C.S. Lewis, a known novelist, once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

I was reminded of this quote when I read a story in the newspaper today. The headlines said it all, “Students save Rs.24L cash of SBH”. Three students (unemployed was emphasized on) found an ATM chest open with a lot of money (24 lakhs the article claimed). They did what was quite inspiring… they called 100 and informed the police.

The minute my father read this story he came up with a different perspective that made the trio sound more like smart people rather than honest. He said they didn’t really have a choice. They would have known that the ATM has a CCTV camera installed and so if they had tried to steal the cash, the police would have caught them anyway (though I don’t know if our police has been able to catch all the guilty caught on the various CCTV cameras across the country).

Interesting perspective.

And this is something I have experienced before. Situations where in spite of your best efforts and deeds, the intent is questioned. Let me give you an example – In a certain situation at a certain organization where I worked, I had told a couple of my colleagues that I will report them to the management if they didn’t stop doing something unethical. I believed a warning would do as this was the first time I had seen the duo do ‘something’ & it wasn’t ‘too unethical’. When word got around, there was one gentleman who wrote a stinker to me, demanding that I stop doing such things to impress the leadership. Now here I was trying to do something right, in a way that I thought was right, and my intent was being questioned. While things were cleared out later and that gentleman and I shared a cordial relationship for the rest of our stint, the memory of it remained (it has been over a decade now).

So next time you notice someone doing something good, don’t assume a negative intent. While yes there is a chance that it is the case, let us not fall prey to prejudice. Let us not treat others as ‘guilty, until proven innocent’ (the presumption of innocence is a legal right in India).

Going back to the original story in the newspaper, the journalist reporting this story must have experienced prejudice as well. That must be the reason the piece ended with a confirmation that they were no CCTV cameras in the ATM.

Kudos to Latif, Hari Prasad and Shiva. Truly inspiring.

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