RACY CASES-56 Right …. And Wrong

V Pattabhi Ram

“When you embark on your career, remember that often you will have to make choices that may not be appreciated by your peers”, the professor told the class.  “Sir, you mean that we will have to choose between right and wrong”, the resident wag cracked.  The professor realized that in today’s chaltahai world there wasn’t anything such as black and white; that there were only shades of grey.

He decided to address the issue by posing a question. “You guys understand cricket?” he asked.  “Yeah” screamed the class.  The professor knew that he had its attention.  He asked, “Suppose a batsman snicks a ball, is caught, knows that he is out but the umpire rules ‘not out’.  What should the batsman do?”

“I think it’s the umpire’s call. If he errs, so be it.  The batsman should stick on and play” said the girl in the middle row.  “But wouldn’t that be cheating”, asked Debbie, the baby faced topper? Neil, wondered aloud, “Then why should we have an umpire? And what happens when the umpire gives a wrong decision which goes against the batsman?” Neil indicated that he would go with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar who once said, “There is no need to walk. Sometimes you are given out when you are not; sometimes you are given not out when you are out.  In a career these things even out.”  The professor heard shouts of “Bravo, Bravo”.  Someone said, “Yes, we have to be practical.”  “Someone else remarked, “We have to be worldly wise.” A voiced added, “By walking out we would be undermining the authority of the umpire.” Phew.

It was Debbie who made the professor realize that all wasn’t lost with the new generation.  She said, “In the 200 World Cup I saw Adam Gilchirst walk without waiting for the Umpire’s signal.  I had a lump in my throat.  Ever since I have decided that we should do what is right and not what is expedient”.  There were a few in the class who said, “Yeah, that’s great.”

The professor walked up to the board and drew a 2X2 matrix.  On the base axis he wrote, “Umpire’s Wrong decision”.  And split it into two halves.  One, “Favorable to you.”  Two, “Adverse to you.”  On the vertical axis he wrote, “You decide”.  And split it into two halves.  One, “You correct the Umpire”.  And two, “You accept his decision.”  The professor offered no comments.  He simply asked his next question. “Suppose a batsman doesn’t snick the ball.  The keeper claims a catch and the umpire rules the batsman out.  What should the batsman do?”

“The batsman should walk” said Debbie.  “Oh, that’s being sissy” said the backbencher.  “Playing gentleman” chided the girl in the middle row. Neil pointed out, “The batsman should accept the decision because dissent brings in its wake monetary punishment.” The girl in the middle row remarked, “I think the batsman should be assertive.  He must walk up to the umpire and tell him hey, you were bloody wrong”. And then she added, “In life if you aren’t assertive, people will treat you as a doormat”.  Someone hissed, “hey, killer idea”.

The professor walked up to the board and completed the matrix giving each quadrant a name. “Great”. “Practical.” “Assertive”. And “Gentlemanly.”  He pointed out that each was a personality trait.  Which role you would like to play would depend on what attribute you would like to wed.”   And added, “The Great and the Gentlemanly are admired but they aren’t successful in the way success is defined in today’s world”.  The backbencher completed the statement saying, “the Practical and the Assertive may not be appreciated but they are the ones who do well in the world.”

Debbie was shocked.  To expect her professor whom she adored and respected to endorse this view stumped her. She stood up, her pony tail dangling. “Gandhi was both great and gentlemanly.  The man with a walking stick brought the British to their knees.  If those traits were good for him it should be good for us.”  She suddenly found unexpected support.  Someone said, “To call something practical is convenient and fashionable.  You can always justify anything.  But if in your heart of hearts you know that you are wrong, then you are wrong.”

Debbie decided to pose a question. “You buy products from a shopping mall for Rs 730. The teller wrongly bills you for Rs 630.  What would you do?”  A voice remarked, “Pay and walk away.”  Debbie continued, “Now, suppose you pay Rs 1000/- and the teller returns Rs 470/- what would you do?”  Another voice said, “Wow, double whammy.  I would collect the Rs 470 and walk away.”

Debbie remarked.  “It happened to me.  And I told the shopkeeper that he had short billed me by Rs 100/-.  He had the look of shock and awe on his face. In his anxiety he returned Rs 470. I pointed out that he had now overpaid me Rs 100.  He again looked at me with shock and awe. He said, “Madam, you are so honest.  As a reward, take any book of your choice worth Rs 300”.  I refused. I told him that I didn’t expect to be rewarded for basic honesty”.  She then turned around to face the class, “If it happens to you do what I did and you will realize what it is like to play the game straight”.  Almost everyone in the class had goose pimples. They gave her a standing ovation.

The professor was mighty happy.  After all, values are still important to today’s generation he told himself.  It was an object lesson that the class was unlikely to forget for the rest of its life.

Matrix for article

Umpire’s wrong                           You correct                    Type

Decision is favorable                    the umpire      

To you

 Yes                                           Yes                               Great        

 Yes                                           No                               

Practical/Worldly wise

 No                                             Yes                               Assertive

 No                                             No                                Gentleman


About Pattabhi Ram

A chartered accountant by profession, a writer by passion and a teacher by accidental choice.
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