TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Is being honest difficult?

Ask that question to anyone who appeared in the court of law to be a witness or were fighting a case. (If we lie under oath, that is considered misleading the court and is a punishable offense.)

Ask that question to a kid who ate the ice- cream stored in the refrigerator without seeking permission.

Ask that question to someone who cheated at work or cheated on their partner.

The answer really depends, mostly on two things. One, Is being honest the right thing to do in this situation? Second, Is the person who I am going to talk to can take it? But, there is one more question we always consider before being honest. That is, Am I ready to take the consequences of being honest. If we think we are not ready, we resort to not being honest. Most people choose dishonesty for themselves more than others. This is my take. Whenever I feel someone is not being honest, the very first doubt that comes to my mind is, what is the fear that is binding them?

Few months ago I organized a virtual team event. One of the activities in the event was – “My friend at work”. Everyone in the team were to talk about a friend at work, what qualities in that friend they like the most and what is that one quality in that friend they would want to cultivate/learn as well. There were around 15 people in the call that day and 5 of them took my name as a good friend. All of them expressed the quality they wish they could learn is my ability to say whatever I feel is right, no matter who I am talking to. “The facts are x and y. Whether we like it or not there is nothing we can do about those facts than accepting them. This is what is doable and this is the impact.. When you say it Aastha, you are assertive asking them to take it or leave it. You are completely honest irrespective of how it might make all of us feel. Showing the mirror is not something everyone can do and you do it with ease. That honesty is not what we get to see often. It is rear and you really deliver the truth well. It is not easy to learn, but I would love to be that courageous“, said one of my very good friend.  After that discussion, I kept wondering if the team was trying to tell me that it hurts them. I started to be watchful about my communications.

Few days later to this, we were discussing some concept for our product which would make users life simple. From a user perspective it made complete sense to me. But, technically there is no such technology that is readily available. We spent few days dwelling all over the internet scouting for some answers. My concerns turned out to be true.  We weighed the pros and cons. The cons out numbered the pros by a large amount. Yet, there are some moments when data is not enough to convince the higher management. There are many who fear that being in good books is more important than being honest. Cannot blame them.

There is a regular meeting in which all core members of the team including business leadership meet once a week. This particular user ask came for discussion. By then, we have presented this in various forums hoping someone would understand why we cannot do it. There are specific standards that cannot be met with existing technology. My inner self could not bear wasting any more time on a feature that we know is practically impossible to build using the existing technology. We don’t have the luxury to do some research given our tight schedule. I was the youngest – both in age and rank in that meeting, yet I could not resist saying it out loud that we are wasting precious time hunting for the two birds in the bush, while letting go of the one we have in hand. I exactly used that phrase. The rest of what I said in the meeting is confidential. Two days later to this meeting, that particular feature was called off, which literally changed the direction in which the program was heading. A sigh of relief it was for me, yet, I was concerned if I overstepped. After this announcement, few people from leadership appreciated me for the candid feedback and being brutally honest, including the leader who made this proposal in the first place and strongly believed having that feature is extremely important. I scheduled a 1-1 with that leader seeking feedback. He explained it to me beautifully about how I was not thinking about likeability and solely my interest was in the products’ future. That conversation erased a lot of my worries.

I am definitely a take or leave it kind of person. It is so in both professional and personal life. Does that hurt others? Yes, in some instances. Does it help me? Of course.

I prefer to be honest with my articles as well and if someone asks me to write what I don’t really believe in, no matter how much I try I cannot write such article. Does honesty have repercussions? Oh yes. Honest trees are cut first. Yet, it is only better to be honest sooner or later. It is extremely difficult to explain dishonest choices than to face the aftermath of being honest. It takes lot of courage to be honest. 

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”
― Shannon L. Alder

HONESTY RUNS THROUGH THE BASIC LEVELS OF COURAGE

Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Courage is something which makes a person stand out in the crowd. Courage is one thing that makes a person face the danger or dare of any kind which most doesn’t put them into. But along with courage, a person needs mental toughness, physical strength and ability to face that amount of danger or risk and sustain instead of succumbing to the danger easily.

