Tuesday we hired a three-wheeler driver to bring us home after a day at Fort Kochi, after a day of sightseeing. The trip home was some 18 km, and cost about 6 dollars. The driver and we talked about kids and grandkids. Faisa has three girls under 8.
The transaction that led to our long cab ride home was in many ways a typical barter. We asked the cost, he quoted us a fee, we refused and walked away. He called after us and offered a lower fee. We asked why the fee was so high. He told us the distance, and remarked that gas is expensive. We balked and he lowered the price again, at which point we accepted. By the time we arrived at the hotel we knew his first offer had been more than fair. We acknowledged that and paid him accordingly.
Today we ran into him again. He was eager for a fare for it had been a painfully slow day. We were walking short distances between buildings being used to exhibit art during the Kochi International Art Bienniele, and did not need his services, so we suggested he watch for us later. After viewing a good deal of art, and enjoying a very leisurely lunch by the sea, we hopped into his cab and set out to do errands. Faisa was genuinely helpful, and patient. BY the time we were ready to head home the afternoon was merging with evening. We were planning to catch a water taxi but realized we were hot and tired, and changing our minds, asked him to bring us back to the hotel.
Faisa probably lives very much day-to-day. He may own his own three wheeled cab, but relies on receiving many small (50 cents) a day in order to make ends meet. He is far from affluent, yet may do better than many. Our Western affluence is most likely impossible for him to comprehend, as is our cost of living.
There is a Six Nations saying that, “The Creator gave us all we need. Any problems with lack are created by people and greed.” It often seems to me that we forget the generosity of the Creator. Rather than live within our collective means, we create stories about worth and laziness to justify the unfair distribution of resources, and the suffering that arises from it, stories that effectively transfer responsibility from us to the others.
These stories also encourage us to forget that we are ultimately one being, that we are each composed of the totality of all beings in the system. We are each the cabbie, the beggar, and the Westerner in the back seat. These stories attempt to hide the realty that whatever befalls one of us befalls all of us. Maybe we need truer stories.
Tomorrow we end our brief Kochi vacation, fly to Bangalore, and begin work.