I don’t know about you, but I have distorted facts, hidden them, and even lied outright more times than the number of years I have lived. Yes, there were small and big perceived advantages that must have come my way… a sales target completed, some more time gained before I submitted my reports, or an extra discount on something that I was buying. But despite these triumphs there was always a little voice that always went berserk within me and kept shouting: ‘You forced your way in.’
‘Yes, so I have forced my way in,’ I answered, ‘but a task is now complete.’
‘Try going the other way,’ insisted the voice.
I was so fed-up of this voice that a day came when I decided to give truth a try. All the films I had seen and in books and stories that I had read, standing by the side of truth was always a very difficult proposition. But let me tell you here that truth and lies come to us with nearly the same symptoms. Pupils dilate just as much, the palms gather just the same amount of sweat, the heart-beats go on a faster beat, and the mind is in a swirl… at least in my case this is what happened. I was quite accustomed to it all and murmured, ‘Telling a truth is almost like telling a lie! Why do people make such a big deal about it?’
I remembered the time when I had told my teacher:
I’m down and out, fever seems to be in the air
Home assignment abandoned, please call it fair!
The teacher was quite sporting about it and told me to take rest, and I knew I had squirmed out of a tense assignment! Yes, I also generally used rhyming couplets, which made my lies somehow seem better placed. I did get out of that sticky situation but remained uneasy.
Another time, I remember having sat in an auto-rickshaw and asked him to go to a place that was in nearly the opposite direction to where I wanted to go. After we had gone a few kilometres, I did realise my mistake, but said, ‘This is not the right direction.’
The auto driver braked hard as he was confused and angry, but I was a school kid then and he saw a cop come towards him. He simply asked, ‘How much money do you have?’ I said, ‘Two rupees.’ He gave me a look of disgust and said, ‘Here is another three. Take a bus and go.’ He left me at some bus stop and even told me which bus would take me to my destination.
I had saved my pocket money from going to an auto driver for a ride that was useless. I had even got money for a bus ride. But the lies left me uneasy.
I had literally forced my way in but despite for the seeming victory, I had actually stared into the face of an uneasy defeat. So yes, life went on with such small lies and small victories but big restless phases until one day after I had graduated, I found myself in front of the GTO (Group Testing Officer) at the SSB appearing for the CDSE (Combined Defence Services Examination). Our small batch was sitting huddled with the GTO and the individual tasks were about to begin. My turn cam and I went to the task area, completed the Burmah bridge and a couple of other tasks and then as I reached the rope, I just stood.
The GTO, a Captain in the Indian Army, shouted, ‘Come on, you still have more than a minute, you can complete more tasks.’
I shouted back, ‘No, I cannot.’ I walked back to him, and he asked, ‘What happened? Unwell?’
I could have agreed and maybe got away with the answer, but said, ‘No sir. Not unwell. I cannot climb a rope. I cannot do the other tasks.’ Then before the GTO could say anything, I went on, ‘This is why I want to join the army. I want to get over this weak state and be strong.’
Now if you think this is what got me through that SSB, I’d say no. The SSB is a test that goes on for five days until the final interview and only then an assessment is consolidated. But there was another little incident that happened that day. This was the third day and by this time I was friendly to almost everyone there, and knew where they were from. Most were from big cities and I was from a small town… and so I had told all of them that I too was from Delhi. I too had linked myself to a college in DU that none of the others were from… and for some strange reason, they accepted it. Out there as we sat around the GTO on the task field, he happened to ask us where we were from. I had this urge to say, ‘Delhi’. I had this urge to name some famous college of DU and get the same indulgent smile that the others seemed to be getting. But this was one day that my box of lies and distortions just wouldn’t open. I said, ‘Jhansi.’
‘And you completed you graduation from this city? Do they have a college there?’
‘Yes sir. Bipin Behari Degree College,’ is said. The others looked at me with open mouths… and I could see a difficult evening ahead. The GTO too noticed this and asked, ‘What happened boys? Haven’t you heard of Jhansi? There is a massive cantonment there and you should all have heard of Rani Laxmibai, right?’
Before anyone could say anything, I said, ‘I’m sure everyone knows who the Rani of Jhansi is. But they are astonished because I had lied to them about where I come from.’ Then I slowly told the reason for my concocted tales… it was to get accepted in the group faster and because I presumed that my being from Jhansi might make me an immediate outsider. The GTO smiled and asked the others, ‘What do people have to say to his lies?’
I must admit here that each of them got up and hugged me. I was overwhelmed. I had spoken the truth and all I felt was a rush of relief. All I could say was, ‘I’m sorry about my charade but I am not from Stephen’s in Delhi.’
‘But you’re a great friend,’ they said, ‘and a brave friend.’ No, i don’t think the GTO let this incident affect his assessment of me… the final outcome of this SSB was a combination of all the tests. But what I gained was trust in being forthright. I mean most of the time we lie because we presume how the others will look at us if we stick to the truth. But a misrepresentation will only lead you on further inside the dizzying vortex of imagined joy and what you will miss is the sedate presence of real-time happiness.
If lies help you force you way in to some immediate benefits, remember it is truth that helps you force your way into joy that lasts forever!
The ‘Kitna chain hota hai na sachchai mein‘ blogging prompt on Indiblogger ‘Happy Hours’
27 December 2014