The above is the most generic meaning or higher level application of the word Courage which only a few selected ones possess. But as per my knowledge and intellect is concerned courage has THREE basic levels of application through which each and every human being on this earth gets an opportunity to go. And I have categorized those THREE levels of courage as under:

1. Sincerity – Do what is right level of courage:

With the presence of sin and corruption in our gene we are inclined towards insincerity in our responsibility often and we do try to justify our degree of insincerity with some reasons like sickness, weakness and so on. So according to me, when we display a sense of courage to do what is right despite of our excuses or say, valid reasons we succeed to earn respect and attention from people surrounding us.

How many of us are sincere at our workplace

all the time? Have we tried to do the extra hours just to finish what was due of us for that day? How many times we procrastinate and keep things pending. Oh, trust me, I am a biggest example of that, sadly. I may blame my ill health. But sincerity is essential to display the minimum level of courage I have to do things that I know to be right and essential.

Sincerity is an attribute which can be displayed at any point of time or place and is not limited to our workplace only. We need to be sincere with our household chores or duties pertaining to our house or families. We need to be sincere even with our friends.

This level of courage that we need is concerning our duties and responsibilities mostly which we display in our actions. But the next level of courage is higher and more challenging.  

2. Honesty – Say what is right level of courage:

Dealing with people is more challenging than just doing what is right. We face people at every stage of our life. To say the things which we know to be right and make them follow the same is really difficult. In the previous articles we have great examples of how honesty can put us in danger or at a risk. But the challenge of this level is to have the courage to be honest in our actions as well as express mostly.  

In the family while discussing something, I find it extremely difficult to say, “I don’t want to hear anymore, let’s discuss it later as I am feeling stressed.” That was the honest me. But if I say it honestly, then I become selfish, uninterested and escaping.  

3. Justice – Stand for what is right level of courage:

This level is tough as a person has to deal with both his or her responsibilities as well as the people around him or her. He or she has to stand for what he or she believes or does or says as right. Doing justice is one thing and protecting the same is all the more difficult and dangerous in a world where everyone tends to do things other than what is right.

For the fear of superiors, when we don’t stand for someone who becomes the victim of injustice makes us coward or having no courage. Standing for justice is deadly and risky. But I believe if I practice courage at the sincerity level and honesty level then it will be easier for me to display the courage to be just and protect what is right.

Interestingly, I see the courage of sincerity, honesty and justice working at all levels but honesty is predominant among all. Let me explain as I conclude this article.

In the first level of courage when we are honest with our own self we become sincere. In the second level, we display the courage of honesty when we are truthful to ourselves as well as with the people we deal on a day to day basis. And at the end, when we are courageous to stand for justice we are honest to our own selves, honest to the people around us and honest with the creator God who sees everything from above.

Tough? Really, really tough, I would say. But there have always been people who have stood out as ONE and ONLY from the mass and have proved that they can do – be sincere, stand for justice, most importantly be honest with everything and everyone. We just have to practice it in our day to day life to reach to their levels.

Stay Blessed!!!

