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Recently, when researching for one of our courses on Values and Ethics, I was tickled by this word “Ethical-ish”. It was used by a contributor to the Forbes Magazine, Bruce Weinstien. I loved the strength of the word ‘Ethics’ followed by the dubiousness of the ‘-ish.”

Being Indian, I have seen and experienced, and perhaps even practiced what the world teasingly calls Indian stretchable time, Indian stretchable values… sometimes the parameters of ethics are moulded according to the need of the hour or the circumstances. Ethics are a set of variables anyways… person to person, culture to culture, to its expression in various geographies. The word Ethical-ish fits like a glove!

Of course, we belong to the land of the Bhagvad Gita that expounds the Real Supreme Truth, and people like Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi and others have breathed life into our ethical fabric.

We in India, take a lot in our stride without missing a beat. We can be late to work frequently, because the surface trains get delayed in red lights, or the traffic snarls are unpredictable. If there is a half hour delay on the Mumbai trains due to a line fault, out comes a pack of cards from nowhere, and while 4-6 people play, 40 people are engrossed in watching, commenting and encouraging. There is little stress about lateness!

Hello! Where is the commitment to keeping time?

“Arey Yaar, Chill. We will get to work and give our 100 percent! All that needs to get done today will get done! Sab ho jayega, Kuch Jugad ho jayega!” Is Ethical-ish a hack in some way, I wonder?

These same people, in the monsoon rains, when the tracks are drowned in knee deep water, put on their raincoats and get to their offices on foot! No day can be wasted. Millions of rupees can be lost if work shuts down. Milk has to be delivered. The world markets need to be monitored, the traffic chaos needs to be sorted, help needs to arrive for those stranded in water logged areas. Everyone is thinking of helping the other. And yet others, stand in the pouring rain, distributing steaming cups of tea in paper cups for these people who are committed to their work. Ethical-ish I ponder?

But having lived overseas for over a decade and some, I learnt to give up the chaos and tolerance for ethical-ish behaviour. The ‘chalta hai’ attitudes and laisser-faire habits frustrated me initially.

Now, since I am back for the last couple of years, I see the resilience, the great spirit that makes India thrive and prosper in the chaotic colours of life. Every hue accepted with aplomb. It’s amazing to see ‘snooty’ neighbours helping their ‘quarrelsome’ neighbours move their furniture in floods and offering them a roof over their heads!

I don’t think I will ever fathom how India can keep pace with the world… maybe because it is ethical-ish? While our culture and ethics are at the centre of what we do, we are also adaptable enough to be like the river and follow the bends, the rocky stretches and rapids, yet managing to stay within the banks? Flexible and honest to ourselves, even if we appear to play ‘Kabbadi’ with the boundaries of truth!

It needs Ethical Intelligence.

I am beginning to like my interpretation of Ethical-ish! I am pondering…

Black and white?

Yes or No?

Good and bad?

Truth and Lies?

Or is it that as long as I remain in my core, my values unchallenged, I can treat the grey as my canvas…

Do any of you have any thoughts on this. Will be interesting to see what others think …?

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Jul 06, 2023

Well said Himal!!

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