Conditions apply is a term used while advertising things. Hence some advertisers specifically write, “No conditions apply.” Conditions Apply is a commercial way of saying, “Take it with a pinch of salt.” When I was in school, there used to be an advertisement for a radio set. It would say, “Listen to any station in the world”! The cost of the set would be less than Rs.100/. I asked someone how it is possible? Not that I was an expert in this, but I felt that there was something wrong. That person showed the small print in the advertisement. It said, “When you are at that place”! Small print! Now you know what I mean. That was a radio set that could capture Medium Wave stations when you were at that place.
Does this happen in commercial space only, or it happens in our lives too? Yes, and no, both are the real answers, because life is never defined in Black & White or 1 & 0. There is always grey shade in all facets of life. The love we get from parents, the love we get from kids, the pets, these are all with “No conditions apply.” It happens in the case of close childhood friends too. But ultimately everything in this world follows a Marathi idiom दिसत तसं नसतं म्हणून सारं जग फसत which means that the world is not as we see it or as it appears to us! Or “The grass is always greener on the other side!”
Jackfruit, Coconut is typical real-life examples; they are both rough & tough from outside, but when we get through the top layer, inside is sweet, tasty, and coconut water is pleasing. “The customer is the king” is supposedly today’s motto. Today I read an article by an expat professional White caucasian American lady. She has been living in Pune for the last couple of years. She has openly talked about discrimination that happens the world over, including the US! On the surface, we don’t see it. She said that you might think that there is no discrimination in the US, but the skin color does play a big part.
She shared a story about an incident in Pune. She and kids were in a departmental store. There was another couple where the lady was Caucasian, but her kids had dark skin (mixed marriage). While a service assistant was stocking some bottles on a shelf, she dropped a bottle. She went and told her manager that the dark-skinned kids broke it. He came and told their mother that he would charge her. She was surprised! Our expat friend had seen the incident; she knew the manager, and he was the nice guy. But that day she saw the real side of the person. She insisted on showing the video, and the truth came out! The service assistant was the culprit. The manager did not even apologize! Real world!
When we go to foreign countries, we see huge Indian diaspora first, second, and maybe even third-generation variety. They merge quite well with the local society in behavior, dress sense, and discipline. But when some of them come back to Bharat Desh, they are back to their “normal” selves. One of my classmates who lives in Sydney, Australia, has a young desi neighbor, CA, by training. The young man once told my friend that he was going on a holiday and looked ecstatic. My friend asked him if there was any specific occasion! The young man said, “ I am looking forward to the moment I land in Delhi. I am going to drive the car. I want to break traffic signals at least 30-40 times! I am feeling claustrophobic in Sydney!” Will his Australian colleagues be able to recognize him when he is in India?
What could be the reason for such two faceted behavior? Is it how we grow up in our young phase? Does the changed environment not have any effect good or bad? Do humans normally behave this way? Is the growth phase so important in life? It is said that the human brain grows 90% in the first five years! Maybe the behavior pattern gets etched in the DNA by that time.
There was an interesting study shared in Readers Digest. They selected about ten cities each in various countries in the world in all the continents. These were from tiny villages to towns to cities to metropolises. They kept wallets in public places as if somebody had dropped them. Wallets had personal identifications, family photos, and tidbits to make them look genuine. Wallets also had money equivalent to US $ 100/ in each wallet, in local currency. There were interesting findings. All the events were captured on video cameras kept at strategic locations for study purposes. 90 to 95 % of wallets were returned to authorities in villages. This % started reducing as the population of the place started increasing and was the worst in metropolises, 40/45 %. They concluded that the integrity reduced maybe due to anonymity that humans get in metropolises. This pattern was the same in all continents, across the races! I am quite sure all the persons who kept wallets with themselves, were reasonably normal, but the circumstances changed them.
We have read from olden times about gurus, mullahs and priests taking advantage of the faith people keep in them. We read horror stories about such people who sexually exploit women’s followers. God’s people and exploitation? Things are not as they look. I have known of people who will always have tika on their forehead, perform Pooja daily for a couple of hours but are corrupt in professional lives. How can we explain their behavior? Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde? We know of doctors who perform illegal tests like sex determination of fetus and on the side are known to be great social workers! A “well-known” industrialist manufactured Gutka in huge quantities in a very modern factory. He never displayed an easily visible board of his unit. Minted money, though, he knew that Gutka causes cancer. He used to donate huge money fora medical cause, opened a cancer treatment hospital. Some people sarcastically would call it his “customer complaint center” to handle the side effects of his premium product, Gutka!
A well-established builder has a similar story. His was a typical rag to riches story and was included in the curriculum in commerce college courses. This story was written by a famous management guru. A couple of years back, news started trickling in about his cheating in business. He and his family were arrested last year and are in jail. He has ditched thousands of retirees by taking money from them, in the form of fixed deposit and not returning it. He cannot, as his companies which took the money are bankrupt. The family has hidden treasure, which police are trying to locate. Of course, one of his sons lives a condo where he pays Rs.4/ lacs per month rent! Doyen of the industry!
Are we all this way? Are we waiting for an opportunity to cheat arise? Do we all make a show of how good you are, what a philanthropist you are? I was thinking to myself. Have I ever cheated in the ways explained above, knowingly or purposely? At least I don’t remember doing it. I asked another friend of mine the same question, and he also said the same thing. But we have a common friend who was in government service. He must have retired 10 to 12 years back. I know what the salaries were and what the pension is. But he spends money all the time as if the world is going to end tomorrow. We knew that he was one of the most corrupt officials. But to others who don’t know him well, he is a god-fearing human being, very pious in life.
I always wonder about such people. There are only two ledgers in this world that every individual has to match. One is your ledger, which you have to match every night before sleeping, and the other is when you meet Him! There is a solution. If you find that your ledger on the earth does not match every night (obviously you can’t sleep well!), Amend your ways while you have the opportunity. But once you take the final journey and meet Him, how can you mend your ways? You have a non- return valve on your way back! The choice is yours!