Something cathartic happened in my life a day before Diwali in the year 1996. I was then working as the project Manager of a new Ammonia plant being built by FACT, a public sector Organization. On the Eve of Diwali, Mr. Sridhar, the Sales manager of an insulation company came to my house with a box as a Diwali gift. I politely received it and gave it to my wife. I later realized that it was a beautiful tie and some sweets. I then had a brief chat with Sridhar and exchanged pleasantries and Diwali wishes.
A few minutes after his departure, a team of inquisitors started questioning my integrity. They included my wife, Father-in-law and Mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was the first to start the interrogation. She said she could not believe that her dear son-in-law could accept such gifts without any pang of conscience, without showing any hesitation. I suddenly became a suspect under their eyes. They started questioning me about other favors that I might have received earlier. Suddenly my character was shrouded in shadows on the eve of that festival of lights. I pacified them that what I received was only sweets and nuts and I did not receive it as a bribe for any favors. My vigilant father-in-law cautioned me that Diwali festival time is used by many corporates as the best occasion to sop their big clients or to woo new customers.
The incident was an eye opener as it alerted me to have a second look at the moral values that I held close to my heart. It also made me to ponder on the way many of my friends have behaved over a period of time on the bank of the moral river. Many a time I have stood shell shocked when some of my friends who I thought were principle centered, value based and uncorrupt in their social interaction have shown tendencies opposite to my conviction. A friend of mine who was a staunch communist during college days set up a factory after he became an engineer. When the factory went into doldrums due to labor problems, he changed the political party and migrated to a different state to set up another factory. An environmentalist I knew became less vociferous about water pollution when he was made Senior Environmental Engineer of a State pollution control board. I have then felt like singing the words of WB Yeats in Easter 1916 -
'He, too, has been changed in his turn;
A terrible beauty is born'.
The point I am driving at is that there is a slow moral contamination taking place in all of us as we grow up and fight for our survival. Our strong defense complex often justifies our action. The current corporate culture teaches that we no longer have to define a moral issue other than our own self-interest. A classmate of mine who was a staunch opponent of nuclear pollution later joined the Atomic energy department as a nuclear scientist to start his career. He vehemently opposed me when I had pointed out the higher radiation levels prevailing in nuclear installations in India. He argued it that way, as the institution was now his breadwinner. For him the permissible level of radiation may mean the number of people he is willing to see die so that he can retain his job. Success is an easy task in today's business world if we succumb to the sirens of incompetence, duplicity and conformism. We often dilute our ethical and moral standards to suit our circumstances and needs.
This stain in our soul can spread and become a patch unless we put a conscious halt to it. Without our knowledge, without our explicit intention, this patch can otherwise become cancerous, numb our feelings and blacken our heart like a lump of coal. We have to guard against this pollution of our soul to elevate and ennoble the quality of our life. If we do not stand for one principle, we may fall for everything. We have to be fearless and upright in drawing our moral line clearly and sensibly. The intention is to enjoy and live a responsible life. We have to mirror our moral standards by our actions.
In a way we all pay for the choices we make in life. There really is a palpable moral contamination in every profession, every sphere of our activity. The degree to which we succumb ourselves to this is a variant of our conscience and moral discipline.
Moral contamination never announces itself. It is always a very small, seemingly silent, inconsequential event, but like radiation, it accumulates and there are no permissible safe levels
Let zillion lights suffuse your soul and dispel the darkness on this Diwali dawn.