Legacy of honesty still exists today!

Does being rich or poor make any difference in being honest? Or does honesty just depend upon one's mindset? Arathi Manay Yajaman analyses the issue through her own experiences.

For many of us, our wallets contain our life history. Mine did, at least till recently. PAN Card, driving licence, voters ID card. Credit cards, debit cards, membership cards, shopping privilege cards. Photos, postage stamps, not-in-use SIM cards, bills, other people’s visiting cards. Money.

After a busy morning in the Brookfields area, I had stopped by at Mayura Restaurant in Kundalahalli to satisfy my grumbling stomach. I not only ate but also packed a few things to carry back home to the family. Relieved at having completed most of what I needed to do that morning, I was anxious to cover the 18 km back home quickly, and given it was non-peak time, the drive was quite uninterrupted. I had already driven more than three-quarters of the way when I got a call on my mobile. I stopped the car on the side of the road to answer, and my brother who was the one calling told me I had lost my wallet… in a restaurant in Kundalahalli Colony. Now how did he know when I myself didn’t? I checked my bag and indeed, my wallet was missing!

It turned out that I had left my black wallet on the black granite top of the restaurant’s cash counter. The camouflage was so good that it deceived me too! Luckily for me, a few colleagues from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), located round the corner, decided to have their lunch at Mayura that day. One of them, Mr Mohan Malvi saw the wallet on the counter. He said he saw a man pick it up, leave it down, pick it up, leave it down again. As it looked like a woman’s wallet, he suspected that it did not belong to the man. So he boldly lifted it, opened it and looked inside. It wouldn’t have taken him long to realize that he had found what someone had lost.

The next half hour or so, he spent trying to trace me. He knew where I probably lived – from my Driving License and Voters ID Card. But he couldn’t find my number to reach me. He was probably confused too because there were linkages to other cities as well. However, he was extremely resourceful. He had scanned through all the cards in the wallet to get clues. He called MedPlus (there was a MedPlus Discount Card) and they gave him two numbers from their records, both of which do not exist now. He called some of the Clubs and other numbers he found, but couldn’t get through any of them at lunch time.

My brother’s visiting card carried the same surname… “They must be related,” he thought. So he called my brother’s office (because the card had only landline numbers), only to be told that he was in a meeting. The presence of mind on the part of Mohan and the person who took the call (Mr S) was what finally saved me a lot of trouble. Mr Mohan dictated a message to Mr S along with his mobile number, and Mr S sent it as an SMS to my brother. And that is how the message finally reached me.

I lost no time in turning back for a 40 minute drive to the gates of AAI. Mr Mohan and his three friends came out to give me back my wallet. Everything was inside. I was really fortunate that it was they and not anyone else who found the wallet. It was not just the honesty but the thought that went into tracing me. As a last resort, he would have landed up at my home.

During the conversation I told them that I’d learnt my lesson and would never keep all my IDs and cards in the wallet again. One of the friends jokingly said that he too had thought the same thing when he lost his wallet long ago and today his wallet still carries everything!

One useful piece of advice he shared: Keep a book at home where you write the numbers of all the cards, including the customer care numbers. Better still, keep photocopies of the front and back of all the cards in a safe place, so that you have it easier to block the relevant cards and/ or get replacements.

The next day I dropped off a box of Pulla Reddy Sweets at AAI, with a “Thank you” note for Mr Mohan Malvi and his friends. And I’ve revised the contents of my wallet so that it has just the essentials.

Another piece of advice: Keep a contact number in your wallet. Also put a sticker with contact number on your valuable gadgets such as mobile phone, camera, laptop. If anyone honest finds it, he/ she will have an opportunity to reach out to you.

Not being rich – does it make a difference in honesty?

A thought that crosses the mind: If someone “devious” or “not rich” had got hold of my wallet, would the situation have been different? If devious – maybe yes. He/ she may have taken the money and used the credit cards. If not rich – maybe not, as my friend Sharmila Mathew recently posted on facebook:

“She lost it, she lost it, but now she has found it! What a great morning! I lost my wallet near MG Road last night and was very upset with my carelessness especially with all my Dubai ID cards, Credit cards, Debit cards and foreign currency. A very honest auto driver from Jayanagar found it and returned it to me at my house with just the help of my address on my Indian driving license. So grateful (Thank you Sir). My loss would have totally messed up my holiday plans (modern dependence on a cashless society). Praying for a blessed (uneventful) vacation ahead. —  feeling great.”

wallet found
The wallet returns! (Pic courtesy: Sharmila Mathew)

The auto driver was a random stranger who picked the wallet up from the street after it was soaked in the monsoon rain deluge and went looking for Sharmila the next morning. “He was a little petrified to even be photographed (unfortunately he did not even give me his name) so I asked for his hands to be photographed and he obliged. I think he was scared to be hounded, because of the incident”, says Sharmila.

With people like Mr Mohan and this unnamed auto driver, we know that there is hope for the future.

“No legacy is so rich as Honesty.” – William Shakespeare, All’s Well that Ends Well

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