acting foolish anymore now”, my ego preached me. I spent a restless night that evening.

Is the story over? For me, yes it was. I was left with a bitter lesson and an expensive one, no doubt. But still the lesson was not a clear mandate for me. Even then I was not sure who won that battle of ego and conscience. My conscience kept assuring me that I should have return his money unaffected by his attitude or thanklessness and on the other hand my brain kept suggesting me that when he never gave a fair deal to you how come he deserve a fair deal from you? Loosing the watch was just a coincident.

It was the day, when my friend visited my home back from his village after his marriage. He brought sweets for my family members and for me, he had something special. My fast track. One of the guests in their function spotted the watch and asked everyone present there. My friend recognized that it was mine and brought it back.

I smiled from the depth of my heart. And someone else was smiling too, 'my conscience'.


Alka said...

I think conscience is not a subjective matter but objective. You don't have a conscience for others but for yourself. As far as the shopkeeper was concerned, it might be possible that being calculative and manipulative all his life he simply didn't know how to react to finer feelings.

Praney said...

May be you are right Alka, I wonder if some people even have the inner feelings :|

Rajat said...

reading your blog after many days.
sometimes I have also faced the same 'dilemma' but in the end perhaps it's all about being honest with yourself.