You are waiting for the signal to change at a major intersection. It’s early in the morning on a Sunday and there’s hardly any traffic on the road. You have been watching the light for nearly two minutes drumming your fingers on the steering wheel of your car.
An autorickshaw darts across the road, running the red light. There’s a little voice inside your head that says “go ahead, jump the signal and nobody will know”. You might get away with it the first time, there’s no policeman in sight. The second time is easier because you’ve already done it once and from then onwards till you’re caught red-handed, jumping the red light becomes blasé.
The latest Shahrukh Khan movie is out at the theatres, and there’s no hope of getting a ticket. You’ve simply gotta see the movie, and end up getting a pirated version on DVD. You watch the movie wearing your blinders on convincing yourself it’s only this once. You’re still breaking the law. Again.
There’s a long queue at the post office. You see your friend standing in front of the line and strike up a conversation with him. Blithely ignoring the others in the queue you wheedle your way in, jumping the queue. Unlike the earlier scenarios you’re not breaking the law here, but you are still breaking something — your fellow citizens’ faith in you.
Faith that you will follow an unstated code of conduct which makes it possible for human beings to co-exist in a society. Imagine yourself to be in the other person’s shoe — whether it’s the poor patient driver whom you cut off at the intersection sneaking in from the side as the signal clears or the person at the rear end of that queue at the post office. Wouldn’t you be the one fuming with indignation at being short-changed?
So let us start by changing ourselves, today. With the small stuff. Let’s resolve that when we wait at that traffic light today, not merely by being patient but courteous. I know as the mother of two young impressionable girls, I have to act on the the little things that matter so that it makes a big difference to all of us in the long run.