Sunday, February 03, 2008

Raj's heroism and moral courage

“The City Police on Wednesday presented an autorickshaw driver a cash prize for displaying honesty and sense of citizenship in returning a bag left in the vehicle by a passenger, which contained money and valuable documents.”
Once in a while we see such news items.

It is a sad reflection of the times that we live in that a simple act of honesty, needs to be rewarded. What is actually being recognised here is that the ‘auto-driver” deserves praise not so much for being honest as for not being dishonest, which he well could have been. For, isn’t that the default setting now? That’s why, such news items appear only “once in a while”.

(To test this theory, I am curious to know if such an act would fetch a reward in Singapore).

A very similar observation can be made in the case of the accolades showered on Adam Gilchrist, the Australian batsman, on his retirement. The man is eulogised for his willingness to accept that he is out. When he knows he has snicked a ball, he doesn’t wait for the umpire to lift his finger. He starts walking back to the pavilion. Just as Phantom was referred to as a “ghost who walks”, Gilchrist is a “man who walks”.

Nirmal Shekhar, sports writer for The Hindu, who tries to infuse as much poetry into his columns as possible, waxed lyrical on an incident in which Gilchrist had, you guessed it, walked:

There was not even the slightest hesitation as he walked. But, then, knowing the man, you would expect him to, wouldn't you?

So what's new? He did it in Chennai, when his team was staring at a possible defeat. He has done it before that. And, surely, he will do it again. In the event, what's the fuss all about?

Ah, how smugly we get used to goodness of character! How easily we brush aside moral issues of timeless significance! Almost dismissively we accept moral courage in the competitive cauldron of modern sport! We take for granted the behaviour of a few heroic men like Gilchrist as a matter of habit.

Here lies Gilchrist's greatness. He will live and play the only way he knows how to: fairly, honourably, as a good sport…….In the high-noon of professional sport when commercial pressures have re-ordered the sporting arena and have effected a evaluation of values, if someone had written a piece of sports fiction with a Gilchrist-like hero, he might have been thought of as old-fashioned.

…..Winning and losing pale into insignificance when compared to such matters of principle, when put alongside such heroic acts of moral courage as enacted by Gilchrist time and again.

From a simple act of honesty, the incident is blown up to be an exhibition of rare moral courage and extreme display of heroism! In fact, Nirmal Shekar goes out of his way to dissuade the reader from taking such behaviour for granted.

So, when I voluntarily pay my income tax on what I earn, when I stop at the red light even where there is no cop around, when I don’t steal my neighbour’s newspaper in the morning when it is lying outside his locked house, when I don’t purloin the paintings from the hotel room I stayed in, when I don’t walk away with the helmet that a scooterist has carelessly left behind on his vehicle while parking, I deserve all the brownie points. For, these are acts of rare courage emanating from a person of high moral fibre and exemplary character.

Makes me feel good.


dipali said...

Absolutely, Raj, absolutely!

Anonymous said...

Well I confess that I have not thought of this perspective at all.. When I do read this, I feel I was wrong in thinking that Gilch was great because he was honest.. he is great because he is a great cricketer. And well honesty is a normal human trait.. and no one is great because they were honest :)

Thanks, this is something I WILL ponder on more!

Raj said...

dipali, thanks,

Veens, great that I could make someone ponder. Thanks.

Cmreddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cmreddy said...


long time no see.. (In fact its long time since i have visited your blogs) and like old wine, you are getting better by day.

Apparently, i feel you took Honesty as the reference and the news papers took it otherwise. You think, honesty is to be taken for granted and dishonesty be deplored. Well others think dishonesty to be taken for granted and honesty be praised.