Sunday, April 17, 2011

Right and Wrong - a theory of Relativity

A woman called me a few days ago, regarding some nursery rhyme DVDs for my son. I didn't hear half of what she said. In the end, she asked me for my email ID so that she can send an order form I could fill up and return to her. I could easily have said, "I'm not interested," even before she started elaborating. Or when she asked for my email. I have already given that answer to scores before her, regarding credit cards, bank accounts, job opportunities, and other things I can barely recall. Instead, I gave her my email ID (knowing that this act could bring another ten spam mails per month in my mailbox). I know I am not going to place an order for the DVDs. Yet I did not say it.

Ever since I started working from home, I have had to convince people that Working from home really meant 'Working'. Everyone (especially a few specimen in the family) just assumes that there is no work involved, it only means 'being at home' - being available to chat for hours on the phone, to cook till my hands crack, to sleep throughout the day, to keep the house spic-and-span despite the energetic five-year-old throwing things around, and to wash clothes till the clothes-line breaks. If anyone manages to get convinced that I am doing some work, they immediately conclude that the pay is pathetic. The inevitable next step would be comparison with a Software Engineer's bank balance (considering my history and all that). So what do I do? If anyone is indiscreet enough to ask (oh yeah, some of them demand to know) what my pay is, I add a third to what I really get and give them the new total. Merely for my peace of mind.

Lies, both scenarios. Harmless lies, unspoken-lies, true lies, whatever - lies nonetheless. The DVD woman would wonder, If she were not interested in placing an order, why didn't she say so? The relative who asked me about my salary would wonder, Why didn't she just tell me the truth? To me, they were Right, for reasons I know.

How did I get into this? I was taught that dishonesty, lies, theft, and all their relatives that go under different names, were Wrong. In due course, I found out that half-truths, truth-not-spoken and harmless-lies were sometimes termed Wrong. Silence also fell in the same category. There were no rigid rules. When confronted with one of them, the wise thing was to check the premises before pouncing on the verdict.

I could cite two other instances, both during recruitment interviews. In the first, as a fresher, I tried to keep the complete truth from the interviewers, because I did not know which was worse: the truth or concealing it. Before the discussion was over, they figured out I did not tell them everything, and that alone caused them to reconsider their initial favourable decision. In the second case, I told the interviewer in all honesty that I rely heavily on Google. They expressed surprise, and gave me a chance to modify my answer, but I didn't. The result, I was rejected. (Looking back now, I was lucky they turned me down, but at the time I was unhappy. But going over and over it, I knew I would not have been able to hide the role Google played in my life.)

With relationships, it is a whole new maize altogether, of Right and Wrong and their combinations. What is Right to one, is invariably Wrong for the other. There is also a middle-ground, a place that looks different when viewed from a different angle. Right and Wrong do not depend on facts (What are facts anyway?) or the premises. It depends also on what kaleidoscope you are viewing through, your age, position, location, experience, your requirements, your expectations, your relatives, and a whole bunch of uncertainties.

If I thought adult relationships were too much to handle, matters involving children turned out to be absolutely hazy. Don't even attempt trying to investigate which one of the brawling kids is Right. Because interfering in their affairs is Wrong. Pulling them apart maybe Right as long as their claws are not dug into each other. Trying to pointing out who did Right or to resolve their conflict, is Wrong.

He took my toy.
She pushed me.
He pulled my hair.
She threw sand in my eyes.
He hit me with that toy.
She lied.

Am I Right, or is he Wrong.


  1. Great musings.

    You rightly said - there is nothing right or wrong.

    It's all to be seen from the middle ground.

  2. :) - How to lie appropriately.. that I guess only experience will teach.

    Rules are there, so are exceptions. Just need to define ourselves when which comes under what :)