Saturdays With Shivani- Paying For Others’ Stupidities

I’m not an overly ritualistic person and my relationship with God is extremely personal. As I write this, an oddity glares back at me that makes me smile. I talk about my worldly relationships very openly but paradoxically I don’t talk about one that I have with God but that would be a topic for another time.

Today I shall not digress and in accordance to my plan, I intend to tell you a little about THAT ONE guiding principle which has steered my conscience. It’s Arya Samaj’s tenth commandment that states- सब मनुष्यों को सामाजिक सर्वहितकारी नियम पालने में परतन्त्र रहना चाहिए और प्रत्येक हितकारी नियम में सब स्वतन्त्र रहें. Roughly translated it means – One should regard oneself under restriction to follow the rules of society calculated to promote the wellbeing of all, while in following the rules of individual welfare all are to be free.

Note the careful selection of words; when it’s something that affects the society, one should be under restriction while if there are decisions that affect the individuals themselves, they are free. At this point it would be appropriate if I add a disclaimer that I’m not propagating any religious belief but sharing how I have been influenced by a particular line. In times when one might be in a quandary, lines like these are the beacons that help us see the right path. 

In the past few months, I’ve wondered about how often we are paying for others’ stupidities. It started with the COVIDiots who ignore safe practices and endanger everyone around them. We all know people who clean their houses only to throw garbage on the roads or those who insist on noisy celebrations unmindful of those who may not be interested in sharing their happiness.

I remember how once I alerted the playschool that my toddler had hand foot mouth disease so they would look for symptoms in others. Imagine my facepalm reaction when the receptionist excitedly replied that they had two cases in the class in the past few days. Then there are the road accidents due to speeding vehicles, drunken driving, underage driving (My heart went out to the Gurugram family that was shattered by underage, drunken recklessness).

The gravity of consequences may vary but the common denominator in all these examples is the callousness of people when they do not realise the impact their stupidity can have on people around them. This is where the tenth commandment comes in handy. You want to drink, by all means go ahead and indulge yourself. It’s your health, your life, your choices but ditch the driving wheel when you are under influence. How difficult is that to understand? With age I am realizing that common sense is a misnomer. If it was common, I wouldn’t be sermonising here today!

Dr. Shivani Salil

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