A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST

Musafir Ali (a recognized poet) meets Aslam Baig (a recognized wrestler) on the train from Bhopal to Delhi. They were sharing the same compartment. As they see each other, immediately Musafir Ali recognizes Aslam Baig yet he behaves as if it’s their first meet. As the journey is long and somehow both of them started to swap their professional and personal life stories. Meanwhile Musafir shows the ring of famous poet Gulam Nabi Azad which he gifted Musafir after watching Musafir’s performance. In response, Aslam shares the memory of his beautiful, gold-plated, and costly alarm pocket watch “Khusbakht”. For Aslam, Khusbakht was like his wife, it brought him fortunes but unfortunately decades back in a train journey someone stole Khusbakht and as result, Aslam started losing his fortunes. After their conversation, both of them goes to sleep but throughout the night Musafir was unable to sleep properly because a couple of decades back it was Musafir (previously known as Raju Shahwani) who had stolen Khusbakht from Aslam Baig and it was that of his guilt of stealing Khusbakht which was hunting him at present. As it dawns and the train stops at the outer of Delhi station, Musafir decides to quietly put Khusbakht in Aslam’s handbag in his absence, unfortunately, Aslam catches Musafir red-handed. Confessing his sin Musfair leaves the train at Delhi station but Aslam comes running after Musfair and handovers him Khusbakht asking him to hand over Khusbakht to the storekeeper at the Rooh-Saaf store on the next day at 3 pm. Accordingly, Musfair goes to the Rooh-Saaf store the next day to handovers Khusbakht. In response, the storekeeper asks Musafir the name for the record and Musafir mentions his name but the storekeeper says, ‘no mister, I need the name of the person from whom you have stolen Khusbakht’ but being embarrassed Musafir hesitates to mention Aslam Baig’s name. Angrily, the storekeeper asks Musafir to get out of the store and leave his coat of fake honor. Yet to hide his sin Musafir questions the storekeeper, “Why did people visit his store to return the stolen things instead of selling them?” And the storekeeper responds, SELF-RESPECT! Self-respect always bites our conscience. Whatever sins a man may commit he is, after all, a child of God and unless he confesses his sin, his soul remains blemished.” Realizing his sinful state, Musafir takes courage to confess Aslam Baig’s name. Then the storekeeper shows him the beautiful ring of poet Gulam Nabi Azad which Aslam Baig handover the storekeeper the before day soon after leaving the train. The storekeeper also mentions Aslam is one of his regular customers and shows many other pieces of stuffs and wrestling awards that Aslam had stolen before. Because like Musafir, Aslam was also suffering from Kleptomania disorder. The next day, Musafir comes back to the Rooh-Saaf store with a bag full of tiny pieces of stuffs which he had stolen from different people since his childhood.

Yes, you are rightly thinking, this is a story of the legendary Scriptwriter and Filmmaker Mr. Satyajit Ray which is filmed in the recent web series “Ray”.

How analogical is the story to each of our inner states! Isn’t it?

In the Bible, it is beautifully penned, “Our human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. No human can understand it. It is like a whitewashed tomb which looks beautiful from outside but inside it is filled with rotten stinky bones.”

My inside isn’t visible to others but I can see it. Its sinful state haunts me day and night. I blame people outside for my peace lessness whereas the reason is within me and it needs to be treated at the earliest. “If we won’t treat our sin today, our sin might become our graveyard tomorrow”. For the treatment, all we need is “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to drop our coat of fake honor like Musafir Ali.” “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to go for Rooh-Saaf, confession of sin makes us guilt-free.” A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to self and unto others.

In my case, I remember, years back I was invited to an NPO voluntary board as an Asst. Secretary. While we were organizing an event, we had to outsource our work. As we the board members decided to outsource our work, we gave tender for music arrangements to one of our team members. But before signing the tender approval, I asked the Music Arranger to handover all the Music tracks to the Secretary soon after the event since the NPO has paid for it and the NPO is the sole owner of it. Being the youngest member of the team and as well among the Board Members, I was quite sure the Music Arranger will surely retaliate and that might also affect our personal relationship. Even to the extent, of his retaliation I must be embarrassed before the seniors but keeping eye on the mandate of being a voluntary NPO Board Member, I need to be honest in each of my decisions. As I took courage and went honest in my decision, he retaliated, and being an elder person went a little bossy on me. His response made me feel bad and embarrassed. But the end product was remarkable – “the sin got exposed & till date it was the last tender for him from that particular NPO board.”

A little courage, to be honest, keeps us guilt-free and is strong enough to expose the sin.

HONESTY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY

Well, we have been taught since our childhood that we should be honest. However, as kids in school – nobody really tells us that being honest also has its consequences which are not always in your favour.

Something similar happened to Sharda when she tried to be honest at her workplace. She was working for an organization for 10+ years and she had learnt a lot from there. She had joined it as a fresher and managed to grow to a much higher position. Since the last couple of years, she had started to feel stagnant and wanted to move out. But no such brilliant offers were coming up.

She had realized that the atmosphere of her team had been deteriorating for quite some time especially since her new manager had joined a couple of years back. He was not only incompetent but also favoured the wrong people. This was causing a lot of politics at the workplace. She initially did not bother about it. She believed that if she continued to perform at her work, she could stay away from this politics. But she was wrong.

