Homo altruisticus- my anubhooti.
Prof. B. M. Hegde,
Vernon Smith and Daniel Kahneman, of the famous Chicago University, wrote an experimental study paper on their “scientific “study at the Chicago Stock Exchange of human honesty. They demonstrated that all humans are hardwired to be altruistic and basically very good. The Nobel Committee did not waste time to give them the Nobel Prize in 2002 for economics. John Little, a young but brilliant professor of the same University, repeated the same experiment without daily watching what people did and showed that while not being watched, everyone cheated everyone. He wrote a paper in the same journal on Homo Economicus which demonstrated that greedy people threw honesty into the thin air when monetary benefit was involved. Truth is bitter and can only influence half a score of men in a century while falsehood and mystery will drag millions by the nose. Even the Nobel committee goes by falsehood and mystery! What one does when no one is watching is one’s culture.
I make mistakes too often because of altruism. My recent experience (anubhooti) is worth recording here for others’ benefit. I was returning from my village yesterday after attending a funeral function in the family. It was an unusually hot afternoon at 2 PM. The village roads could be quite hostile too. En route in the middle of the jungle I noticed an elderly person waiting in a bus shelter to catch a bus that runs infrequently in that village road. By that time our taxi driver had crossed the bus stop. I asked to stop and go back to pick up the elderly person if he is going on our way so that his heat and anxiety could be relieved. Reluctantly, he obliged grumbling that it is not a good idea to help people in such situations. I get some pleasure in helping people in distress. Man was going to Manipal which was on my way anyway. We made some room for him in the car and took him in the front seat all by himself. We even got the front seat pulled back for him to stretch his legs. Man seemed to be happy but did not look that he was obliged to us. That is fine.
The man was a retired employee of the Kirloskar’s factory for thirty years and now that he is retired and had lost his wife he came from North Karnataka to Manipal to stay with his nephew working here in Manipal. He had come to our village temple for a function and a midday meal. By then we had reached the main Manipal road. Manipal was eight miles away. Let us call him Ram for short, not his name though, for our discussion here. Ram was very happy all through but never once told even by mistake that he was obliged to us for picking him up.
Three miles short of Manipal is this small hamlet called Parkala where my wife’s uncle lives alone. He is a good 93 years old and feels happy if I just stop over and wish him. He is very active and fit. When we reached the house on our road side I asked the driver to stop for five minutes for me to see the old man and wish him. I asked Ram for his permission and he said “of course, I am in no hurry”. I told the driver to keep the A/C on lest Ram should feel hot inside a stationary car; I hope that the driver did oblige. In our part of the world the roads go up and down always. The car had stopped on an incline facing down towards Manipal.
My uncle was happy and I came back in jiffy with some of his home grown excellent mangoes in my hand and wanted to share them with Ram. As I got in the car would not start with the AC on. The driver told me that it needs only a push. As I got down to push the car Ram from the front seat saw a Manipal city bus behind us. He quietly got down from the seat and closed the door telling that “this car might take time to start; I am going” and got into that bus to go to Manipal three miles away! Not even a western “Thank You” was thrown at us. The irony was that the car started soon after and we overtook the same bus much before it reached Manipal. Ram was in that bus.
I had to suffer a long lecture on my going out of the way to help strangers as this driver had warned me earlier also against it. I use the same company taxi to go out of Mangalore and all the boys are well aware of this bad habit of mine. I too understand that this bad habit of mine is risky but I just cannot resist it when I see someone in trouble. This has become a compulsion with me. I feel a special feeling of exhilaration when I do something for others and I cannot explain that happiness as I feel happiness is just giving. The driver was telling me that most, if not all, people in this world are our Ram’s close relatives and ingratitude is in their blood. How very true? Ram, having had the luxury of travelling ten miles in the hot sun on village roads in our AC car did not bat an eyelid to desert us when we seemed to be in trouble. It was just 2.30 pm and he was almost at Manipal by then. The man looked very nice outwardly; little did I realise that he was so blatantly ungrateful.
I have suffered so much of it in my life that I feel it is the rule rather than exception. I laugh it off when people become Rams in my life. If someone is grateful I feel s/he is not normal although Indian culture says gratitude is a virtue and ingratitude is the biggest sin! My anubhooti in this world says that ingratitude is the norm and gratitude an exception. When you learn from life you realise that you can comprehend a lot more than can you grasp in the backdrop of the quantum world view. Life is a school and we are all students all our life. Thank you Ram for fortifying my belief. Thank you Professor John Little for exposing the real truth. Yaksha prasna indeed! World is a drama, Maya- a worlichkiet.