Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Challenge of Living with Integrity

"Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty"

"A concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. In western ethics, integrity is regarded as the quality of having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one's action. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs."

Living in India has caused me to think a lot about integrity and what it means. I have to say that I don’t see a lot of integrity in the world, I get a lot of empty words, which leads me to have a lack of confidence in others. Promises are made but typically they are not followed through. It seems that there is a great deal of short term memory loss, selective forgetting or just saying whatever comes to mind without feeling truly responsible for following through. Self-accountability seems to be non-existent in our world with people hardly admitting and taking responsibility when they may have done something wrong.

Integrity is a core value in my life. It has always been this way but has become even more so as I’ve matured. If I say something, if someone sends me an e-mail, if I say that I will do something, I follow through. I don’t make empty promises, say that I will do something, if I cannot. But all too often I find that others say things or ignore an e-mail and don’t think anymore about this.

I have many examples from India, the most recent being a colleague saying that they would visit me, while I was sick in the hospital. I talked to the person about one hour before they said that they would come. They never showed up, never called to just say “sorry”, nothing. (One other person who said that they would come, didn’t, but did call late the next day to apologize). During the work day things are said but action is not taken and if I don’t remind people of what they are supposed to do nothing happens. Just look at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games and the utter lack of integrity on the part of those involved with planning and implementation. It is really so very sad to witness. Consistently empty words.

Examples also come from the U.S. and other countries as I send e-mails looking for information, with sometimes there being no response, and other times people promising to get back to me. This comes not only from acquaintances but also family and friends. (Is it just a discomfort and so instead of responding people just ignore? Or is it by ignoring that it just goes away or is it just a general lack of respect for others?) Yes, life happens and I’ve observed that people become so inwardly focused on their own worlds that they just can’t see anything else. It saddens me to see what I perceive as a basic selfishness, but possibly it is more about being unaware or just feeling so overwhelmed that it is impossible to deal with a bigger picture.

My birth country is so full of people lacking any kind of integrity and honesty. One can see this in the current election campaigns, in the selfishness to do anything, including lying, to get oneself elected. Forget ethics and values, forget any real core beliefs except that one has to believe in “God” and live under Judeo-Christian values. Unfortunately most of the people espousing how religious they are, have little understanding of what this really means. It translates to an intolerance of others, leads to divisiveness and ultimately ends in more lies, dishonesty and cheating others.

Even though I’ve become more of a talker in life, as I feel that there is much to say and I’m not shy, I’ve listened, observed and seen integrity in some others. There are some relatives and friends who seem to possess integrity as one of their core values, some colleagues, but there are not a lot of people who really practice the consistency that it takes. The people who possess integrity, who tend to see the bigger pictures are the ones that I would trust with my life.

We seem as a global society to be so far past ever really being able to get back to any kind of real integrity to save ourselves from ultimate destruction. Our relationships lack integrity and one really has to wonder if there are any world leaders possessing this as a core value.

I will not waver in practicing integrity as it is too important. I will continue to look for those who are aware and also practice this value. India continues to challenge and teach me what I want and what I don’t want in life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October A few thoughts

Let me write about a few things, things I’ve been thinking about. For the past three weeks I’ve had chikungunya. I’ve had four blood tests to finally identify this rather painful viral thing brought on by a mosquito bite. For me it started early the morning of September 11, when I tried to make my way to my bathroom, about five steps from my bed. I could hardly drag my aching lower body into the bathroom. My head was spinning and I had a fever. After being tested three times for dengue and malaria and more than two weeks of foot, right thumb and left wrist pain, I tested positive for chikungunya. At least I know what to call it and for now, my thinking of having to deal with arthritis for the rest of my left has been alleviated.

The Tyagi family whom I live with has been so very helpful, feeding me at times, taking me for my blood tests and to my doctor. I think, like most Indians, they just feet it is what they do and they don’t easily acknowledge my “thank you;s”. But I don’t really know what I would have done without them.

The worst part of painful feet is the inability to exercise which has meant no basketball. I can’t imagine my world without the sport, i.e. coaching and playing, but for now it is enough to know that I will eventually recover and hopefully play with President Obama when he comes for a visit in November. (I’ll definitely have to clean my flat prior to that).

I’ve been dragging myself into work, but after I sit for a spell, my putting any weight on my feet to walk is quite painful. So I lean on something for a minute and walk through the office. I’m sure that my colleagues think that I’m a bit crazy and should just stay at home, but…..