As she continued over the last 2 years, things were only getting worse. She finally got an offer from another organization which she readily accepted. But before leaving she went ahead and reported to HR, all that was happening to her team. Not only that, she even reported these things to the head of the business when she was asked the reason for resigning. The favouritism, gender discrimination, blame games, personal comments and everything that had bothered her in lately.

She expected action to be taken. But in the 3 months of her notice period, she saw no change at all, in fact, some of her team members turned hostile towards her. She left this job and joined a better organization and a better team.

One of her ex-team members called her one evening and told her that her superiors in the previous organization had defamed her a lot. She was incorrectly being blamed a lot for all the wrongs that had happened in the department. And that was all because her concerns were not handled in the right way.

Sharda was far away from that hostile environment but it still impacted her. She had been wronged.

This is a very common scenario especially at the workplace wherein subordinates are forced to move on when they really cannot deal with the unfair situations at work. Their honest opinions are used against them and power of position often wins.

___________________________________________________________________________________

A few years back, I had to face a similar situation at the workplace. It wasn’t as bad as what Sharda faced. I had issues with the way our Department Head was managing our team. He was always micro-managing and had no trust in the team. As the team lead, I was finding it difficult to keep him away so that my team could have space to work the way we wanted.

My immediate manager however understood the situation really well and was very well on our side. I was asked for my honest opinion and blurted out all my frustration in front of her. It was very clear to her that I saw our Department Head as the major and only issue in that team.

My manager was a genuine person and she once said – “You are not scared to call a spade a spade and that is really good.”

She genuinely appreciated my honesty and handled the situation for me. It was a huge risk that I had taken. The situation could have very easily turned against me but I was lucky to have the right person as a Manager to whom I could confide in. The moral of the story is – Don’t always give your honest opinion. Sometimes people just ask you for your opinion because they want to play against you. It doesn’t work. Honesty is the best policy only when honesty is used with the right trustworthy person.

HONESTY CAN STAND ONLY ON THE PEDESTAL OF COURAGE

The question put to me today is ‘Do I have the courage to be honest?”

Oh not at all! I am the wrong person to kick start the week about ‘courage to be honest’. See, the thing is that I from my very childhood have been a people pleaser. I mean it mattered a lot to me to what others think about me. I have gone to great lengths to avoid conflict, to not rock the boat. Overlooked a lot many things to avoid argument. 

But over the years I have realized that going along with other’s plans even when we don’t agree with it usually back fires on us. Keeping quite at the start to avoid a conflict eventually leads us into a bigger mess.

For a long time, I have been part of the cultural committee which plans all big celebrations in our society. There have been times when a deco idea or dance idea doesn’t feel right but we still go ahead with it because the person who is suggesting it is very enthusiastic and we don’t want to break their heart. But then eventually when on the D Day there is a debacle or things don’t work out the whole team is blamed, we all become the fall guys. At that moment I realized that its better to be brutally honest right at the start.

Imagine you are in a meeting and your boss suggests an idea. You think it’s an absolutely bogus idea. Do you have the guts to say that to your boss? I have gone along with ideas suggested by my seniors or super seniors which I didn’t really like. And the end result is that if things don’t work out it’s the team which takes the beating and the senior gets away scot free. Why? Because we agreed with it. 

So in my personal opinion in the long run its better to be honest and tell the person why we thing that what he or she is suggesting wont work. I still don’t do it with brutal honesty. I put it forward with a little diplomacy but hey… I am trying…

What happens if your being honest could have an adverse effect on you or your work? Do you still have the courage to be honest? 

Here I will give you an example of my husband. He owns a start up company. Now imagine the scenario. Their company really needed a certification from a government organization. He applied for it and after the due process he was called to the office to collect the letter. The guy in charge said the letter is ready you may take it and also hinted that he was excepting an X amount as bribe… The bribe amount was not very huge and the value of that letter to the company was much greater. My hubby returned the letter to him and said that he will not pay a single paisa and walked out of the room. I can only imagine the dumbfounded expressions on the officer’s face. Not that’s courage to be honest. He put a lot of future contracts in line by refusing to pay but he didn’t regret it.

