In an experiment last year, Mumbai came across as the world's second most honest city. A simple, abandoned wallet was left on the road, and the study recorded how many people stumbling on it returned it to its owner. An average Mumbaikar returned 9 out of 12 wallets he or she found lying on the road, each carrying Rs 3,000 (or equivalent). Each of the wallets also contained a cell phone number, business cards and a family photo. The experiment was carried out in 16 cities across four continents with 192 lost wallets, dropped in crowded places like shopping malls, sidewalks and parks in cities as diverse as New York and Zurich.
For the record, Helsinki topped the list of honest cities returning 11 of the 12 wallets.
I got a first hand experience of Mumbai's generosity and honesty last month, when I left my expensive, brand new, Samsung Galaxy S5 phone in an auto rickshaw. By the time I realized my phone was not with me, a cool 15-20 mins had passed by. Not only did the auto driver pick up my desperately hopeful call, he immediately came back from wherever he had reached, completely aware of the phone sitting on the back seat in his auto until I called. With a big smile, he stopped his auto across the road, and ran through the traffic to me, handing over the phone like he had just delivered his most precious "amanat" back to me.
And while I did tip him generously, I really need to add - not for a second did he try to linger on after handing over my phone, with absolutely no expectation for a reward!
My only regret - I should have taken his number, and found a way to repay his generosity some day! Maybe I was feeling too small in front of him, and it was easier to just give him some baksheesh and get the hell out of there!