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the Commonwealth Games, that bright, shining moment for India to take its rightful, leadership place in the world. Unfortunately, this just won’t happen, based on so many things, e.g. corruption, ineptitude on the part of officials, waiting until quite a long time to actually build the stadiums, the Delhi rain, the unwillingness of anyone to take responsibility for the issues that have arisen. One can read about the filthy conditions at the Games Village, the collapse of an overpass leading to one of the stadiums, the number of volunteer that picked up their 12,000 rupees games package and then decided they didn’t really want to volunteer.

Yes, I’m going to a semi-finals boxing match with Binesh as I want to see what this is all about. VSO had indicated that they don’t want us anywhere near the games and I understand this based on potential terrorist attacks. But as Binesh has indicated, they (terrorists) like boxing so there is no problem. Anyway soon to become part of my India experience.

I am saddened though by the Commonwealth Games. Delhi has been cleaned up as there are police and soldiers, with real serious looking guns, everywhere. There are new plants, flowers and the area near Parliament and through to India Gate, do, in fact look quite lovely. The ultimate issue though is once all of the glitter is gone, will anything be maintained?

This is a major issue in India. People’s memories are very short and things tend to fall apart. (We may never know how much was actually spent on the Games, but an article in the Times of India on August 9 states that 28,054 Crore was spent. But this is from August and the final tally will most likely be much higher. How much of this went into the pockets of people connected with the Games, we will probably never know this). The police and soldiers will disappear and go back to their regular assignments, the plants will die, the stadiums may or may not be kept up. Are there funds for maintenance, given what I’ve seen, most likely not. What then is left?

The poverty that is inescapable, people just wanting a few rupees to feed their families. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of hope, but in reality what percentage of the population is this? Poverty runs rampant in India, there is no doubt about this in my mind from what I’ve experienced. But what is the actual percentage of the population that struggles to have enough food? We may soon find out from the 2011 census.

Finally, my little pal Golu, who will be four soon has lost her favorite friend and playmate as Momo has gone to England to be with her parents. This means that Golu has been spending a lot of time in my flat. The usual thing is that I get home from work, she follows me upstairs, asks for bread and/or biscuits with peanut butter and jelly. Golu sits on the counter next to the toaster as we get the bread ready for her. We then proceed to either do paint on the computer or watch Mr. Bean animated cartoons.

Before this I had never watched Mr. Bean. What a horrible “role model” for children to see. He is selfish, uncaring and very unconscious of his actions. Comedy, possibly, but he is only out for his own fulfillment, talking to his teddy bear and treating it as if it was alive.

Where does this leave me? Sitting on the couch listening to and downloading music waiting for my feet to stop hurting so that I can play and coach basketball. I’m looking forward to that day.


I've been working in the Disability Sector since I arrived in India in March 2009. I've conducted numerous workshops throughout India, doing my best to build individual and organaisational capacities. Although, I've met numerous people who are living with disabilities and working in this Sector I have only recently started to feel what it might be like to be living with a disability.

On September 10, I went to bed with no problems after a typically hectic week. Before I fell asleep, I thought about playing and coaching b-ball on Saturday. I awoke during the early morning of September 11, and I could hardly get from my bed to my bathroom, about 5 steps. My legs, feet and part of my back were in total pain and I felt as if all of my former basketball injuries had somehow decided to hit me at the same time. I had no appetite and my head was spinning. I called Dr Hazuria and he recommended a blood test. Fortunately I live with a family that has adopted me and they gave me food and took me for what turned out to be three blood tests over the course of one week. They also brought me to see Dr. H. As it turned out I did not have malaria or dengue but some type of viral infection. However, two weeks later I still am having pain in my feet and right thumb.

I missed six days of work, which is totally unheard of for me and basically laid around from September 11-20.

As I try to search out the positive, the lessons, I've found that I can't resist what is happening in my body and need to just go with it, but more importantly I've developed an appreciation for what it might be like not to be able to walk, be in constant pain and having to depend on others. I realize that it takes quite a bit of courage and persistence to get around Delhi if one has trouble walking. As I've gone back to work, I've changed my regimen a bit, not walking as much, but still taking the bus and metro. Just getting on the buses is so very difficult, due to the steps being very high and the drivers typically not waiting for people to board. Getting to the metro platform can also be quite difficult, although there are some lifts.

The major point is that although I hope to get back to basketball, normal walking for me and moving around without any pain, I now have more empathy for those living with disabilities. I don't think that it is easy for anyone to live in Delhi, but add to that, having crutches or being in a wheelchair and it must be overwhelming. There are very few barrier free anythings. I'm glad to be able to do my small piece in the Disability Sector and can now say this with some further understanding of the population that I'm working with.