Eventually that courage paid off, our company did get that letter eventually and we benefitted from that also.

So I guess being honest and pointing out something wrong does feel like a negative thing to do at that time but in the long run it is better for our own sanity, our work and our relationships. And I feel when it comes to honesty, courage is required by both the teller and the listener.

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – FINAL

Arvind Sikdar, Shaloween’s immediate boss had always been the best for everyone. And that was the reason why he continued to be rated high by all his staff members every time there was an evaluation in the company. He could understand the state of his young and most beloved staff member, Shaloween.

“Will you just shut up and sit down, Shalu?”, he said sternly, pretending to be angry. Shaloween didn’t say anything but simply rubbed her cold palms to each other taking a seat.

“It is not very important how this letter came to me… But why did you write this…? That is more important for me, Shalu. Now, let’s go out somewhere, that’s urgent”, he said sternly and without a second thought he stood and walked out of his cabin asking Shaloween to follow. She was shocked and confused seeing what Mr. Sikdar was trying to do and where he was asking her to go with him even though she was aware of his nature. He always does things in a very mysterious way but Shalu was hyper because of the letter which she wrote against Mr. Chandra which Mr. Sikdar put inside his coat pocket.

When Mr. Sikdar’s car stopped at Shalu’s apartment she looked at him with teary eyes. “Why have we come here, Sir? Have you thrown me out?”, she asked in desperation.

“Let’s get inside then I am telling you, Shalu. Have patience and you don’t need to shed your precious tears”, Mr. Sikdar replied to her, mocking her seeing the tears in her eyes.

When they settled down at her flat, Mr. Sikdar asked her, “Now explain what really happened between you and Mr. Chandra from the beginning till the end. I came here because I didn’t want to deal with these things in the presence of all others. Everyone would have come to the office by now.” He looked at his watch as he said that. Shaloween adjusted herself and explained everything that had been happening to and troubling her.

After almost two hours, Mr. Arvind Sikdar returned back to the company office and was greeted by his colleagues and two of those higher officials, Mr. Mahem and Mr. Chandra.

“You went for a morning walk or what, Mr. Sikdar? And where’s Shalu today?”, taunted Mr. Chandra as he asked looking at Mr. Arvind Sikdar. But as usual the composed gentleman, Mr. Sikdar replied, “No, Mr. Chandra, Shalu was in a deep trouble. She has high fever and as her guardian in this city, I took her to the hospital for a RTPCR test. It is better we forget her now and discuss about the final report, right Mr. Mahem?”

Mr. Arvind Sikdar’s words reverberated in that hall way with all others around and both the officials had nothing to say. They simply nodded their heads and walked inside the meeting room to finalize the report before they conclude their trip.

Two days after, in the morning when Shaloween walked inside the office hall, all others felt a chill in their spines seeing her. But at that moment, Mr. Arvind Sikdar walked out of his cabin with a smile, “Welcome Shalu, I am so happy you were tested negative and your fever is gone.” Both smiled understandably at each other, knowing well the reason of her staying away from office.

“By the way, I have something to announce, I was just waiting for Shalu to be back in the office”, Mr. Sikdar said looking at all as everyone attentively looked at him. “Shalloween had done a wonderful job and the two visiting officers approved all our reports, appreciated our reporting systems and our coordinated working styles. So we will have a party this afternoon.” Everyone in the room stood on their feet and cheered, congratulating Shaloween and Mr. Sikdar.

When Shalu went into the cabin of Mr. Sikdar later that day, his first question to her was, “Did you burn that letter you drafted against Mr. Chandra, Shalu?”

“Yes, I destroyed it immediately after you left the other day, Sir. And thank you so much for what you did for me. The drama you scripted taking advantage of the pandemic situation was exceptional.” Shalu said with her hands folded.

“Shalu”, he said as he asked her to take a seat. “I would have done that to anyone in your state. And you are like my daughter. Don’t you think as a father I would have anyway protected my daughter from such viruses?” Shaloween nodded.

