The truth shall set you free, says the Bible. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” said Mark Twain. “Anything is better than lies and deceit!” said Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina. “Honesty is the best policy”, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”, and they go on and on. Wherever we live in the world, we are all brought up to believe that lying is a sin. We are cautioned against the fires of Hell and any number of dire consequences that await anyone who lies. Little wonder then that lies, even seemingly harmless ones, induce guilt.
Blame my Catholic school education, or the values instilled in me by my parents, or the ‘Satyamev Jayate‘ motto that all Indians are pretty familiar with, I just cannot keep a secret or tell a fib. And I remember a day when this sometimes inconvenient habit of mine saved the day.
It was a girls weekend. We had been planning it for years. The car was rented, a fancy picnic was planned, food and wine were packed, and so were towels and straw mats and golf chairs, because we were hitting the beach. There was total chaos as the car was loaded, with each of us having at least 3-4 small bags and knick knacks. A girl has to be prepared, after all! We set off toward the ocean, singing oldies and munching Doritos. A couple of pit stops later, we stopped at the beach. Lunch was going to be Mongolian Barbecue at my favorite place.
Then one of the girls came up with a bright idea. Not! You know how it is in a group. Someone or the other always has to suggest something different. And if this person happens to be persuasive, new plans happen. The same it was with us. I had talked up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge so much that everyone was eager to hit it ASAP. The day was turning cooler and there were clouds in the distance. Fog was predicted for the afternoon and we wanted to cross the bridge before it so that we could enjoy the wide sweeping panoramas of the Bay.
The 17 miles of the bridge took at least half an hour, what with keeping to the speed limit, and taking photos at scenic points. We crossed over onto the East shore and decided to picnic at one of the first beaches. After parking the car, and unloading it, we finally realized that all the food baskets had been left at home. A collective groan later, we sat in the car again and headed off in search of some restaurant. It was past 3 PM and other than a few chips, we had eaten nothing since breakfast.
We finally found a small seaside shack and piled in. Everyone ordered the catch of the day, fresh fish and chips and dug in. There was only one vegetarian among us, Anu, a very devout girl who would faint at the sight of an egg. She ordered the corn chowder – there was no other choice – and started shoveling massive spoonfuls, wondering at the smoky sweet taste. ‘I can never make chowder like this’, she quipped. I saw some stock bubbling with assorted mussels and fish bits. It was easy to guess that the chowder came from it. Horrified, I was about to blurt it out when everyone hushed me. ‘Are you crazy?’ they said. ‘Say one word and we’ll have to get out of here’. ‘What a waste of money, and we are s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her’.
The drive back was quiet to say the least. Everyone felt guilty but no one said anything. Anu was in tears because she felt she had spoiled the trip for us, and kept wondering what bug she had suddenly contracted. After a while I couldn’t take it any more.
‘Its the fish, its the fish’, I exclaimed! ‘What fish? You know I am strictly vegetarian’, said Anu. ‘Well, your soup had fish stock in it’, I hung my head in shame. Tears streamed down Anu’s eyes and she started praying to God to forgive her. She was inconsolable. I silently offered her a Claritin, and thanked God she wasn’t any worse. Being a vegetarian, she didn’t know she was probably allergic to shell fish. She had been betrayed by her best friends, and she wasn’t happy. In fact, she felt totally let down.
Everyone felt bad, and we had a group hug and promised to be always honest and truthful. We even made a pinky promise!
The moral of the story? Lying doesn’t achieve anything. The best thing to do is tell the absolute truth, always! And that is a damn fine principle to live by.
This post is written for Kinley and the ‘Kitna chain hota hai na sachchai mein’ campaign on Indiblogger.