Bombay always looks beautiful when you're flying over it by night. But yesterday was espacially nice. There was an IPL match going on at D Y Patil stadium and it looked stunning from up there.
I'm still admiring the moving canvas of light, we're minutes away from landing when there's a tinkle. Yes, a mobile phone tinkle. The guy sitting right behind me has his phone on.
My co-passenger and I exchange a horrified glance. The phone continues to tinkle for a while and then stops. The plane lands and we come to a halt. I glance behind and see a youngish Sardar busy gathering his stuff.
"Um.. your phone was ringing some time ago?" I say to him.
"Yeah.. heh heh. I must have left it on."
Wow. You don't look like someone who is flying for the first time.
"If it's any consolation," he adds." I did not take the call".
Okay, so the point is not whether mobile signals really interfere with navigational equipment or not. The fact is, the airlines advise us here in India that this is the case. They have laid down a rule and we need to abide by that.
But Indians and 'respect for rules' are about as likely to be found together as IPL viewers in Fayetteville, Arkansas. And there's an interesting book on this subject which I happened to read recently: 'Games Indians Play' by V Raghunathan.
Raghunathan uses game theory and in particular the prisoner's dilemma toexplain 'why we are the way we are'.
The dilemma illustrates how co-operation always produces the optimal benefit for both individuals. And in the context of choices we have to make in our everyday lives, co-operation is what leads to a 'greater common good' as well.
This para from the book sums up his central argument:
When I jump a queue or a red light, or throw that garbage on the sidewalk, I am taking a rational 'squeal' decision, since it seems to get me ahead of others or make life easier for me. Here I am being privately smart.
But then, as others are no less rational, intelligent and smart, they too start squealing for the same reason and before we know it, we have unruly traffic, filthy streets and stinking urinals. So collectively we are all worse off, just as the two prisoners in the dilemma.
You can read more on why Indians are privately smart and publicly dumb here.
Coming back to the Sardar and his mobile phone. You could argue he was just forgetful but methinks he was too brazen about it and hence I would classify his behaviour in the 'squeal' category. It's just a really dumb squeal because if leaving your phone on is a risk, the squealer would go down with the rest of us.
Sadly one must be political correct in this day and age but it reminds me of a classic joke... And I shall say no more.
On a completely unrelated note...
V Raghunathan used to be a cat finance prof at IIM Ahmedabad and taught me Fin II when I was on campus. I will never forget the day I got an 'A' in one of his quizzes, one of the two awarded in that particular quiz. For a few shining moments I thought I might have a future in finance.
Results of the next quiz came in and the moment passed :)