“But you should have immediately told me about the first message you received. You should not have allowed him to play with your vulnerability. He was very manipulative but I am more protective of my own, my office, my staff and you.” Mr. Arvind Sikdar said with a gentle and satisfying smile on his face.

Shalloween literally allowed her vulnerability to go wrong but at the right time, she was well protected by this man. She could not have asked anything more after having a father-like boss and that was the reason why she had such high regards for him.

Everyone enjoyed the department party during the lunch time.

THE END

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – XII

The discovery of not finding the letter in her bag startled Shaloween. She emptied her bag, checked multiple times every quarter, every inch of the bag but it went futile. Her thoughts ran haphazardly to every nook and corner of the house and office where she possibly could have put or slipped the letter accidentally. Nothing seemed to help her out.

She was very restless lest that letter finds some unwanted notice when things were on the verge of finding a solution. The regret was not about writing it but about unmindful, unintentional omission unfortunately. She decided to go back to office as her phone was also dead by then and without a spare charger that seemed to be a right decision to her. Was it just the charger that forced her to be out in the night in an attire which was a little bit more than that of pyjamas or something else? She brushed those thoughts back as she tied her hair in a ponytail and started the car.

It was around 9:45 PM that she reached her office. As she went to the building after parking another shock awaited her at the entrance. The guard refused to let her go inside for the reason – she forgot her ID at home in a rush to reach office and the night guard wasn’t familiar with her.

She pleaded with him for about fifteen minutes but the guard refused to budge. Heaving a heavy sigh in despair Shaloween was about to leave as she heard some commotion on the stairs. She turned to look in the direction of the sound and was a bit surprised to see Shekhar Chandra there at that hour of the time.

“Sir, you? Here? How? Why?” Shaloween spoke in broken words contemplating well her state of mind – puzzled. “Well that should be my question to you Shalu.. I mean Ms.Shaloween. Here at this hour, searching for something?” Shekhar asked in a rather not casual tone or at least that’s what Shaloween thought.

That questioner was for a moment bowled over by the question! With a small hiccup Shaloween gathered herself and said with a straight face, “I forgot my charger at the office desk and my phone is dead. Couldn’t have waited till morning and in a rush to reach here I forgot my ID at home, just messed up things”. Shaloween stood there feeling awkward at this meeting. Shekhar signalled the guard “aane do” and the guard did allow her inside.

Thanking Shekhar in a polite way she followed him. As silence ensued she chose to break it and asked “What are you doing here Sir?”

Shekhar cleared his throat, “Had some files to look at to ensure timely wrap up from here” and opened the door for Shaloween leading into the office. She took a paced stride towards her cabin and collected her charger as Shekhar fixed his gaze on her.

Shaloween checked her drawers thoroughly but couldn’t trace the letter. She stood at her desk running her fingers through her hair in utter desperation, thinking where it could have gone.

Shekar was watching her. And their gazes met quite dramatically. Shaloween felt uncomfortable and decided to leave the premise thinking I shall see it later.

“Did you find … the charger?”, there was an awkward pause in his words. “Yes and thanks” Shaloween answered in a decidedly less hassled tone.

What transpired at office remained with Shaloween all the way back to her home. It was almost thirty minutes past 11. She decided to hit the sack but the disturbed vibe came to haunt her again.

Next day as soon as she reached office she was summoned to Mr. Sikdar’s room. Her apprehensions were oscillating quite high.

“May I come in Sir?” she took the permission and entered and the first thing that caught her attention and blew her mind was the letter in her writing lying on the table.

“Shalu I need to talk to you about this”, Sikdar pointed towards the letter but before he could say anything Shaloween confronted, “how did you get this Sir?” She was an amalgamation of anger and anxiety at this moment.

Sikdar usually a composed and sorted person seemed to have dropped his fine judgement when he said, “this shouldn’t have been the way to deal. You simply can’t blame anyone and especially meddling with powerful people isn’t good for you. You are like my own daughter. Why…” And he was interrupted by Shaloween abruptly who by this moment had lost all her patience.

“Just one question – how did it land here?”