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May 22, 2021

 First published on Facebook on 9th March 2021

As usual a hard-hitting and thought-provoking post (hopefully). 

I will take you back to 2004, 17 years ago. I was working as a faculty member at Bahirdar University, Ethiopia. In those days having a landline phone was a big thing and my house owner got us a new connection.

It was a very happy day for us and the telephone installation staff came and carried out the installation and pesto we had a landline connection. Oh yes, it was a great deal and a grand feeling. 

At the end of the installation, I got an installation bill. It was 83 birr and 15 Centimes (roughly Rs 415). I gave him 85 birrs and casually said, "keep the change". I meant he could keep the rest as a tip or bakshish! 

The English-speaking,  installation Engineer's grinning face changed ashen. He was wrestling with some great emotions. He turned and left the house, leaving all his equipment behind. We were shocked.

We were non-plussed and did not understand what was happening. The Engineer was back after 15 minutes. He handed me lots of coin-change. 

He said, "Count the change". Eating humble pie, I counted and it was exactly, 1 birr and 85 centimes. 

With a contemptuous look, he took his equipment and stalked out of our house, leaving us thunderstruck.

The custom in India is exactly the reverse. Tip or baksheesh is not voluntary, it is seen as a right. It is demanded and extracted, violently if needed. 

Festivals in India are an occasion to demand and get mamools. Many 3rd and 4th class employees extract mamools. Some even have collection books in which the "voluntary contribution" is already filled in. One simply, may I add meekly is supposed to pay up, sign, and bear with it! 

The employees who have elevated the tip collection to a fine art are the gas cylinder delivery boys of the petroleum giants namely HPCL, IOCL, and BPCL. 

The delivery boys add 30 to 40 rupees extra apart from the bill and collect the extra money, if needed, forcefully. 

Most customers pay up fearing the repercussions from the all-powerful gas agency and the delivery boys. What happens if a braveheart objects to paying? The customer is abused, the delivery boys would say "we would take back the gas cylinder", and rude behaviour would follow. 

Sometimes things get out of hand as it happened yesterday at our next-door apartment block. Words were exchanged and the delivery boys picked up stones and stick to attack the residents and the watchman! 

We intervened and the matter blew over. The point is all of us are responsible for such behaviour from the gas delivery boys. We meekly give 30 to 40 rupees extra and this would mean 3,000 to 4,000/- rupees extra at the end of the day (on delivery of 100 cylinders per day, which is possible). 

So the delivery boys, usually two in number and the driver pocket a cool  1,000/- extra per day. That is 25,000/- rupees extra apart from their salary. That is not something to be ignored. Maybe gas agency officials know about these dealings but never take action. No wonder the delivery boys insist on the extra payment. Their tips are much more than their salary itself!


Shakuntala Kuchibhotla: Interesting travelogue.....I like when you write about people, culture, etc. Usual sightseeing places anyone can write. But the way you wrote is interesting. Did you read Bil Bryson's travelogues? I like them a lot. He writes about the whole culture.

Anil Ramesh: Thanks Shakuntala Kuchibhotla aunty, huge compliment and you made my day. My forte, I believe is people and people watching. This is what I learned from Desmond Morris, one of my favourite non-fiction writers. Will catch up with Bil Bryson.

Patrick Anthony: Anthe silk kuthir Minn Ale. I used to get confused with a few words like silk for telephone, Usha for dog.

Muralidharprasad Ayaluru: Sir it is true. I had a tough time with the gas delivery boy. And my brother-in-law also faced problems with the gas delivery boys. I understood even the Gas dealer also take a share out of it ( I don't have full information)

Anil Ramesh: Sure sir, this post is garnering good traction. Many are reporting malpractices. The rate in Bangalore, I am told is Rs 100/- per cylinder.

 Patrick Anthony: Part 2 Birr Ellam Ato. PROF

Anil Ramesh: Every post need not be Ethiopian, used Ethiopia as a Simily. If you want to read my experiences about Ethiopia catch it on my blog, Patrick Anthony

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