“Let’s go for a movie tomorrow,” his friends told 8 years old Kishore. “But I have school tomorrow, how can we go?”, asked Kishore. “Oh, that’s easy, you just tell your teacher that you fell sick,” his friends suggested with a smile. This was not okay, this did not sound ok to Kishore, who rarely missed school, even when he was genuinely not well.

The next day, with his mind debating between missing the movie and lying to his teacher, he decided to seek help from the school principal. “Sir, I don’t want to lie that I am not well and then go for a movie. But if I tell the truth, then I miss the chance of enjoying a movie with my friends. Tell me what should I do?” The principal, a strict disciplinarian, understood the quandary which was bothering him. He told Kishore that as long as the lie does not cause any harm to anyone, including him, as an exception, is acceptable. By going to the movie, neither was he harming anyone, nor was he doing irreparable damage to his studies, and thus was OK. A relieved Kishore happily went for the movie.

As he grew up, Kishore came across more instances on importance of integrity and having zero tolerance to anything unethical. Kishore and his younger brother, Jagadish, would commute alone by bus. Jagadish, due to his short height, would get away with a half-ticket. Thus the duo would save 5 paisa on a 10 paisa adult bus ride. The 5 paisa was worth a small packet of dry gram (chana), a great treat for the young kids. On one such occasion, the day after the ride, when their mother was washing the shirts, she noticed yellow mark on Jagadish’s shirt pocket and enquired. “Oh, we had some chana the other day,” exclaimed Jagadish. Surprised on hearing this, his father looked at Kishore and asked where he got the money for the chana. Father was flabbergasted when he heard the story of the half-ticket and made both of them promise never to cheat the bus conductor (and God) ever again.

These simple examples at a young age went on to be great learnings for Kishore. Later in his corporate life, he would question many practices that would borderline ethics. For example, when submitting medical bills for reimbursement and tax benefits, people would submit fake bills of medicines and would get away. However, if someone was fortunate to be healthy and wanted to submit bills for healthy stuff like protein and vitamin supplements, policy disallowed it. “So you prefer me falling sick and then claiming reimbursement for medicines, instead of getting reimbursed for stuff which keeps me healthy?” a confused Kishore asked the HR manager. The organisation acknowledged his point and amended the policy to allow items that helped people stay healthy for reimbursement.

In life, we all come across instances where we need to decide if we need to blindly follow rules or question them when there is room for a re-consideration. The world is far from perfect and everything is not in black and white. There are shades of grey in many cases and one needs to have an astute sense of foresight and judgment to see it and take the necessary steps that best suit the situation.

How do I know so much about Kishore? He was my Dad, Kishore Sonpal!

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Hetal Sonpal

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