Saturday, October 9, 2010

Integrity

We often come across the word “integrity” and label others as man of integrity (or otherwise). But we never really care what this word actually means. Often we take it as sincerity, truthfulness and standing by one’s words and so on. But I wanted a more meaningful and easy to understand this usually simple, yet very meaningful word that in fact is the essence of a man’s character.

I talked to a few “learned friends” of mine and each gave his own narration and understanding of the word. But none satisfied me. Then I finally found a wise man, a teacher, a mentor and a thinker. He looked at me with a frown, as if I had asked a question much below his wisdom. Then he smiled and asked, “Does what you eat make you strong or what you digest that makes you string?” Well it was a simple thing to ask me, but when I tried to answer, I understood the wisdom behind the question. Of course we eat a lot when attending marriages; rather we eat as if tomorrow would never come. But often come back with heartburns and have to take medicines to have a good night sleep. But does all those things that we stuffed inside us made us any stronger? Perhaps no. So what we actually digest is what matters most – it adds neutrinos to our body and makes our muscles and tissues stronger.

But my question wasn’t answered as yet. So I looked rather stupidly to the wise man, which had a smile on his face, probably understanding my inability to find the answer he was hinting at. He then went on to explain that a man may gain lot of wealth, but it is the savings that make him rich. We may read a lead, have closets full of books to impress others (specially a number of thirty plus volume encyclopedias and books written by famous authors), but what we actually remember makes us learned. And I readily agreed as I have come across many who have books but no knowledge, while a man living in the most desolate place on the earth that may have a page picked up from the trash, read and remembered the essence, was much wiser from then on.

And then he came to the final point. A man who professes but doesn’t practice for himself is man of no integrity. Simple isn’t it? Well yes and No. Now I started to understand the whole philosophy he was trying to teach me. And then I tried to correlate it. And here let me narrate a small incident. I once went to the market and while my wife went for shopping I just stood outside looking at people. I saw a man sitting outside his shop and reading something. I was impressed to find at least someone with a book. Suddenly, to my utter disgust and dismay, he spit on the road, which barely missed a lady passing by. I couldn’t stand this and went to the man. To my amazement the book he was reading was captioned, “Concept of cleanliness in Islam.” I indicated to the book and just told him, “Is this the book teaches you.” The man looked at me angrily and went inside. This is what the wise man had told me. Do we practice what we profess?

I can now apply this word aptly on anyone, including myself. Our prime minister asks everyone to pay the due taxes, but he and many members of his cabinet (including the fiancé minster) do not pay income tax. A leader in self exile in a foreign country lives on without any business or job, probably on the funding provided by his party, and professes others to give out their everything for the nation. There are politicians who have vaults full of money both in local and foreign banks, who ask “people” to donate generously for the flood victims, but haven’t donated a penny themselves.

I could go on and on, but my purpose was only to define integrity. Nothing more.

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