I had just returned from my morning jog and my daily bonding with the pensioners who run a laughter club in the locality. Scanning through the morning newspaper, I stopped short. A 27 year old MBA grad has been murdered at a Delhi Dhaba by a computer engineer and his friend over who will be served a paratha first. I recoiled as I read the details of the gory attack. Sympathetized with the hapless father who, only a few hours back, had met his son who had told him that he intended to make the city his home. And felt extremely angry about the pointlessness of it all. A brawl over who would get the first paratha. In any other context, this would have been hilarious. Here it was tragic.
The most disturbing aspect of the incident is it is not an isolated one. Not a freak murder you can pass off as the doing of a psychopath. These are well-to-do kids with foreign education and ‘good’ upbringing. Yet they run over pedestrians in trying to outrace a car, sabotage their friend’s work to come first, cheat, lie, bribe and even kill their way to the top. Blame it on a fiercely competitive nation of a billion plus people. Blame it on parents who scare you saying you either top your class or the new bicycle will be given to your brother. Blame it on a society which plays an unnaturally high premium on winning and a correspondingly high penalty on losing. And worst of all a messy system of justice which lets you get away with a ‘hook or a crook’. The result is a generation high on competiveness but not on the spirit of fair play that a competition has to come with. A generation which will rather cheat than fail, or hit rather than fall.
Long back I had read Abraham Lincoln’s letters to his son’s tutor where he asked the gentleman to teach his son that it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. That it is more important to stop and help a fellow-runner who has fallen down than to win the race. I have seldom come across more profound thoughts on personal integrity and leadership. That humanity scores over all podium finishes. Yes it is important to win and it is what you should strive for. Two points of caution however. Winning on a less than clear conscience is a heavier burden than a loss. And second, pick your battles. Stop this madness of winning every race. If you have to race your way to the toilet and be the first to relieve yourself, your next stop should be with a counselor. Aggression is best left to the boxing ring and there too you have to play by the rules of the game.
A few words of advice for the parents as well. Stop eulogizing the champ culture. Punish instances of bullying and cheating. Tell your kids, assure them that it is absolutely ok to be not finish at the top of every race. The real race after all is only with the self.