‘Pay me what you want’

By: David Selley
This item appears on page 31 of the September 2017 issue.

In the 1980s I did a whirlwind trip to Agra, India, while attending a conference in New Delhi. The first morning, I ventured out of my hotel to hire a pedicab to take me to the Taj Mahal. I approached the pedicab at the front of the line and asked how much it would cost to drive me around for the day. 

His answer was, “You pay me what you want.” 

So we set off for the day and returned in late afternoon. His English was quite good, and we had fun as well.

I was thinking I might go out in the evening again, so when we returned to the hotel he said he would wait to be paid until after we had completed our second trip. I insisted on paying then, in case I decided not to go out later (which turned out to be the case), so it was time for me to pay.

Meanwhile, I had learned that he had nine children, two of whom had polio and needed treatment. He couldn’t afford to send them to school because he had spent all his money to pay a bribe to get his pedicab license, so he spent all his spare time educating his kids. Furthermore, his wife should have been in a hospital, but that was impossible. 

To top it all, when I asked how long he would have to wait in line to get another fare, his answer was “about a week”!

So when it came to paying, of course I gave him far more than I would have agreed to in advance.

If everything he told me was the truth, he deserved it and more. And if it was invented, I felt he still deserved it on account of his highly imaginative business model. 

DAVID SELLEY

Toronto, Ontario, Canada