Theme : ‘Do Right Stories’ ( Stories on Honesty. Integrity. Kindness. Respect. Compassion.)

Childhood is the most vulnerable and impressionable age of our lives. During childhood we do the maximum amount of mistakes and learn equal amount of life's lessons from those mistakes. Those who learn from their mistakes, move on to make better lives. Key being 'learning' the lesson and never repeating those ever again. Also giving guidance to others, if we see someone else committing the same mistake. Having said that, I'd like to share few stories of such mistakes I committed early in life during my childhood days and the lessons I learnt from them. Yes, I must admit - I've done lot of mistakes in my life too, but good thing is, I learnt from those and have persistently tried to improve my faults and be a better person. I have also learnt by observing others doing the right thing.

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  1. Honesty!

I was in my 6th std then, about 12 years or so. I used to hate maths so obviously my marks weren't great. If I had a maths test, I'd avoid going to school. We had to bring a note signed by parents ( which was compulsory ), stating why I was absent. And tests were conducted every week. I'd somehow manage to convince my mother about tummy problems and get the signature. My teacher was very strict and I was terrified of her. If she ever asked me to solve a math problem in class, I'd go all blank in my head. I was naughty child too, so used to chat or do pranks while classes were on. I loved those back benches and under some pretext or the other would avoid seating in the first bench. We had to rotate our seatings every day, so whenever my turn would come to sit on the first bench, I'd hunt some absentee on the back rows and occupy that chair.

My teacher was obviously observing my antics, though I thought I was being clever. One day I was absent due to a test. The next day however, I forgot to take the signed note. If I didn't show the note, my teacher would either take me directly to the principal, make me stand outside the class or make me stick my nose to the blackboard for the whole period. And I couldn't afford such shame. In a panic mode, I thought of doing the unthinkable - forge my mother's signature. I signed, but it didn't turn the way the original was, so in a hurry I tried to erase it. The ink got smudged and the signature I ultimately did, looked very messy and artificial.

My teacher instantly got to know that it was a forged signature. And I was petrified. Since, I was already caught, I decided to come clean and admit. Yes, its mine, I said, prepared for any punishment she'd subject me to. But surprisingly, because I admitted my mistake honestly, she let me go. She did take a promise from me never to repeat it again. I kept that promise, learning a big lesson. I learnt, when I was being dishonest, I was filled with fear. But when I decided to be honest, I became fearless.

  2. Integrity!

My mother has been a working woman all her life. She has inspired me a lot in a number of things and being disciplined. In my school holidays, sometimes, I used to go along with her to her office. She worked in a govt office. Her job was to evaluate proposals of applicants for various tenders. Her signature on those documents were very important. Their office used to supply fertilizers, seeds, tractors and other hardware machinery to farmers and small industries. Many people used to come throughout the day seeking their work to be done. And while other office colleagues took a tea or paan breaks, my mother would slog in her desk dedicatedly.
In govt offices, people often demand bribe to get the work done fast. And it happens quite rampantly too. I got to know of it when a man once came to my mother's desk asking to speed up his application. My mother told him to come at a later date as it was not ready yet. The man then offered my mother bribe to speed things up, saying everyone else did the same. My mother got very furious and asked him to go to that other person ( who as per him took money to speed up things ) and get it done himself. The man was somewhat perplexed, and left in a hurry. A person's integrity is very important. It is very easy to get tempted and take bribes, but saying No!! keeps the person's integrity intact.

This incident has had a direct impact on my life too. I'd go hammer and tongs at those who asked for bribe. Be it the postman, gas delivery man or any other. All of them demanded a bribe, but I'd make sure that I gave them a piece of my mind as well. I was pleasantly surprised to see my sister too, who had imparted this important lesson to her small kids. Once during diwali, when a bunch of postmen came to demand their usual 'bakshish', my little nephew who was barely 7 years old then, said a strong No! to them. Little boy that he was, he told those postmen bluntly that taking bribe was a crime. They were naturally stunned! But we all were very proud of the kid.

