Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Honesty

I am sharing what 'I Saw and I Learnt' at BlogAdda.com in association with DoRight.in.
This is my entry for the "I saw I learnt" contest. I'm not much of a contest writer, and this is probably not the winning entry types. However, I loved the topic and thought it was something worth writing about...
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Prologue: 
Some would say that I have been lucky- I have many role models around me (including my father and grandfather) from whom I learnt many values: honesty, perseverance, optimism and everything else that management gurus claim to be the recipe for success. And some might say, I just try to learn what I can from everyone. Whichever may be the case, there is one incident that taught me an invaluable lesson...
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The Logue??! :P
It was one of those hot Chennai evenings, when you want the breeze but when you get it, the wind blowing is too hot and you want it to stop. I was in my 4th or 5th grade then and I had run down to the small provision-cum-stationery store to get India and world maps for school and bread and bananas. We never had the concept of pocket money in my family, so my mother had given me the exact change required for getting everything. I was in a hurry to get everything so I could leave them back at home and go play with my friends. Besides, I had quietly slipped in a 1 Re extra from my piggybank savings with which I hoped to get an Eclairs toffee, but I wanted to do it quickly because I was scared of getting caught.
You might think that getting a toffee for 1Re is no crime at all, especially when it's from your own savings, but at that time, I felt very dishonest doing it because I hadn't asked my mother's permission. From my point of view it was a huge moral crisis. Anyway, I just wanted to get it over with real quick.

The shopkeeper was a very nice helpful old man who was quietly enthusiastic about everything. I just told him the list of things I needed and he put everything in a plastic cover and gave me. The total must have been about 20-25Rs. Since my mother had given me the right change I just handed him the folded notes and coins (along with my 1 Re) and turned to run back home. I must have taken only a step or two when the old man called me.

I wanted to die that minute. Or vanish out of existence. I thought he had surely found out I was cheating my mom. 'He knows that I didn't get permission. Now he is going to tell mom the next time she comes and she is not going to ever let me buy anything. Or worse, she might go complain to my teacher like she always threatened and the teacher would tell everyone that I was a bad kid. I was the kid who bought chocolate with stolen money.' "Thief! Thief!" I could hear everyone laughing at me.

Before my reverie got any more torturous, however, I had turned and the old man was handing me a 100Rs note. "I think you put it there by mistake, little girl", he said with a smile, "You should be VERY careful with money!"

Yes, HE was returning ME money that my mother had forgetfully placed between the folded 1Re and 5Rs notes! I unthinkingly spluttered "But you didn't have to call me to return it. If you had kept it with yourself, nobody would have known!"

"Of course noone would have known, paapa (Tamil for baby/small girl)! But what's the use of being honest only when everyone is watching? There is no honesty in not stealing when you are being watched- that is just plain cunning. Honesty is when you know nobody will ever find out and you might even be punished for your actions but you still decide to do the right thing."

I returned the Eclairs. I didn't want it anymore. 
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Epilogue
It was one of those mild Santa Clara evenings when the breeze hugs you with love. I was browsing while taking a break from work and I had just seen a contest on BlogAdda- "I saw, I learnt". I tried to think of one real life incident that had an impact on me; other than the stories of various people in my family who had struggled their way up, other than the wonderful lessons that they had taught me- not through single discernible actions, but through a way of life. I could not think of any one incident- well, I could just make one up!
 
So, I thought of the one life lesson I had learned and then created an incident out of my imagination to communicate the lesson. The lesson was that you are truly honest only when you did something right though nobody would have found out. After all, I knew there was no way for anyone to verify what I wrote.
And then, I suddenly realized- so I decided to add the epilogue.
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Some would say I have still not learned the lesson if I wrote the story at all. And some might say I needn't have admitted it- simply because it was a very nice story. Whichever may be the case, I had to do this because I really believe in that kind of honesty.

And of course, because I like recursion.

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