I never cease to be amazed by our everyday life in India. Its better than any reality game show I know of. Every single day is filled with situations, what I call tasks, which require solutions which are counter intuitive and complex. Surely anyone claiming to be bored by their mundane lives are not looking at their lives, and complex task solving capabilities, enough. In India, at any given time, if you are dealing with another person or an entity, you are constantly solving a very complex task. How do I get out of this situation without being cheated. Transactions of all forms force us to use concepts of Game Theory to ascertain we are not being ripped off. We look at everything as a Symmetric Game. We always put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and think, “What would the despicable me do”.
Lets take the example of the most rudimentary of chores, filling fuel at a gas station. I have lost count of the number of times I got cheated by one (or more) of the station attendants. Some of their vile tricks include: The flick of the fuel gun switch to jump to an older higher value, the called out “zero sir” jumping directly to 100, the accomplice distracting me on the pretext of payment while the attendant finishes before the full amount and resets the meter. The most despicable one I almost fell for was the old switcharoo. Two attendants shout out the amount of fuel each person has requested for, then both switch the guns on either sides of the pump, they start filling almost simultaneously and end at wrong figures . Confusion then follows an attempt at correction all the while one person is being led to believe that he/she has had their full share of fuel. There is plenty more.
Lets take the city bus as another example. A well dressed person who pays Rs 10 for Rs 8 ticket never gets back the remainder Rs 2 unless he/she demands it. A large take away order at a hotel always has one or two items lesser than requested for. A large group of people at a restaurant always get billed more than they consumed because they couldn’t remember how much they ordered. The billing clerk at the mall zaps the item on the bar code reader twice when the person is distracted by some free samples or is looking for money to pay the bill. Auto-rickshaw drivers rigging their meters to over charge people. A bunch of my friends even launched a product to combat the Auto Driver menace, checkout Suruk. The regional transport officer who gives you the driving test fails you at least 3 times if you don’t go via a middle man or a driving school. You could be Micheal Schumacher , but you cannot pass the driving test with a clean conscience. Old folks at the pension office have to bribe the pension official 10% of the pension amount for their own money to be released. Shopkeepers selling their wares showing you one thing and selling you a (already known) defective item. People slipping in a torn currency note amongst many notes in the hopes that you wont notice.Your domestic help stealing from you when you are not around. The taxi driver who hasn’t been hired the entire day boxing you in forcing you to hit him so he can walk away with damage money. A random person knocking on your door claiming to be the milkman, paper boy etc and asking for the monthly charges. Your car or bike mechanic replacing new parts in your vehicle for old ones. You cannot get any government document, be it a birth certificate, marriage certificate or even death certificate, without paying a bribe. Meritorious students who get scholarships from the government have to pay a bribe to get their rewards. And almost no relief money reaches any victim. These are just some of the countless situations that one faces in everyday life.
Its no wonder people are double cautious when it comes to any form of a transaction. So much so that even altruism takes a beating, charities cannot get donations because of the numerous fake charity agencies cashing in. One has to be at the top of their game if they have to ensure a just and fair deal. There is never a dull moment when I transact with other people. This behavioral characteristic has a severe impact on businesses. The dismal adoption of online shopping, (why! my mom doesn’t believe in online banking), shopping malls, glitzy showrooms etc are proof that this disturbing characteristic is guaranteeing us sub standard experience in everything. I cannot even dream of buying electronics online, self filling gas stations or a corruption free government departments in India. Let me not even talk about the polity in the country. We probably have the most independent and cognizant judiciary, completely isolated from the legislature, but at least 50% of the politicians in any state have cases against them. Why, you can even contest and win elections, and secure a seat in the parliament, all while being incarcerated.
It is unfortunate that we have to be subjected to such treachery and malice in our everyday life. But hey, that’s the circle of life isn’t it. They do it to us because someone else does it to them. The ones that suffer the most are people like us, the ones who try to be ( and I say try to be) fair and just. Screw reality shows.