In school, we had this Diwali essay which made sense except for a line I couldn’t digest. It said that some people keep all the doors and windows of their houses open during the festival so as to encourage Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to enter. I thought that was a strange thing to do when everybody was out shopping/socialising and there was nobody at home except decorative lights and earthen lamps. In my cynical view, this was an open invitation to needy thieves and greedy neighbours and the easiest way to make Lakshmi leave rather than enter.
I wonder how many of you will dare to keep your houses unlocked today when you go around town swapping Diwali gifts. I’ll prefer to keep it all tightly bolted. Don’t expect me to put up a sign that reads: “We are not at home right now. Kindly leave your gifts in the drawing room. Thank you.”
My mistrust of Indian humanity is not entirely misplaced. In our corruption-savvy country, honesty is like a silent Narendra Modi or talkative Manmohan Singh – a rarity that always hits the headlines, even if the action takes place in a foreign land. Take the curious case of Lakhwinder Singh Dhillon, a Punjabi cab driver in Australia who found a bag containing 110,000 Aussie dollars (around Rs. 65 lakh), left by a group of passengers. Such mighty careless people should have been stripped and flogged in public, but the good-natured Dhillon didn’t take this extreme step. His first-and-last reaction was to return the money, not pocket it.
The cabbie has rightly become a hero Down Under, but the standard he has set is so Himalayan that most of the desperate Punjabis, or rather Indians, won’t be able to match it.
That champion of hope and ‘feel-goodism’, Reader’s Digest, would like us to believe that the chances of finding an honest person are as high as one out of two. As per their recent test conducted across 16 cities of the world, of the 192 wallets dropped intentionally, as many as 90 were returned. However, RD wasn’t able to to test the honesty of a lot many people. Despite being visually unimpaired, these fellows failed to spot the wallets lying beside them – simply because they were too busy on their cellphones!
My own experience with an unclaimed wallet has been embarrassing. It was the BC period (before cellphones, of course). On my way home from college, I spotted one lying on the road. Tempted, I looked to my right-left-right, like a true traffic law-abiding citizen. Finding the coast clear, I extended my trembling hand to pick it up. I opened it once, twice, thrice, but found nothing. My disappointment turned into shock when I heard guffaws behind my back. I turned and saw a bunch of boys shouting the two dreaded words, “April Foooooool!” Alas, in one rash move, I had revealed myself as a dishonest dimwit.
Since then, I have been avoiding every unclaimed object as if it were an IED (Google, please), no matter if it’s martyrs’ day and not All Fools’ Day. You may mistake it for honesty, but I think better-safe-than-sorry is the best policy.