Friday, August 04, 2006

Did I do the right thing?

Date: Monday, 31st July 2006
11:30 PM
Place: Madhapur,

I had to stay late at office to attend a client meeting. My office is in a village about nine kilometres from my house. So an office cab dropped me on the main road near my house about half an hour before midnight.

To reach my house, I have to walk around 500 metres down a lane lined with trees and a couple of houses on one side and a big function hall on the other. On a non-function night, this road can be unusually dark and quiet. On such a night I would have probably told the cab driver to take me right up to my gate. However, on this night bright floodlights lit up the lane. Obviously a wedding or some other kind of function had been going on. Since there were some other people in the cab to be dropped, I alighted at the main road and proceeded to walk down the lane.

The lane was brightly lit, and one or two people could be seen as I started walking towards my house. I was holding my mobile phone in my hand. A man came from the other end. He was wearing a wrinkled shirt with a flowery pattern and dirty trousers. He had an unkempt beard. His overall appearance was extremely shabby. He longingly eyed my hand holding the mobile phone.

As he reached me, he said (in Hindi) “Sir, may I borrow your phone for a moment, I need to give a missed call to my boss.” Even without thinking, I blurted out, “I don’t have balance in my cell.”

“Please sir, I’ll just give a missed call,” he insisted. I still refused. At last he said, “OK, I’ll tell you the number, you dial it yourself.” I’m not very good at lying, and almost agreed to that plan, before realizing that I was not supposed to have balance. “Oh ok, tell me…er… but I don’t think it’ll work”, was my half-cooked reply. But instead of telling me the number, he told me how he needed to call his boss badly, but couldn’t as he didn’t know the public phone booths in the area.

I gave him directions for finding a phone booth, and he left with a “Thanks” and “Sorry to bother you”. As I saw him go, I felt very sure that he wouldn’t find a phone booth open anywhere nearby at this time of the night, in case he really needed it.

Did I do the right thing? Or did I refuse help to a really needy person in trouble? I have no way of telling now. But one thing I’m sure of: given a similar situation again, I will react in the exact same way. Probably my lie will be more convincing this time. In any case, I’m never going to lend my phone to a rough-looking person in an empty lane at half past eleven in the night. Not even if he truly needs it.

When we lose faith in some of our fellow human beings, everybody has to suffer in the end.


  1. I think u did the right thing.. bcs he did not tell u the number.. however.. we do have a prejudice against shabbily dressed people or the "poor". And they return the feeling!.

  2. Did I do the right thing?

    If you asked that question in a Buddhist monastery, the answer would probably be: "Who asks the question"?

    The fact that you even stopped to ask the question also says something about you.

  3. Interesting episode. What about some others who fleece us in the middle of the day? Read my latest post if you don't believe it.

  4. .:When we lose faith in some of our fellow human beings, everybody has to suffer in the end.:

    I guess this is not the justification of what you did that night. Am I right?

    What ever you did was right only. The best way to deal with such unknown people is to confirm their identity first and the reason. The person you met was not ready to reveal both. Reamining things like "flowery pattern and dirty trousers" is not important and cannot be cause of rejection. As you can find doctors, engineers, banking employes, police, so called WHITE collor people having links with bAD elements.

  5. @how do we know: We have a prejudice, that is the crux of the matter. But our prejudice is not without a valid reason too.

    @km: Well, what should I say... I do think a lot about such things, perhaps more than what is necessary.

    @hiren: Done.

    @abhijeet: I disagree with you here. If it was a gentleman in a clean suit, accompanied by a well dressed lady, maybe a child... and he had asked for that phone, I would have probably given it.
    My sixth sense told me that night that this guy wasn't upright. However, recent scientific studies suggest that sixth sense is not a separate sense but an analysis done by our subconscious mind using data received from our five senses and personal experiences. So his clothes, his beard, his looks, mannerisms, everything contributed to the decision.Exactly what I saw, I cannot say.
    Only thing I wanted to say here is, the sixth sense can often be wrong. But even then, we don't usually give the benefit of doubt to the stranger because we don't trust him.

  6. Joy, I believe you did the right thing by not entrusting a stranger with your cell phone at the middle of the night. We are living not in the safest of time. The phone call could've been to any criminal who could be watched by the cops. If the phone call gets traced to your cell, just think the proverbial 18 "gha" from the tiger.Believe me an aquintance was badly harrased by IT guys as he gave a cheque to his landlord who insisted that he would put the withdrawee's name on it.Even for a man in suit I would advice you the same thing.And before I sign off,a belated congrats on winning the award.

  7. @bishu: Heh heh I wasn't thinking on those lines. I was more afraid that the guy would take my phone and run away. Now that I've read your comment, I'll stop trusting even the well dressed guys.
    And thanks for the congrats!