The other day I was on my way to work. The traffic was jammed. It was drizzling. During peak hours in monsoon, one can easily get stuck in traffic for hours. Even when walking. Yeah, a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point. I was casually looking around all the directions while the vehicles were competing to claw the next available inch. One guy in a motor bike picked something from near his leg space and threw it on the pavement. Well, it was a garbage bag. I could feel the mercury levels of my irritation rising. I always get irritated when somebody doesn’t exhibit civic sense. It could be as trivial as three friends walking slowly on the pavement not leaving the way for the person behind them. But I have never acted in haste. I remember The Hulk for a minute, take some super deep breaths and focus on something else.

The person throwing the garbage out on the road would have zero impact until two years back. Nobody used to care about it. Including, your’s truly. But with the new government promoting Swacch Bharat (Clean India) initiative, people are showing awareness. Why wouldn’t they? The government has imposed 2% Swachh Bharat cess on all taxable services. And organizing Swachh Bharat campaigns and taking the responsibility a bit too far has become a fad. So after this guy threw the garbage on the pavement, one biker from behind rushed towards him, condemned him and directed him to pick the bag up. This is a good deed and you can tell from other people’s faces that everyone thought it is a good deed. Until the other guy parked his bike to pick up the garbage bag.

The guy was limping. It looked like he was a victim of polio and it was difficult for him to walk. Now he had to walk about 20 to 25 meters to pick up the garbage bag. But no one cared. No one, including me, tried to help that person. Thinking about it now, was making a guy with disability pick the rubbish he threw nobler than letting him carry on with a simple verbal advice? I don’t know. Maybe that guy will never throw rubbish again on the road. But what about the person who made him pick the bag? He didn’t even flinch when he saw the man limping. Was his action (or inaction) a moral one? The ideal thing to do could have been to help him by picking the bag for him.

As scriptures and philosophers say, an action is labeled good or bad by the purpose or intention. A person is called a criminal if he kills another person normally. But if he takes part in a war and kills people of the enemy’s side, he is called a soldier. Good and bad are again perspectives. They co-exist like two sides of a coin.  So what is good? What is bad? And what is better of the two goods and worse of the two bads? Confusions, questions and dilemmas!


6 thoughts on “Dilemma

  1. To answer your last questions, I would have to write a very long reply detailing where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I’m going. Experience from childhood, now, and beyond teaches each of us [my opinion] what to us is good, bad, or the difference between the two. Some people might say it’s in the Bible, look it up. I’m saying I have no real idea of what is or isn’t, except in my life. There are laws against throwing trash in the street [as a for instance], so according to that law, throwing trash is a no no. I tend to be a clean and tidy person, so I probably wouldn’t like it, but I can’t say that I’ve never thrown anything down on the ground that could have been binned instead. On that day, and with a few rationalizations, or rather, no forethought, it wasn’t bad or good. I just did it. There’s a lot of things we do that aren’t conscious, just done. If we thought about our actions, we’d probably do something different. It does matter I suppose, but could make your head hurt trying to make any real sense of it ’cause in the next minute, something could change your mind completely. EEK!

  2. I think this brings up a good point when it comes to morals. Even looking at the Mahabharat, there is a clear expression of this tension between a strict moral code (ie. strict rules to follow when gambling, a very black and white view of littering) versus a larger view of dharma and love in which it’s okay to break rules in honor of a greater good (in this case, taking care of each other as brothers and sisters).

  3. Wonderful thought. There are too many factors, internal or external, that results in our action at that particular moment. Everybody does something that is not always pleasant or as per norms. The degree varies. If we are conscious about every action that we do, we would have attained enlightment 🙂

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