Home > Culture, Truth > Two experiments with truth.. and some questions

Two experiments with truth.. and some questions

A couple of incidents in the recent past got me thinking about how we deal with concepts like trust and integrity in our daily lives, about how our ethical framework (mine at least) get stretched to accommodate situations, etc.

1. The Facebook effect:

This one really got me into a bit of a dilemma. Some background : at home, we have only one real non-negotiable with the boys, which is that whatever happens with them – at school , sleepovers, wherever – they should come and tell us about it. Getting busted by the Principal, using the F-word (at 10, it doesn’t happen that often yet)…. as bad as it can get, it is all still OK. Not cool, but Ok. We’ll have a heart-to-heart chat about what exactly happened, next Sunday’s pizza dinner gets cancelled, stuff like that. Nothing extreme. But if they ever lie or cover up about anything, then they get seriously grounded. That’s how its been so far, and it’s worked. V & me pretty much enjoy best friend status in their lives – I know this claim sounds naïve/presumptuous, but we know this – trust me. There have also been a couple of incidents at school which has reiterated this confidence, made us very proud of them on this count.

So they came up with this request to join Facebook a few days ago. On probing a bit, it turned out that the chief motivation was an online game on Fb called Miscrits which is the current rage in their social circle, and most of their friends  had already got their own Fb accounts. I didn’t think it was a big deal initially, until we found out that the Fb age threshold was 13. So in effect, allowing them to join meant actively endorsing them lying about their age online. I don’t know why this bothered me so much, but it took a fair amount of time for me to reconcile to it. After about a week of deliberation, and after a long chat with them on why this was such a big deal, they got the go ahead. V and me are on their friends list, their ticker indicates that they do spend most of their time there on this Miscrits thing (oh, and A2 setup his fb name as Kick Buttowski. Sigh.).

But the questions I ask myself now are: has anything changed in their mindset about lying being a non-negotiable? The next time they go through an awkward situation, will they still feel as strongly about coming home and telling all? Or will this precedent make lying not such a sacrosanct concept in their minds anymore? Have I been the co-conspirator who facilitated a shift in their ethics framework? We shall see.

2. The curious incident of our maid in the night time:

We came back home one night after a late dinner. I opened the door using the key and walked into the guest bedroom, where our key-rack is. When I got there, I saw our live-in maid E, sprawled on the bed, watching TV. She looked completely startled to see me  – the TV volume had muted the noise of the main door opening and my coming into the room, I guess –  and quickly got off the bed and sat down on the floor. No words were exchanged and I headed to my bedroom. I mentioned this to the wife, who had a quite chat with her on the issue. E’s response that she never ever does such a thing, always sits on the floor to watch TV…. its only because she was feeling unwell that evening and had a severe back ache, that she wanted to rest on the bed. Nothing has been spoken about this incident in our house ever since. I must also say here that we’ve generally been very lucky with our domestic help over the years, hardly any bad egg.. and E has been the super star in an impressive  line-up. She genuinely cares for the kids, very very trustworthy, total paavam types, all the good stuff. We’re dreading the day she gets married and goes off.

So more questions:

First, the obvious one about class divide that is a part of our lives: Why is this an issue at all? Why don’t our domestic help lounge in our sofas, sleep on our beds? Why do they almost always sit on the floor, even during their leisure hours? Are they made of a different strand? Isn’t this tantamount to practising Untouchability in a different form? Though I have thought about this and feel guilty about being part of this class system, haven’t had the guts to put this into practice in our home – I am an avoid-conflict-personality-type, and have bailed out of the option of having the awkward conversations with parents (who come visiting), in-laws (who live in the next building), relatives, etc.. have chosen the easier option of just letting it be.

Trust: E is alone at home for a large part of the day, when the kids are away at school. Was this a one-off, as she claims? Or is this what she does when no one’s at home, so she is lying.. and by extension, has she also been covering up on other more potentially serious scenarios, that we hear about elsewhere?  We have not got to doing surprise checks or any other due-diligence during the hours that she is alone. But I am not sure  if there will be a lingering feeling of doubt on her hitherto impeccable integrity, from now. Trust is such a delicate thing, no? Its a bit like wicketkeepers in cricket – no one remembers all the catches they take, only the one they drop gets talked about. All it takes is one transgression, and an entire lifetime of credibility can come crashing down. Ask  Rajat Gupta, of McKinsey fame and Rajarathanam  shame. In E’s case, will she carry the cross of her lost credibility for as long as she is with us?

Categories: Culture, Truth
  1. October 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Indeed a nice read Satish..

  2. Banno
    October 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

    You’ve raised a couple of pertinent doubts. It’s tough to answer both. But at least there is the questioning.

  1. February 16, 2014 at 8:58 am

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