The other day, I read about this exercise by a globally-renowned publication to identify the most honest cities in the world. The eternal cynic in me kicked in. I mean, really? Scribes of the publication ‘lost’ their wallets in 10 different cities to test the honesty of its residents. But can you rate the honesty of entire cities by the number of wallets that are returned? For instance, there were just 12 wallets “dropped” in Mumbai – a teeming city of about 26 million. Maybe it was one of those days when the morally strong and upright were out and about in numbers; so nine of those 12 lost wallets were returned!
Even as these thoughts ran through my mind, I recalled how my wife’s two precious rings (precious not just because of their monetary value but for their sentiment as well) are still with her today due to no other reason than the plain and simple honesty of people. The rings – one a diamond and the other a pearl – have the habit of walking away from her.
The first of the three skirmishes took place in none other than the city of Mumbai – yes, the second most honest city as was discovered in this survey.
She was at the Mumbai international airport waiting to catch a flight at the unearthly hour of 4am, which meant that she was not her usual, bright, perky and alert self! (Did I hear some sniggers?) Of course, she fell asleep since she was lucky enough to bag one of those stretch-your-legs-out kind of loungers, only to be shaken awake by a ground staff member minutes before the closing of the boarding gates. She, however, reckoned she still had a few minutes to use the restroom and made a dash for it and then dashed back barely making it to the plane and ignoring the disapproving looks the crew reserve for last minute stragglers.
As she fastened her seat belt she noticed her hands, specifically her ring finger, and let out a loud yelp which startled, to say the least, the two kind gentlemen sitting next to her.
“My rings,” she yelled, and shoved past them and flew down the aisle just as the crew was shutting the door. In a near-hysterical state, she pleaded with the crew to let her out and go look for my rings. She was sure she had left them in the restroom. They refused since the aircraft was ready to taxi out. Her hysteria must have reached epic proportions since they finally relented. She flew down the airway into the lounge only to see the restroom attendant there with the rings in her hand talking to the supervisor.
“My rings,” she yelled again as the supervisor held them out to her. She took the rings and gave the supervisor a big hug and a kiss and flew back down the airway flashing her rings triumphantly at the attendants. The chief attendant said smiling, “Does it feel like you are engaged all over again?”
“You bet,” she shot back.
After her blood pressure had returned to normal and the adrenalin rush had subsided, she thought the restroom attendant could so easily have hidden the rings away in the folds of her sari and no one, absolutely no one, would have been any wiser.
The second time, those rings played truant was in Washington DC. There, on a business trip, she stayed at this neat little boutique hotel with warm orange walls and some great artwork. But that’s beside the point. Once the business part was over, she visited her cousin who lived in a swanky, sprawling house in the city, but that again, is beside the point. After that, she trotted off to Toronto to see her daughter. Is there a point to this? Yes, just bear with me. I need to set the scene and build up the momentum!
So about 48 hours after she left the nice little boutique hotel with warm orange walls, she realized while unpacking her stuff in the daughter’s apartment (which coincidentally also had a nice orange wall but that’s beside the point), that her two beautiful rings were missing, yet again.
A frantic call to her cousin who searched every corner of her swanky, sprawling house…nada! Nothing. The nice people at the hotel did not find anything either.
Not one to just resign herself to fate, she wrote to the boutique hotel with warm orange walls and the great artwork one more time. Voila! They had found her rings! After she properly identified herself with all kinds of audio and written proof, the kind general manager of the hotel couriered the package to her!
And the third time?
None other than what some of her friends and family (well, most of them) refer to as her second home after Dubai. The gorgeous city of Seattle. She was with colleagues at this cute, rustic restaurant spooning up my clam chowder, when she dropped the cutlery with a bang and let out one of her now famous yelps again! (Yeah, it’s an unfortunate habit she has). “My rings! I have lost my rings!” She moaned loudly.
Lots of sympathy and compassion was dished out along with the clam chowder. She, of course, was close to tears and a colleague very considerately pushed a few paper napkins towards her. Frantic phone calls to the offices where she had worked all morning and which housed thousands of people followed. She must have left them in the restroom….again! Description of the rings flew across the e-space of the offices and people were dispatched to the many restrooms for some nimble detective work. Nothing!
She headed for a meeting. Who knows what she said at the meeting but it must not have been too bad since she still has her job. I guess her mind was on the rings and she must have made all kinds of promises to herself and to every cosmic being in the universe that she would be a model citizen, a model human being, the epitome of virtuousness. Well, someone in the galaxy heard this. At 5pm, one of her colleagues got a call from the main reception of the building that indeed there was a package waiting for her and it contained her rings!
Three times lucky? Or just that there are honest people whether in big cities, small towns and tiny villages around the world?
Both, I think. Incidentally, her rings are still with her. For now!