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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Honesty, our style

A prosperous shopkeeper is asked by his little grandson, 'Grampa, what does honesty mean?'
Grampa chooses his words carefully. 'Suppose a customer overpays me Rs. 100. I should share half of this with my brother, who runs the shop alternately with me. He would never have known if I hadn't told him, but I should. That's honesty.'
'But grampa - what about the customer? He overpaid, didn't you say? Shouldn't you...'
'Don't bother about the customer, boy. That's not our concern. He ought to have been more careful.'
[I got this gem from a little book of witticisms written in Bangla by Tarapada Ray. And I shall be the first to admit that I know a lot of shopkeepers who are not like that!]


Alka said...

I have a feeling that you are not talking about shopkeepers but our politicians and bureaucrats. :-) The description of honesty fits them nicely.

Tanmoy said...

Better have everything amongst ourselves - who cares where the world goes!

I gifted two collections of Tarapada Ray to my father recently. Apparently Mr. Ray was a very serious person. He wrote some poetry too. Most astonishing bit that I heard about him that in his early life as a journalist he used to write recipes in some women magazine as Tara Ray!

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

Tarapada Ray used to write with rare insight. How often we twist the meaning of words like "honesty" to suit our needs!

Tanmoy said...

I am amazed the most of us are still playing the blame game - They should have done this - they are doing that - we are like this, we are like that -etc etc.

Yes, we have taken considerable stock that we are in a mess. Now let's try and get out of it.

Let's hear -

Did any of our lives changed after such carnages?

Do we care to read say a Penguin translation of Koran now, to see what exactly is Islam?

Do we see ourselves doing some bit of community service to help ourselves?

Do we stop people from spitting on the streets without fearing they shall abuse us?

Do we do our own jobs of cleaning, ironing, some cooking realizing that we are not even good enough to help ourselves if we are shipwrecked in an island?

Do we see ourselves motivating people to join Army?

Do we see ourselves asking people to start a Little Magazine and distribute it for free to start with?

Do we see ourselves prepared to do some work which may initially make us butt of all jokes but in the longer run helpful to all?

Do we see ourselves taking the extra step to feel scared YET act?

Point that I am trying to make is, - did we take any concrete steps in our habits which can make a 0.0001% difference to the way we live?

I have decided to act and have been taking some concrete, committed steps to ensure some sort of shield for myself and people I know because I feel blaming everyone shall continue but it should not be an escapists route to run away from action.

I have not seen many such comments anywhere. I am trying to collect my thoughts in my current blog post.

Rajdeep said...

Nothing could describe us better!

sreejith said...

Sir, in this case the shopkeeper is (in my opinion) not so wrong after all...actually the law itself supports my view. It says that it is not necessray for the shopkeeper to be honest. For the law says the buyer should follow 'caveat emptor' ie let the buyer beware...but from the ethical point of view i do agree that he shouldnt cheat the customers,..

Suvro Chatterjee said...

While you are factually right, Sreejith, you must concede that the law is morally wrong. That is why jurists constantly remind us that justice is a higher and more difficult concept than law, that is why so many great men (like Gandhi, himself a lawyer) insisted again and again on the necessity of breaking bad laws, that is why it has so often been said that 'the law is an ass'! After all, the law is nothing more than the formal expression of the dominant social opinion on a given subject, which may or may not be right at all! Recall that at one time keeping slaves was quite okay with the law, and in many countries still the law allows men to beat their wives, but not the other way round.

All that said, I, of course, am one who has been telling all my students about 'caveat emptor' for decades before you learnt that expression! It is wise to tread carefully in this world, where millions make their living by artfully cheating you.