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Is it Wisdom or Defeat ?

R.I.P. Mr. Honest

R.I.P. Mr. Honest

This is a story of early nineties when one fine morning a turbaned sikh along with his young wife was traveling from Delhi to Punjab in a white hard top Maruti Gypsy jeep. They had just checked out of a hotel and were all excited to go home. Very near the Inter State Bus Terminus in New Delhi, they were flagged down at a police check-post by three uniformed Delhi police constables.

After examining the relevant car papers and finding all in order, they started to ask some mundane questions like; “Why the jeep’s headlight glass is not blackened in the upper half?” “The car number plate is a little small.” etc. etc.

It was by now obvious to the couple that thepolice were just harassing them to get some bribe out. As the policemen discussed something with their officer who sat in a small cubical on the roadside, the young couple started to have an argument. The wife suggested that they give a little bribe and then they could be on their way. The husband would not budge from his committed stand of “No Bribing!”.

The argument started to get heated and louder. The policemen were like bystanders listening to the arguments and waiting for the husband to cave in to the wife’s suggestion. When they saw that it wasn’t happening, they approached the couple to give them the news that they would have to now go to the police station. The couple agreed. As they climbed back into the vehicle, something dawned on the police officer and he asked to policemen to let the couple off. The jeep sped off. For the next about five hours, which was the duration of the journey home, there was hardly any conversation between the husband and the wife.

That young upright sikh man was me. I had never needed to bribe anyone in the small town I lived in and had vowed never to ever bribe anyone. Those days doctors were still well respected and most of the time they got away without paying bribes for small favours in the government offices.

A few days passed but I couldn’t get the incident out of my mind. The more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me. Those were the days of the fag end of militancy and terrorism in the northern Indian state of Punjab. Those were the times of police encounters, genuine or fake, in which many a young innocent youth were alleged to have been killed without trial. The thought that I could easily have been one of those, was both disturbing and scary.

Days and months passed and I left the country for a few years and that incident was way behind me. I was back in India in 1997 all excited and to herald a new beginning in my ophthalmology carrier.

Over the next few months I found out that my loving country had slowly but surely changed. Big international brands had come in and so had the likes of KFC. Suddenly people seemed to have more money to spend and many more places where it could be spent. India was shining!

With this sudden access to wealth, materialism was not far away. People had started to spend beyond their means. They wanted all the goodies on offer at any cost. Morals and honesty seemed to be withering away and bribery and corruption started to take their place. Initially these ‘deals’ were done in a clandestine way but as the time passed and people started to get sensitised to it, corruption was to become a way of life.

How was it for me? Slowly but surly, I started to feel the wrath of this changed ‘way of life’. I resisted bribing and corrupt practices. It was becoming more and more difficult to deal with government offices. I wanted to get a commercial electricity connection for one of the new clinics I wanted to start. My file got buried under a heap of other files. I was heavily fined for something which was beyond me and was under direct control of the electricity board. My stubbornness started to affect not only me but also my employees and others dependent on me. I was cornered and eventually had to cave in.

It hurt for many days. Time is indeed a great healer. Next time my resistance was much less and after several sequential episodes, I must say, I started to enjoy the ‘benefits’ of this way of life. Sitting at home one could get virtually anything done and that too in no time. My up-righteousness, honesty and a bit of innocence had died. I could even look myself in the mirror without a wince.

Are there any lessons here? What use is honesty if it makes your life miserable? Over these many years of life have I become wiser? What is wisdom? To become wiser, does one need to be honest? If experience tells you that honesty is not the best policy, is it still wisdom?

Have I become wiser or have I been defeated?

©Sarbjit 2013


7 Responses to Is it Wisdom or Defeat ?

  1. Sunaina

    I think you have espoused the way of living…u have proved Darwin s theory of the survival of the fittest right…change or be damned….but at the same time you touched a sensitive chord somewhere too…uve become wiser now but u earned it at the cost of your soul….a very high price to pay and not a fair deal either:( and we all have done it along the way somewhere..

  2. CM Singh

    I would hesitate to put it in either category..i.e wisdom or defeat. I ll put it in category of intelligent compromise. But the problem arises if we start putting many things which actually are in category of Defeat in the area of compromise. Sir, you did not compromise the way you practise medicine, the way you treat patient,the way you order investigations, you do not take any commissions, u prescribe the best medicines…all these areas would have suffered had you been wise or defeated. We have seen how medical profession has changed over last 2 decades..and u have maintained the same dignity and ethics as before and as are needed. Certainly..these things which you mentioned are in category of intelligent compromise.!!

  3. Harpreet

    Your questions are double edged.Your quest is to survive.Is it a dilemma/intrigue/irony/catch -22/compromise/survival, who knows?It is actually trying to live at brainstem level(not spinal)so that u still breathe when your ,….self confronts u.
    It is easy to think that one can live on his/her own terms.But actual fact is that Living alone is the worst thing that can happen to any one.So better is to numb the brain….Part of the vegetative state who dares to put u on the pedestal .For which there r no answers except to hide, escape eye /soul contact.U live because u have to .On terms of general consensus.Oh there are so many examples Office-Office, Mystic river etc etc.U compromise at (almost)every step of your life and u are dishonest at minial levels.
    What makes u finally tic is that u are less dishonest than others.Does not that makes one wise?Oh so much.

  4. well sir..i think RIP mr.Honest is not the right caption-even when u were not giving bribe or now u r giving bribe-u r at core an honest person if ur intention is honest… the people expecting bribe wr dishonest.. giving bribe has become a system now & if u r doing it like everyone else–it is the new definition of honesty in way–like u r honestly following a system…my words may sound strange but being honest in one’s own viewpoint is not intelligence –it is imperative to be honest for ur own good & for the good of people around u..so now also u r honestly following the bribe system and honestly looking out for ur interests & for interests of ur loved ones…
    those taking bribe were dishonest in the context of the bygone era but the govt.’s current pay plans & exceeding expenses may be forcing them to do so.. may be they r being dishonest bcos they want to be honestly looking out for their own family… cant blame them either….

  5. jasmine setia

    So,what should we drill into our kids? Honesty is not always the best policy ? Or just play by the ear and damn be morals??? Hmmm….

  6. jagwinderfb

    Corruption in india is from top to bottom is usual practice..politicians ministers to peons mor are in this practice…I think if v r honest..keep honesty in our own work..home.If by giving bribe our work is done by sitting at home..I think is better than rest which ll give us stress..tensions. .fighting wid ourself..give health problems. ..coz v few ppl cannot change da system. ..compromise ..stay free…nd ..smile jagwindergurm@hotmail.com

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