Saturday, September 21, 2013


My friend once told me “Every person has a selling point”. What he actually meant to say was that every individual will reach a point where he succumbs to the very forces that he had been resisting. The fact that the individual had survived so long is a pointer to the level of integrity that he had been able to muster up in the course of his living. He succumbs when he is unable to bear the burden of the cross anymore. That Jesus did it till the ultimate end was what made him a God. We have such extraordinary people come from time to time and make a difference to humanity. We are not such extraordinary people but there are still amongst us those silent but strong individuals who have stuck on to what they believed in and tried to make a difference despite all the suffering they had undergone. They are those who ultimately lead an authentic life. But at what price is the question here.

We read with admiration about those honest officials in the administration who had refused to toe the line and gone about doing their job quietly and efficiently. The system does not allow it for in the next few days the same newspapers report about the transfer of these officials to places from where they will not be a threat to them. What is the price these officials pay? Destabilization of their family life and being put on the non- favoured list. Some may succumb to such destabilizations when they can no longer take it, for that is their selling point. A person’s weakest point is the family and he would like to keep them insulated from the dangers that may rise from the discharge of his duties. This is the plight of the honest official. There is also a lurking danger of a loss of self esteem.

At the other end of the spectrum we have those who have no qualms in pandering to the demands of the powers that be and in the process sell themselves. They are easily bought for their only motive is to promote themselves with whatever means available to them. How much exhibition of sycophancy we see with the sole purpose of moving up the organization! What immediately comes to mind is the play by Christopher Marlowe ‘Doctor Faustus’ in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge.

I shall tell you the story of a girl who has being pursuing her Phd and it has taken her longer than expected because she refused to compromise on her integrity by extrapolating the results without conducting enough trials to ensure the stability of her findings even though there were suggestions to this effect. But at the end of it all she is now happy that she has the satisfaction of having stuck on despite the trauma she had undergone in the process. At one point in time she even thought of dropping from the programme.  I have been witness to the happenings through the entire period. We need not blame anybody except the system that makes you succumb. You fight the system, you make a difference. During our conversations I had told her that I was happy that she has been honest and gone by the dictates of her conscience but that there is always a price one has to pay for this. I know what price she had to pay.

The distractions are many and the desires are endless and as long as these remain and we run after them, we can never be honest and will be prepared to do anything to satisfy ourselves and in the process like Faust sell our soul to the devil.

The level of integrity is therefore directly proportional to the price one has to pay. How much are we prepared to endure and what do we really get out of it? Integrity brings with it a sense of self esteem, a confidence and a happiness that you have been able to ward away the temptations that you confront frequently on your path. A satisfaction that you have lived your life in an authentic manner and there in lies the key to the meaning of life. At that ultimate level of integrity you become priceless.


Ravikumar said...

A reality said with no qualms sir...gr8. Just a curious question...the Ph.D girl is the one we know?

vaikuntam said...

This has many dimensions.

The good vs evil is the traditional interpretation.

The aspiring Vs the renouncing is another dimension. The courtier told the mendicant "If only you would learn to bow to the King, you would not have to eat gruel". Said the mendicant "If only you would learn to eat gruel, you would not have to bow to the King"

Personal standards vs common standards is another dimension. In SBI we showed more integrity in LFC bills and medical bills. Any one who falsifies them is an outcast. But we did not have the same integrity for petrol bills and sundry articles bills.

The biggest problem I think is not having high standards. We compromise with our standards - not necessarily being evil or being greedy. In more familiar language - 'chalta hai'.

We lack 'character' in the broad interpretation of that word. We feel stressed even before real stress starts, then cant take the slightest stress and we simply want to move on. Not being evil or greedy. Just being plain lazy often but sometimes the very hard working types also buckle. We just want this task before us closed and move on to the next job, our newspaper and our internet. And everyone does it any way or so we tell ourselves.

Pattaabhi Raaman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pattaabhi Raaman said...

The interesting thing is the benefits of integrity, spelled out in the last para, are intangible while benefits of compromising are tangible, because of which most choose not to take the harder path and adopt the chalta hai attitude. Again when you are part of a group/ society/ organisation, the standards and values of the group tend to influence/cloud one's own thinking.

September 21, 2013 at 8:04 AM Delete

vaikuntam said...

We must also note that the days of the thinker or scientist working alone in his lab or office are past. You have to be in an institution to be effective and entering one and staying in one almost always involve compromises with one's integrity. The question is not about right and wrong. It is about being relevant and irrelevant. If you are irrelevant how does it help if you are 'right'?

Ravikumar said...

Sir, I liked the"we feel stressed............want to move on" piece.

Ravikumar said...

Petrol bills and sundry article bills were cash (salary) substitute perks for the targeted segment designed so to an extent to assuage the Government babus and taxman, while LFC and medical bills were more sacrosanct entitlements not cash substitutes across the sections of employees. Hence, differing approach in integrity!!!

BALARAM NK said...

The standards which one imbibes as a child are what normally stay with you. Reminds me of the book "There is always a price tag". Every action has a fallout. Some may be immediate while some catch up with you at a later date. The ultimate test is when you look at your face in the mirror and and feel no shame in what you see.

Varsha said...

Not falling to temptation and not succumbing to the system are possible, if you are a person who is very strong in the mind and have high integrity. As Pijush Das has said elsewhere about honesty in some service I have an example of an extremely honest Officer in one of the Services. It is not just dislocation of family and transfers that he suffered, he also got threats from vested interests, he was also falsely implicated in a case. The honest Officer suffered the harassment but has peace of mind, and has come through unscathed.
On a different thought, we all do succumb to small minor issues where we adopt the chalta hai attitude. When we keep our domestic help in good humor, when we give bakhshish for someone going out of the way to help, these are minor skirmishes with integrity. We are bribing to a small extent! Thanks for generating thought.