It's 11:40 at night and I feel a little confessional, so here goes.
I had got up late that morning. There was this task in office which I had left unfinished even after working late into the previous night. If there was any way around it, at least I couldn't see it. And I was gonna be late again. I skipped breakfast and jumped into the nearest pair of office formals I could find. I then gunned my bike's engine and after riding for about 5 minutes realized that my cell phone wasn't on me. At the busy Moulali crossing, I pulled over at a ramshackle old STD/PCO to call up my parents on the landline and ask them to look around for the phone at home. It had been only a couple of days before that I had lost a mobile phone and I was feeling really irritated at the possibility of having lost another one. My patience was at the end of it's tether and I was stressed out to the point of explosion. If my worst fears were to be confirmed and my luck was taking the same course as it had during that week, the phone had popped out of my pocket and fallen on the roadside. I needed to confirm or deny that and for that I needed the pay phone to work.
And as fate would have it, the ramshackle STD/PCO's phone was as ramshackle as its shelter. The calls wouldn't go through and the doddering, old man in charge couldn't make it work either. To top it all, the call jumped 3 times and I was supposed to pay for 3 calls which never went through. It was a pressure cooker inside and unfortunately the steam blew up in the old man's direction. I called him in no uncertain terms a 'chor' (thief). His reaction to my accusation makes me feel really guilty now but at that point of time I was too angry to notice. He convulsed, and almost choked saying "Are you calling me a thief? How dare you?" He looked like he was really going to collapse. Another old lady, a customer of his requested me to take my words back. But I was too far gone then. I just slapped the money due on the desk and walked away, leaving the old man sputtering and the old lady spouting a lengthy sermon on the lack of manners in today's generation behind my back.
I could tell from the instant that I had uttered the word 'chor', that this was an honest man with some kind of a glitch on his machine. There was genuine hurt in his voice and pain in his expression. But I had already uncorked my suppressed anger and there was no holding back. That unfortunately seems to be the fate of every honest man. Live through your life holding on to morals or ideals that are so unrewarding to hold on to when there is decay all around and then one day have a young whippersnapper come in and accuse you of what you had held a principled stand against all your life. Many times since that day, I have wanted to stop by and apologize to that old man, but I am not sure whether that'd help heal or cause more heartburn even before I get a chance to open my mouth.
That essentially is the reality of holding on to your scruples. It's about the Gita's very uninspiring statement "Karm karo, phal ki aashaa mat karo" (Do what is right, but do not expect any return). Because there is hardly ever any return and the need is to soldier on despite that. I also believe that what goes around, comes around. One day when I am old and weak, I'll have someone come and accuse me of a crime so preposterous and baseless that I'd be dumbstruck. And that is how I'll be paid in the same coin for my behaviour that day. Well, I am prepared and thoroughly deserve such a kick in the A, unlike the old gentleman who was the focus of my ire that unfortunate day.