Philosophy Lesson during an Auto Ride

Yesterday I was traveling in an auto in Bangalore. When I get down the meter reads 37.00. Casually talking over his mobile phone, the auto drivers does half a turn on his meter. Suddenly I notice the reading has changed. It now reads 49.00. I try to give 40 Rs and walks away. He holds me and says meter shows 49.00. I try to tell him it is a result of his twisting the meter. He says that is impossible. And finally I had to give him 50 Rs. I give him his money and then walk away hurling abuses at him. I find myself seething with rage. Even after walking a couple of steps I turn back to shout at him and wave my hand threateningly at him and walk on. Still not satisfied for the next 10 minutes my mind keeps imagining different ways of inflicting pain on the scoundrel and seeking vengeance. Then one part of my mind feels all this kind of vermin must be exterminated.

All this for just Rs. 12, which is not even enough to buy oneself a decent meal. I began to wonder what prompted all this rage. It was definitely not the 12 Rs. The loss of this amount would definitely bring less sadness to me compared to the happiness the gain would bring to the auto driver. It was the outrage at being cheated. But then I delved deeper into the question of what being cheated is at a deeper level. The answer that came was 'lack of control'. By cheating me, the auto driver demonstrated that he was in control of the situation and I was not. What exactly is this control I am talking about? I believe that the world works by certain rules and that if I perform certain actions it would lead to certain results. So I would perform those actions which would lead to the result I want. The feeling of lack of control comes when somebody intervenes to bring about a different unexpected result.So that creates anger. Thinking further I found this lack of control was the cause for anger in most cases. Anger towards the boss in office, anger towards rulers of the land, anger towards parents: all these are in a way a manifestation of this helplessness.

So how to remedy this situation? Two solutions presented themselves. One is to be in complete control of your life and surroundings. Both my favorite fictional characters are such people. One was God emperor Leto from Frank Herbert's Dune series who was able to control an entire universe for 3500 years. The other is Sherlock Holmes, who is completely in control against the 18th century British world of crime. Nobody ever takes these 2 character by surprise. They are always aware what is happening so much so that they are able to control the time and means of their death in such a way to suit their broader plan.

The other way is to totally giving up the idea of control. This would tend towards the fatalistic philosophy of Epicures. Or the more proactive philosophy of the Gita, the most profound Hindu scripture that categorically declares "Action alone is yours, never the fruits thereof". My hero in real life 'Swami Vivekananda' is an epitome of this philosophy. Nothing could perturb him. When a bull was charging at him, he stood calmly waiting, calculating the distance he would be tossed by the impact of the bull's horns. He displays this "I don't give a damn come what may" attitude on many occasions in his life. It is up to the individual which way to choose - the way of the king or the way or the saint.

28 comments:

Vishnu said...

IMHO, Gitas philosophy describes it best. Actually, you did have control over your situation. You lost control only when you got caught up in the situation and in that process became unconcious and angry. Were you angry because you had lost control or had you lost control because you were angry?

A said...

Once, after a particularly frustrating auto ride a in Bangalore, my friend flung an empty Coke bottle at the retreating rick.

I, on the other hand, had myself well in hand. I mentally butchered and fried the guy in boiling oil.

It's all about control ;)

The Fool said...

@ A - Lol.

Barun Mitra said...

Two other fictional characters that come to my mind in such a context, are - Howard Roark in the Fountainhead, and John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. They were in control, because they could not be hurt!

The Fool said...

@Barun - They were more in the league of not caring about others than being able to actually control the environment

saikat mbka ghosh said...

I dnt give a damn that come my way...!! attitude man...lovely enlightening post :)

C. Suresh said...

True TF! The only two options are control over the environment or control over how you react to the environment i.e control over your self. The former does not allow you complete serenity since you will always have to be on the alert for new surprises that the environment may throw at you. The latter is the only path of serenity.

Great that an usual brush with the autowallahs of Bangalore should have set you thinking about something profound.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Saikat.

The Fool said...

Glad you like it , CS. This is very much up your alley. Stopped writing these kinds long since.

umashankar said...

Amazing how you rationalised your legitimate outrage on a blatant larceny into loss of control! Yet, I am inclined to empathize with you rather than the philosophy of Swami Vivekanand, bless his soul, that prefers to calculate the distance one would be tossed by the impact of the bull's horns rather than run for one's life!

I believe it is your first post, old in years. Belated congratulations!

Zephyr said...

whether or not you had lost control with the autowala, the fact that it made you ruminate higher stuff is proof of the profundity of your thought process. :)

As for the Gita dictum, I try to follow it :(

TTT said...

Now days I feel like asking the auto guys in b'lore which way they are heading, to check out if my destination falls on the way :) Anyways look at the brighter side ... you turned all philosophical and we got such a nice post to read :)

indu chhibber said...

Your analysis of the reason behind your anger is profound--whether it is about being defeated,or being exposed,or being humiliated,or being discriminated against--whatever be the case;at the bottom of anger is this feeling of loss of control.

Panchali said...

Goodness me...
A reverential study of the Gita is
bound to enrich one’s mind...LOL
There are many occasions in our lives when we are caught up in the rat race and we do wonder about its relevance in the grand scheme of things...:)
At my age, I try to follow the 'saint way':P
Fantastic!

The Fool said...

Thanks, umashankar. Sometimes we can only fume and not not in a position to take any action. Then fuming is only harming ourselves. So better not to fume is what I felt. This is as I said a 4 year old post where all my blogging began.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Zephyr. True. Sometimes these incidents makes one reflect over life. Somehow this was the only occasion it occurred to me to pen it.

The Fool said...

Thanks TTT. When you can't prevent something, you have no option but to look at the brighter side.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Indu. That is the point I was trying to convey. It suddenly occurred to me as an insight as my anger against the auto driver subsided.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Panchali. True words. But then the world is such. AT times you feel the pointlessness of the whole thing. But next moment you are back running desperately trying to win.

Arti said...

Beautiful analysis on a situation that we all have encountered at some point in our lives, including me. This was enlightening, TF. Loved your philosophical lesson - especially part 2 (giving up the idea of control). I will remember it and try to inculcate it in my daily life.

Many thanks for sharing it. :)

Sabyasachi Patra | Tales from Wild India said...

Nicely written. They way you have analysed the situation is very nice. It is indeed a case of losing control. It always bothers us that someone has taken undue advantage and we couldn't do anything about it.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Arti. Glad you liked it.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Sabyasachi. Glad you liked my analysis. So many positive comments are encouraging me to write more these kind of posts.

debajyoti said...

never thought about it. very profound analysis!!

i would opt for 'the way of the saint' because i can never be in control of my surroundings :D

gunjan kumar said...

It has always been the situation of who controls and how he controls and how the one being is controlled.Well written.I have also sometime had a verbal fight on these issues.Sometimes i won and sometime i lose.And by winning never gave pleasure with money-return satisfaction but by losing i always clearly observed the happiness of the driver.The happiness of earning more,which may be either hook or crook.
_Gunjan Sinha

Ghazala Hossain said...

No matter how much we philosophize the situation, that Auto driver had no business cheating you :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Gunjan. True,

The Fool said...

@Ghazala - See either I philosophize or become strong enough to teach him a lesson. No point just fuming, right? That is the point I wanted to convey.

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