Bribing for deterrence

After a year of a run around Paris, here I am in Ahmedabad. Besides the multiplication of stores named after Narendra Modi, I find nothing to shock myself or surprise myself with. With the mercury dancing above 45 degrees and wanting to stay there, I find myself stuck with my own strange ideas and words to resort to in the absence of good old alcohol that would usually fill in the odd blanks in my life.

I remember landing in Delhi two nights ago, running to the prepaid taxi centre to get myself a taxi. I ended up having a conversation with the driver since the drive was long and during all this conversing time, I kept wondering, debating, running my head through everything I was to never learn in all my multitudes of econometric equations: should I tip this guy? Would the tip be considered a bribe? So does that mean I am corrupt? How much should I tip him to not have it considered as a bribe? But hey, it’s not a bribe because I am asking him no favour, or wait am I? Well I am, in a way that I want to thank him for not having raped me, so that he doesn’t rape anyone else because I pay him this tip and he knows that if he brings a woman back safe to her house he will get a tip? Or a bribe? So I would raise his expectations of money as deterrence? Would this create a similar effect on large transportation market of raising “tip/bribe” expectations to fund the deterrence strategy? So wait, bribe is a deterrence strategy, I thought it was a favor bank! But deterrence is also a favor eh? Maybe this guy who works for this government-run prepaid taxi centre might be badly paid and a little tip would do no harm. But hey, maybe corruption starts this way, a little “no harm act” here and there and then a sudden rise in expectations and before you know it becomes a norm and then nothing gets done until you offer the little “monetary lubrication”.

Anyway, when I finally got to my destination, the electricity went off and so did the street lights and I had to get off the taxi in frenzy, so I left with a thank you and no tip. I felt a bit guilty and have been feeling so, and hence it gets worded here, this little unanswered set of questions that my head processed after more than 24 hours of sleepless ride though airports and flights. Am I to give a monetary thank-you every time I feel like I have been saved from an “expected improper behavior”? And if I do, am I becoming a part of the corrupt system out of all my “good intentions”?


About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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