Not my problem?

Prof. Ashis Nandy courted (pun intended) trouble at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 for his remarks on corruption.

I do not know for sure what Prof. Nandy meant to say, but I was reminded of something that I had observed a few decades back.

My neighbours had 2 children: a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. All the neighbours observed that only the son was regularly treated to goodies like chocolates and ice-creams by his parents. The daughter never got such goodies. This was blatant discrimination, but none of the neighbours was close enough to the parents to raise the subject with them.

I was puzzled by the fact that the daughter, who was only 12 years old, never seemed to be perturbed about being denied the goodies that her brother enjoyed. The mystery was solved when I learnt that, whenever she was sent to buy provisions from the neighbourhood grocer, he ‘over-invoiced’ (for those who don’t know, this means he prepared a bill for a higher amount) and passed on the over-invoiced amount to her. She would use these amounts to buy goodies without her parents’ knowledge.

An underprivileged person had decided not to accept the unfairness of the system. She used ‘unfair means’ to compensate for the system’s unfairness, but she probably had no option. It was sad that her own parents had unwittingly led her to dishonesty.

There are many persons who do not have access to all or some of the basic necessities of life only because they happen to have been born in an underprivileged family. Wouldn’t such persons want to acquire those basic necessities? If they cannot acquire those basic necessities by fair means, wouldn’t they be tempted (perhaps compelled) to resort to ‘unfair means’?

A person who has successfully achieved something by ‘unfair means’ once would be tempted to do it again, leading to some more such episodes, ultimately resulting in corruption becoming a habit.

How do privileged people like us (yes, we are privileged people!) react when we come across persons who do not have access to all or some of the basic necessities of life only because they happen to have been born in an underprivileged family? Do we try to do something about it, or are we indifferent since we are not directly affected?

We may not be affected by the suffering of today’s underprivileged person. But we certainly could be affected by the corruption or any other crime that today’s underprivileged person is pushed into. If, by helping an underprivileged person, we prevent that person from being pushed into corruption or crime, we are not just helping that person; we are helping ourselves and society at large.

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6 thoughts on “Not my problem?

  1. I am very happy to find the initiative taken by someone for every Indian to become “Proactive”. I find the articles written so far interesting and meaningful. A step in the right direction indeed.

    One comment from my side in addition to the above as a reminder to all of us is that:
    1) Every Indian must religiously practice to “Be a Disciplined Citizen”.
    2) Every Indian must religiously practice to” Be Honest”.
    3) Every Indian must religiously practice to “Be considerate to other human beings”.

    I hope to see your blog makes “A Change” every Indian needs.

    Good Luck

  2. It was quite disturbing to read about a 12 year child being so clearly discriminated against. I can only imagine what she must have felt initially at this.

    But at the end of the day, this discrimination forced her to adopt a dishonest strategy as well and consequently affects her outlook in life. It is both sad and interesting to see that bad practices beget only more bad practices. Perhaps we can gather enough critical mass in terms of good practices so that society does not encourage discrimination and other unethical behaviour which has become all too common and accepted.

  3. Amazing post. It’s brilliant how you poured light on the topic with your example. Coming to think of it, there are so many events that happen around us, which look insignificant, but may be the cause for the endless social problems. It’s like the butterfly effect. We need to identify the cause even before it becomes a problem.

  4. Pingback: When victims of an unfair system become perpetrators of corruption | Proactive Indian

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