Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bicycle tax

Last evening, I was at a shop near Banaswadi to pick up my son’s cycle I had given there the previous day for repair. There was a man who had come before me and he was talking to the shopkeeper about the amount to the paid for the cycle he seemed to have purchased.

While the man said he would pay only minus the tax, the shopkeeper insisted that since the bill had been given, the full amount, inclusive of the tax, must be paid. The buyer’s contention was he had made clear beforehand he wouldn’t pay the tax. The shopkeeper countered saying he had refused at first to sell the cycle without issuing a bill. Since the man had gone ahead and purchased the cycle and accepted the bill, he might as well pay the full amount, the shopkeeper said quietly, nonchalantly, dismissively.

I craned my neck as discreetly as a possible to see what the amount being debated was, while the buyer – a middle-aged portly man in grey striped t-shirt who was neither well-heeled nor seemed to have had a wash in the recent past – moved aside, surprisingly I thought, to make way for me to interact with the shopkeeper.

I could faintly see on the bill that cost of the cycle was Rs 2,000-something and the tax was in double digits starting with one; a maximum of Rs 19.

While I moved ahead and enquired if the cycle was ready, I noticed that the man was hanging around, obviously, to settle the matter to his advantage. He would pay Rs 2,000-odd but not Rs 19. Quite principled or penny-wise-pound-foolish? I realised later who was smarter.

My cycle had been completely overhauled; some worn-out parts replaced. I was wondering what my bill would come up to as I watched the shopkeeper scribble illegibly on a piece of paper the parts he replaced and the cost. The whole thing added up to 280. Though I couldn’t read the particulars I could read the figures. He had added correctly. As I reached for the purse, I asked the shopkeeper for the bill. “No, for servicing we don’t issue bills,” he said politely with a smile. “I know you won’t protest,” that’s what he had left unsaid.

It didn’t take much time for me to understand why he didn’t issue a bill, though there is no way of confirming this: My bill of Rs 280 had an extra Rs 19, or whatever it was. The only clue: soon after I moved out of the shop after paying up, that man too left, after the shopkeeper said something to him. Couldn't hear that, but most probably it was: “Okay, you go, no need to pay the tax.”


  1. Hi.. I am coming to Bangalore on the 24th. We will then meet the shopkeeper. :-)

  2. Hi Suresh,... This is the best comment I got all these years. See you on 24th.

  3. That was interesting, a natural balancing act...somehow kuchelan was the figure that came to my mind.. was it that street down majestic to the left...i have forgotten where banaswadi is..

  4. Maddy... Not it's not near Majestic, it's on the eastern side of Bangalore off Old Madras Road.

  5. hehehhe...such devious guys.