A Gandhian in thought and deed!

Today, like October 2 every year, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday will be celebrated in India as Gandhi Jayanti. On this day, we will all remember Mahatma Gandhi and speak and write about the values that he stood for. However, how many of us voluntarily practise these values? Not many, I’m afraid.

I had the privilege of knowing SUB, a person who never claimed to be a Gandhian, but who practised many of the values that Mahatma Gandhi practised and preached. Because he was born on October 2, was bald and bespectacled, and was an extremely principled person, SUB was fondly addressed as ‘our Gandhi’ by some of his family members and close friends!

There are numerous incidents that show one or more of SUB’s many admirable qualities, but one stands out because it sounds completely unbelievable!!

SUB had been living with his wife and 3 children in the state capital, a few hundred kilometres away from their home town. A Chartered Accountant, he worked with a nationalised bank, while his wife was a homemaker. In his late forties, SUB quit his job to become a finance and marketing consultant. He retired from all professional activities in his early sixties and devoted most of his time to social activities.

By the time he was in late sixties, SUB’s children were all well-settled in their respective professions and were living in different cities with their respective families. At this point, since most of their family members and relatives lived in their home town, SUB and his wife decided to sell their house in the city and move to their home town to spend their retired life.

Soon after announcing that his house had been put up for sale, SUB received an offer from a potential buyer. The amount offered met SUB’s expectations, but the potential buyer wanted to pay around 50 % of the payment in unaccounted cash. However, SUB wanted the complete payment to be made officially, that is by Account Payee Cheques. This was not acceptable to the potential buyer. A couple of days later, he offered to make the complete payment officially if the total amount was reduced by 35 %. This was rejected by SUB.

The news spread in the local real estate market that SUB wanted the complete payment to be made officially. As a result, very few potential buyers showed interest in buying SUB’s house. Some agreed to make the complete payment officially, but offered 30 % to 35 % lower than the market rate. Others offered 20 % lower than the market rate if 20 % of the payment could be made in unaccounted cash. SUB rejected all offers.

The house remained unsold for over 2 years. During this time, many people close to SUB advised him to be a bit flexible and accept some unaccounted cash payment, but SUB insisted that cash payment, however small, was not acceptable to him as it was against his principles. He was well aware that his unwillingness to compromise on this matter could mean further delays, but he refused to budge. His wife supported his stand even though she was concerned that the sale be completed soon since both of them were not growing any younger. SUB’s children respected their father’s stand of not accepting cash payment, but thought that he was being too rigid. They hoped he would compromise slightly on the price, but maintained a diplomatic silence, knowing fully well that their father would never compromise on his principles.

Finally, about 3 years after first announcing that his house had been put up for sale, SUB received an offer that was about 15 % below his expected price, but with 100 % payment by Account Payee Cheques. He finalised the deal, much to everybody’s relief.

If he had compromised on his principles and accepted 50% of the payment in unaccounted cash, SUB would have got his expected price 3 years earlier, and he would have had to pay Capital Gains Tax on only 50% of the payment. For sticking to his principles, he got a lower price, he paid more Capital Gains Tax and he lost 3 years’ interest on the amount. In all, SUB lost about 40 % because of his honesty!

Whatever amount SUB lost, he lost it knowingly and with a smile on his face! Just like Mahatma Gandhi, SUB cared much more for his principles than for anything else!

It is equally important to note that SUB’s wife and children have never expressed any regret about this ‘loss’, but have always been proud that SUB stuck to his principles!

SUB was truly a Gandhian in thought and deed!

I’d like to ask you something I’ve asked myself several times:
What would you have done if you had been in SUB’s position? Would you have willingly incurred a 40 % loss for the sake of your principles? Or would you have compromised on your principles and justified it by saying, “Everybody does it”?

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21 thoughts on “A Gandhian in thought and deed!

  1. I would like to practise what I preach, but sadly I dont beleive in Gandhian principles or Gandhi himself.. I don’t think it did any good to our nation.

    Thankfully when BJP came to power the first time and Vajpayee was the PM, a lot of white papers were made public and we got to know a lot more of what happened during the independence struggle.

    I believe that Gandhi was a VERY good politician and that is all. But had he not been there I believe with all my heart that our nation would have got independence much earlier.

    But coming to the post and reading about Mr. SUB, he did the right thing, and he did what made him happy and I salute the man. What would I have done? I am not sure. 10 years ago I would have done what everybody does but maybe today I would do what SUB did. Money is not everything, at least for me. I earn enough to live a good life so maybe I am satisfied. But on other hand if I was short of money or if someone else is , and is in dire need the thoughts might change. As although I say money is not everything, YET in today’s day and age MONEY is very very important, no matter what people say.

