There is no end to conversations when old friends meet. As we met after years, there was a sense of nostalgia in everyone’s heart. As time passed, everyone started reliving our old days. We shared experiences and stories of our lives. From the puns and humour our conversation shifted towards the more important things in life like corruption and dignity.
One of my friend said, “Corruption and dignity are interrelated. If you bribe an officer, you are involuntarily compromising with your dignity. You are giving him the power to control you.”
To this my friend Daulet replied, “In my college our teacher explained this with a brilliant example. One morning at our Law College, when our new teacher for ‘Introduction to Rights’ entered the classroom, the first thing he did was to ask the name of a student who was seated on the first bench: “What is your name?”
“My name is Juan, Sir.”
“Leave the classroom and I don’t want to ever see you in my class ever!” screamed the unpleasant teacher.
Juan was bewildered. When he got hold of his senses, he got up quickly, collected his belongings and left the classroom.
All were scared and angry; however nobody spoke anything.
“Well, let’s start the class,” said the new teacher. “What purpose do the enacted laws serve?”
We were afraid, but slowly gained confidence and we began to answer his questions.
“So that there is order in our society.”
“No!” the teacher shouted.
“So that people pay for their wrong actions?”
“No! Doesn’t anybody here have enough brains to know the answer to this question?!” asked the teacher, sarcastically.
“So that there is justice,” said a girl timidly.
“At last! One person who is not a complete moron! That’s correct. So that there is justice. And now, what is the use of justice?”
All of us were extremely uneasy with his rude attitude. However, we continued trying to answer.
“To safeguard human rights.”
“Well, what more?” asked the teacher.
“To differentiate right from wrong and to reward the good.”
“Ok, that’s not bad. However, answer this question: Did I act correctly when expelling Juan from the classroom?”
All were quiet, nobody answered.
“I want a decisive and unanimous answer!” he shouted.
“No!” we all replied in unison.
“Then could you say I committed an injustice?”
Then his voice softened and he asked, “And why did nobody do anything in that respect? So why do we need rules and laws if we don’t have the necessary will to practice them? Each one of you has an obligation to do something when you witness an injustice. ALL of you! Do not stay quiet, never again! Go and call Juan,” he said staring at me.
On that day, I received the most practical lesson in my course of Law. When we don’t defend our rights, we lose our dignity, and dignity is not negotiable.”
With this interesting turn of conversation, I couldn’t resist myself from adding on.
“The one person who fought for our nation’s dignity was Mahatma Gandhi. He put his life in danger to achieve what every human being deserves. On our trip to South Africa, we went to pay our homage to this great man in the slums of Durban. There we came to know that Winston Churchill hated the man so much that he personally made sure that Gandhi’s Nobel Prize was not coveted to him. On asking why he said “This naked fakir started the breakup of the British empire.” But little did he know why the sun never sets in Britain. Because even God never trusted the English in the dark.” And my whole circle erupted in applause. We friends parted ways soon after. But this exchange of stories stayed on everybody’s minds for a long time.
We earn our respect with a lot of sacrifices and efforts. Do not give anybody the power to take it away from you. After all, only you can pave the way towards success. Even if you are all alone, do not leave the righteous path no matter how difficult the journey is. More importantly never compromise because dignity is never negotiable.
Dr. N. D. Desai