Honor is a much used word. This can be interpreted as self respect, self esteem, a feeling of being correct and the like. It also depends on what the society at large perceives a quality as honour.Two separate incidents that occurred a few days ago made me think of these definitions of honor. An official of BBMP committed suicide by hanging after it was found out that he pocessed assets disproportionate to his known income. A case was booked by the state’s anti corruption bureau against him some time ago. BBMP stands for Bruhth [big, extended] Bengaluru [Bangalore] Mahanagara [huge city] Palike [governing body]. Bruhth can also be interpreted as unwieldy which it certainly is. Bengaluru is the vernacular version of the rather nice name of Bangalore. With the city going berserk with the huge and rapid expansion, the work of the already existing rather inefficient and corrupt civic body has enormously increased and so also the scope for corruption.
In today’s India, it is socially accepted and even honorable for one to be corrupt. Till recently it was so, as long as one remained undetected. Now it has come to be accepted and even applauded if one is caught because it indirectly proves the man’s worth! If another government agency thinks that a particular officer is worth investigating does it not mean that he gets official recognition of his worth? It should not come as a surprise to see so many known offenders going about as though it was a privilege to be investigated! That more often than not they are let off after lengthy and fruitless court proceedings only adds a kind of vicarious glamour and aura to the concerned persons. It is like gentlemen exhibiting their sternotomy scars after undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery by leaving the top two buttons of the designer shirt open. Getting coronary artery disease and more so getting operated by a famous cardiac surgeon has become an honor. So corruption is like a prestigious disease and the investigating agency is like the society cardiac surgeon. The same news report said that his fellow officers sympathized with him saying that he [the concerned official] had asked for voluntary retirement [so that he could possibly go undetected with his honor intact!]. Even the chief of the investigating agency expressed his sympathy for the now dead official. So all round sympathies for a person who killed himself instead of going about with his head held high and may be after a few years get all the charges dropped for lack of evidence! So this was indeed a rare individual who felt guilty for having been found out! Indian society has been reduced to this miserable state of defining honor.
In the other incident a couple was killed by the villagers because they dared to marry. What is their crime? They belonged to different castes and thus committed a crime and the villagers felt honor bound to kill them. You don’t believe that this happens in a country which claims to be developing and in due course wants to be a super power! Caste and communal identity is primeval, especially in rural India. It is cursed bond between individuals and families which is held sacred and anyone who violates this goes against this bond. For persons like me it is difficult to understand this mindset but I have known persons who if not indulge in such acts, speak sympathetically. Much like the colleagues of the corrupt official who committed suicide. This scourge is one major factor which will not allow India to become a super power. Have we done nothing to overcome this? We have on paper. The constitution guarantees every one the right to live with dignity. But how can one if the social fabric is like this? In our own time there have been persons like Dr Ambedkar and M.K Gandhi and some years earlier reformers like Sri Narayan guru and Jyothi rao Phule who crusaded against the evil of castiesm but as one can see it there has not been any sweeping success and this primordial disease is slowly destroying the country. So the honor for these villagers is to keep and safe guard their identity. They are not much worried about inefficiency, bad administration, corruption, sloth, dirt etc which is all around them. Even if these worry them they donot excite the same fury as the caste transgression does.
Next come the honors that are periodically bestowed upon individuals and organizations by the other organizations and the government. Here the definition of honor is recognition. Next only to power is this need to be recognized. Whether one deserves to be recognized is not important, as long as the stamp of recognition comes from appropriate quarters. Indian government both at the centre and state honours every year, persons who have rendered service in various fields of activity. Politics is one such activity and beurocracy comes only next to it in vying to get the honours. The nation’s highest honor is called Bharath Ratna [jewel of the nation]. This honor has been so misused that not so long ago, to appease one provincial government, it was given to a long dead chief minister of that state! Similar is the affairs at the state level. One of the persons I know who was a social worker came to know that the state government was considering honoring him. He became so depressed that his name will be associated with so many undeserving persons if he accepted the honor. He heaved a sigh of relief when his name was found missing from the list.
Many professional bodies too indulge in this. Sometimes they do it to buy favour. If they need a big donation it is natural to catch a wealthy person and entice him with an honor. Or if there is a trouble maker buy his support by honoring him with a false citation. The recipient in most cases will not object to the nonsense written on the citation and the memento.
So my friends, in my today’s India, honor has many and varied definitions and explanations.