    My regards for a Good man like SUB..

    • Bikram, each person has differing viewpoints about Gandhi. All I will say is, as far as I know, Gandhi’s thoughts, words and deeds were in perfect harmony.
      Many people speak a lot about Gandhian values like truth, honesty, etc., but very few people practise these values. SUB practised these values without claiming to be a Gandhian.
      I agree with you that circumstances can make a person agree to cash payment even if (s)he thinks it’s wrong.

  2. Indeed this is a rarest of the rare quality, to stay this true to one’s principles. Hats off to people like SUB! I am not sure what I would have done in a similar situation but then we are all different individuals with different understanding of what constitutes socially right behaviour.

    • I firmly believe that nobody can be 100% sure about what (s)he will do in any particular situation; (s)he will know only when (s)he actually faces that situation. It’s not just about morals/ethics/attitudes/etc., it’s also about the pressures and constraints being faced at that particular point of time.

  3. Being a CA doesn’t make one all that great – not the least a ‘tax planner’ just to avoid taxes.
    the very fact that potential buyers still like to pay in ‘no.2’ or cash even when there are many advantages in paying by cheques makes a mockery of the government’s so-called efforts at curbing black money.

  4. Kudos to Mr. SUB. It is, as you say, a rarest of rare instances, and that too involving a real estate deal, where, perhaps, the most amount of unprincipled deals take place. I suppose, like many, I’d have taken the more travelled road of accepting the unaccounted money. Depends. It IS one thing, after all, to admire principles, and quite another to BE principled. “What everyone else does” is sort of the thing most people do, unsurprisingly.

    • As you said, it’s not surprising most people would do “what everybody else does”. In most cases, they’d like to do the correct thing. But, they may not be able to bear the substantial ‘loss’ that is inevitable. Worse, they may not find buyers. It takes rare people like SUB to stand up to the system.

  5. He is a rarity in today’s world, it’s heartening to know that he stuck to his principles and ultimately got it sold..one needs lot of grit for that, and family support too..

    As for me..I would prefer to take everything in cheque, it saves lot of hassles too…BUT in case I find difficult to find a seller, then may be I may budge..

  6. Hats off to SUB. It is sometimes difficult to stick to your principles especially in money matters. But I know for sure that I would not accept black money as payment. My father had done the same like SUB and even incurred losses because he insisted on only bank payment.

  7. SUB sounds like a great man! We can admire him but following him might be difficult. More than losing money, the tension is worse. We just would like to sell off the house than wait in anticipation.

    • I agree. Circumstances can make a person agree to cash payment even if (s)he thinks it’s wrong. One person going against the prevailing system is easier said than done. That’s what makes SUB’s act worthy of admiration!

  8. wow! Its hard to stay so true to one’s principles in today’s world and its inspiring to read about people like this. It helps in keeping our principles in perspective too and the hope we can stick to them no matter what.

    Thank you for sharing Pro

  9. Rare are those persons like SUB these days and it is happy to see that he was able to stick on to his principles.

    If I were in such a situation, honestly I would like to follow the right way. But not sure whether I would have been able to withstand the pressure and compulsions.

  10. Kudos to SUB. Inspirational. I faced something similar while purchasing a house for myself. Every builder I visited made different offers – higher the cash, lesser the rate. My father-in-law, who visited a few projects with us, even started asking upfront – how much cash? I refused every time. At the end, I got a builder who was ready for a proper transaction, with no cash. I know I ended up paying much more than my neighbors, but I have the satisfaction that it was a proper transaction.

  11. Thanks for this post. I would like to know the mechanics of the 60-40 (black-white) corruption which is said to happen in EVERY single housing deal in India. Though it might result in washing our dirty linen in public it will help corruption-shy NRIs (like myself) re-migrate to India.
    – Is the 60% paid as cash (from buyer-white, hardearned) to seller (as black) unreported to avoid paying tax to the government ?
    – I believe there is a limit of unaccounted cash deposits (Rs 50k ?) which a person can make to their bank account .. so would seller have split his loot either in multiple accounts or multiple months ? Recently when I tried to withdraw Rs. 20k of my own money from my NRE a/c (sent from my US a/c) I was asked several questions !
    – Whenever a housing sale is registered, wouldn’t that be the best time for IT to raid for unaccounted cash ?
    – Are there still any honest builders/sellers (apart from SUB) who deal fully in white ?

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