Musings on Honour – An Anecdote

Here is the famous quote of Falstaff, a character in Shakespeare’s drama Henry IV, on Honour:
Can honour set to a leg? no: or
an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no.
Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no.
What is in that word honour? what
is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
he that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no.
Doth he hear it? no. ‘Tis insensible, then. Yea,
to the dead. But will it not live with the living?
no. Why? detraction will not suffer it. Therefore
I’ll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon: and so
ends my catechism”

Yes, detraction will not suffer it. Yet, we conduct our lives everyday as though our very lives depend on this. It’s honour which propels us to become something other than what we are. A guy who is not famous wants to become famous and a guy who is already a celebrity wants to become anonymous. I did not believe the second part till I heard this interesting anecdote about the famous film actor Rajanikant. He is believed to have exclaimed in an interview: “How I wish I could revisit my good old days when I used to enjoy a leisurely walk on railway platforms during long distance travels. The hustle and bustle of stations with vendors selling eatables, the sight of passengers rushing in to occupy their seats, chatting away for hours with co-passengers on every topic under the Sun – all add up to make travel a lively experience to cherish. Now that I’m a celebrity, these experiences are lost for ever”. Evidently,fame comes with a price tag.

Here is another story of honour of a taxi driver whom I met in Chennai last month. His story is interesting as well as enlightening. Early in his life he started a business in textile garments with a partner. He made good money and expanded his business and started exporting garments. At one point, he borrowed more than 50 lacs to service an export order. He incurred heavy losses in the transaction as his partner cheated him.(He didn’t give me further details of how he lost nor was I interested). This is where his story gets poignant. When he was in deep debts, everyone deserted him. He had to face humiliation by his friends and relatives. He said: “I lost my name and fame with money. Everyone started ridiculing me. Even my daughter and son-in-law kept a safe distance from me”. According to him, he lived in ignominy for a few years and then started driving a taxi. He says:”This car doesn’t belong to me. I’m only a driver doing airport duty picking up passengers to and from the airport”.  He then adds significantly: “I’m the happiest man today. I work, get paid, eat well and sleep peacefully”.

One doesn’t know how much of the story is made up, but then there is a lesson in his story. It shows that for many of us it takes a big calamity to understand the secret of happiness. Take the case of the driver. He was seeking happiness through money, name and fame. His life, his honour and his happiness depended on it. He struggled and made money. He got name and fame. He continued to struggle to multiply his wealth and to protect his reputation. Finally when he lost his wealth, he lost his honour and self-respect because he equated wealth with honour. Now he became wise and started driving a pre-paid taxi and surprisingly found himself extremely happy. He realized that the simple formula to happiness is to keep life very simple and uncomplicated. As J Krishnamurthy says: Happy is the man who is nothing!

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Published in: on April 8, 2016 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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