In my post ‘An innovative bribe’ on June 22, 2013, I had written about a customer who had the opportunity to be corrupt, but preferred to be clean.
Later, I was reminded of one incident in which I was the principal character.
I had completed answering the Hindi paper in my 7th Standard annual examination, except for the antonym of one word. I was lost in thought, searching for the answer. Suddenly, I realised the 9th Standard student seated next to me was tapping continuously on the desk. He was pointing at his question paper, on which he had written the word I was looking for. The invigilator was in another corner of the room and nobody else had seen what had happened. But, I did not write the answer provided by my senior. I left the question unanswered.
As we were walking out of the classroom after the examination, my senior asked me why I had thrown away 1 mark by not writing the answer he had provided. I replied that I was more concerned about my honesty than about that 1 mark.
Today, I have some questions about the way I had conducted myself:
1. Was my honesty more important to me than 1 mark because I was comfortably the topper of my class? What if I had had a couple of very close competitors? Would I have been tempted by that 1 extra mark?
2. Would my honesty have still been more important to me than 1 mark if there was much more at stake, for example if the examination was for a prestigious scholarship or for admission to a prestigious institution?
3. Would my honesty have still been more important to me than 1 mark if I had been a ‘weak’ student apprehending failure in the exam?
4. My senior was knowingly giving me the answer; if I had accepted it, it would obviously have been an act of cheating. What if I had seen the word accidentally on my senior’s or somebody else’s question paper or answer paper? Would I have treated that as cheating or as luck?
5. In all the above situations, what would I have done if more than 1 mark was involved, say 5 marks?
I’d like to believe that honesty would have been more important to me than anything else in all these situations. But, I cannot be 100 % certain. In fact, I don’t
think any human being can be 100 % sure that (s)he will be honest under all
circumstances at all times. To quote Henry Ward Beecher: “No man knows what he will do till the right temptation comes.”
What do you think?