  3. Kindness!

We had gone for a picnic. It was a family outing. All my cousins, lots of food and games along with our families. We went to a popular place on outskirts of the city. We had barbeque type arrangements and while the elders got down to prepare food, we the youngsters did full masti and dhamal. We went hiking on the nearby hill and that's when we noticed some slums. We were surprised to see slums in such a picturesque place. Slums are mostly to be found in cities, made by the illegal migrants, as far as I knew. These slum dwellers mostly made their a living by begging the tourists who came to that place or by cleaning their vehicles etc. They lived in pitiable conditions, in clusters of plastic sheets.
We noticed that two children had started to follow us around. They belonged to the slums. They were wearing torn, dirty clothes. When we finished hiking, we walked back to the place where the others were. We were very hungry from all that trekking, so sat down to eat. The meal was delicious. One of my uncles had caught a big fish from the stream, and my aunt had cooked it. We all relished the food. Then suddenly, I noticed those children again. The slum children. They were standing in a corner, by a tree and were watching us eating. I tried to ignore them at first and continued enjoying the food.
However, I soon found myself looking over at them a couple of times. My mother asked me to sit properly and eat. That's when I pointed out those children to others. I told them, that they had been following us around whole day. I wondered if they were hungry too like we were. Surely, they were. So, I decided to give some of my food to them. I called out to them. But, they were hesitant. So, I lifted my plate full of food in an inviting gesture and asked them to come over. They finally came and sat near us. I gave my plate to them filling it with more food. They immediately started eating it, with a grateful and happy look on in their faces. I realized, this act of mine made me immensely happy too. An act of kindness. When you are kind, and make others happy, you discover happiness in it too.

  4. Respect!

My mother being a working woman with two growing children, always needed an extra help around the house. So, we had various domestic maids who came to our house to work. One such maid was Basanti. Her origin was somewhere in Bangladesh. She was very helpful and made my mother's life much easier. Basanti's husband was however a drunkard parasite who lived on her hard earned money. He frequently beat her up black and blue. Basanti loved him very much and took on the torture and humiliation everyday. All these domestic abuse and violence stories, she used to come and tell my mother. And I often got to hear them too.
One day, Basanti arrived in our house later than usual. Her hairs had been chopped off and she looked dreadful. My mother asked what was wrong. At first she refused to speak about it. But later she started saying, how the previous night, her husband had come home drunk, had pulled her by the hair and beaten her up. He then started talking about some prostitute he visited, earlier that evening. Basanti could not take that anymore. She started hitting her husband back. And in the morning, she left the house forever, vowing never to go back. She said, she could not live anymore with a person who didn't respect her and who had even insulted her by visiting some prostitute ( adding salt to the injury ).

From this incident, I learnt how little 'respect' many women get in their own houses, by their own family members. There are many such similar Basantis suffering somewhere every day. I admired her for atlast getting enough guts to leave that torturous life forever. Respect is everything. It happened when I was in my 9th std when I was 15 years or so. This incident made me very senstitive to women issues. I since, took part in various debates, discussions on such domestic violence issues in an attempt to make people ( mostly women ) aware.

  5. Compassion!

Going back to when I was in 4th std, around 10 years then, I used to regularly play with the kids of the Nepali watchman of our building, who were my age. They were two of them, the rest of the building people being much older. They were poor and both the kids used to come to our house ( Durga and Boini ). My mother would give them food to eat, so they absolutely loved her. We played house house and many other litte-girl's games. Sometimes, though I was bit cruel with them esp Durga. I'd demand that she kept playing with me whenever I wanted. If my mother gave food, I'd say to her to eat only after she finished the game with me. So, yes I was a little 'bully'.

One day, both the sisters were down on the back yard of the building and I called them up. They were about to come, when I spotted a large Blue Asian Paints can, nearby, where they both were. It was brimming full of paint. I suddenly got a wicked thought and asked ( no, ordered would be the right word ) Durga and Boini to put some of those colours on their face, hands etc. They were too innocent and used to taking my orders, so started doing exactly what I told them to do. After a while, they were completely smeared in colours. They put the colours in their body too. Then, all of a sudden their mother saw them and ran out to stop them. She immediately took them inside to wash the colours off. Those were real colours ( used for painting houses and very toxic too ) and was already drying. When dried, it is very difficult to remove the paint. By this time, my mother also got to know of what happened and there was a panic. I realized slowly that I did a big blunder. They ultimately had to use 'kerosene' to remove the paint from their bodies.
This incident taught me not to be a bully anymore and be compassionate towards others. They may be poor, but they were human too.

( Images : Google )
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