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March 7, 2015

Liar, liar


March 7, 2015


The book ‘Plain Tales from the Raj’ contains narrated accounts by members of the British military, civil servants, memsahibs and businessmen about their life in India before its independence.
It provides an interesting snapshot of how the British conducted themselves and what they thought of Indian life and environment. One of the things mentioned often was the locals’ habit of lying – and that being accepted as normal behaviour.
The British in India held themselves to higher moral standards than, as they themselves admitted, might have been done had they been at home.
This was due to the pressure on them to keep up the image of integrity, honesty and fairness that contributed in large amounts to their elevated position in the minds of the local population and so helped them rule, since they were seen as being superior.
Not encumbered by any such scruples, the local pre-Partition Indian population continued with the centuries long traditions handed down from the days of Mughal rule – of speaking in convoluted terms, never telling the whole truth and accepting bribes as if by right.
One might blame the British in India of being racist when they considered themselves to be superior to the local population. However, it cannot be denied that the assertions made regarding lax moral standards were true then and are still applicable today.
While one expects politicians and their ilk to lie as a matter of course, it is irksome to find out that one has been lied to by a body such as the PTA. Last week the PTA announced that the SIM registration dead line of February 26 was set to trick people into registering their SIMs early. The real deadline was always set for some time in April.
Rather than using other ways to convince people, the PTA decided that there was nothing better than the threat of an imminent deadline to spur people into action. As a result millions of SIMs were registered and the PTA declared the ploy a success.

exactly does this say about the way we go about getting things done in this country? When trying to get people to show up on time for an event it is recommended that one lie and give a starting time of about 30 minutes or an hour earlier than the actual time. When a mistake is made at work, people are told to cover it up, blame others and do their utmost to never take responsibility.
The remnants of lessons learned under the British rule are still with us whether they hold true or not. White people are expected to be more upstanding and honest than our fellow countrymen, foreign products are thought to be of a better quality than locally made ones. We expect to be lied to and tell lies ourselves every single day of our lives because of the way things are done.
If a collective lethargy that makes us do things at the last minute did not prevail, the PTA would not have to set up a trick deadline. If the habit of always showing up late was not common, people would not have to lie about starting times. If the culture of taking punitive action against those who admit to their faults was not there, people would not have to cover up their mistakes and blame everyone else except themselves.
Since we have become used to them, anyone daring to speak the truth is punished in various ways and brought in line. Pakistanis are often accused of giving up on their traditions but the tradition of lying is one we have been holding steadfastly on to for hundreds of years.
The writer is a businessstudies graduate fromsouthern Punjab.
Email: [email protected]




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