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Analysis: Ends And Means

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Dear Vaishnavi, Manas and Gobhi,
Vaishnavi, you must have had an insight into the nature of choices when you said "those who give bribes are as guilty as those who receive them". And I deeply appreciate your courage to speak the truth. It is all too easy, to keep it to oneself, quelled by our fear, and the laughter of our peers. I am sure you would have read what Obama said recently in Ghana at the slave fortress: "Sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think we are doing good."

Why would somebody to get richer something that is not right? We know the answer to that one — it is a bit like cheating to get more marks. And all is well till you get caught. And if one becomes an expert at it, one may never get caught. Is that the game — don't get caught?

When Garfield Sobers took a catch, no one knew that the ball had touched the ground. Even though the umpire had declared that Nari Contractor was out, Sobers said, "Not out!" Did Sobers' goodness let down his team?

When we want to get ahead quickly, we forget fairness. Even in school, friends are not always fair — books go missing, fouls on games fields, cheating! You probably would have already noticed that older people are no different. Often, they settle into a pattern of corruption.

What is wrong if I jump the traffic light at 4 am? It hurts no one. How does it matter if my passport is hurried through? People break rules knowing it is wrong to do so. Vaishnavi, your young eyes saw the excuses we make to sustain this. Take your favourite Michael Jackson: did his doctors prescribe habit drugs? Usually the argument is "others are doing it".

Many say that the ends justify the means. However, deeper voices say "take care of the means, the ends will take care of themselves". Does doing the right thing matter? If many have given up right conduct, will you do the same?
Is it possible to live with dignity and strength? Many say no. A few say yes. Your life would show what you decide. Without judging people as good or bad, we need to see that there are right actions and there are ‘not right' actions.

I wish you the joy and serenity of ‘flowering in goodness'... and pray that your eyes never dim, unable to distinguish right action from wrong.

Dear Mr Vaibhav Mehta,
Did you read of Manas's distress?...‘crumbling as we grow older?' Did you get such thoughts at 14? I am your age and could be in your situation — bewildered and ashamed.

Yes, there is a lot of corruption. What do you wish Manas to learn? "Be successful at any cost!" or "Be good first and last!" Even today, you may find it difficult to say the latter. This is the true tragedy — we don't see the importance of deciding. And the more money and power one has, the easier it is to get away with wrongdoing. People do — they get away with murder.

I wish you this strength to return to the fold of men who can own their mistakes, for the sake of your son and his legacy.

Dear Bhrigu,
Good sense and decency are not too common. I can only imagine how difficult your journey must have been. We have all seen how a person is treated when he or she does not conform to the patterns around.

One may wonder why more people do not make this choice in their lives. I am reminded of a poem by San Juan de la Cruz:

the signs of the solitary bird are five
it points its beak to the sky
it flies to the highest point
it has no definite colour
it does not suffer for want of company, even of its own kind
and lastly
it sings softly to itself...

Your song is precious and strong and our children need to hear it. I would urge you to mingle with students to let them catch a glimpse of another way of living. There are too few whose words are strengthened by their life's choices. The values that are obvious to you may be confusing to many.

Dear Mr Tripathi,
It is always a challenge to encounter perspectives such as yours: balanced and pragmatic. You have offered enormous support to the school; if your grandchild asks a teacher, "Will it be wrong for me to bribe or will it be right?" What should the teacher say? How should one speak of honesty, and also pay money to get the electricity connection?

Also, should schools encourage all intelligences, known and unknown, and offer a dignified space for each and every child or be suitable only for children with logical linguistic intelligences? I struggle with this anomaly, sir as you do!

G. Gautama is director of The Chennai Education Centre of KFI. He was Principal of The School (KFI) from 1991-2009.

gautama2004 at gmail dot com

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 03-08-2009)