"Papa, Govind's father has brought a brand new car - a Maruti Esteem. Govind came to school in his new car. He even took us for a ride in it. It is fantastic. It is airconditioned and can go real fast – more than hundred kilometers per hour. From tomorrow Govind is going to come to school in his new car. Ranjit, his driver, will drop him in the morning and pick him up after school."
"That's nice Vipin. Did you congratulate Govind?"
"I..I...but Papa I don't like him very much."
"He is ... what was the word Mummy used one day to describe Malati Aunty...sob....smcb... I got it...Govind is a snob. He always shows off. Even today he took me for a ride only because he wanted to show off his new car."
"But Vipin, you always told me that Govind is neither good in studies nor in sports. So what is he snobbish about?"
"Yes Papa, he is very poor in studies. Last time his rank was 27th in our class which has 33 students. In sports too he is pretty bad. But he always gets included in our campus team. Last month he was made the Captain of the campus cricket team."
"Why is that son?"
"Because he supplied the entire cricket gear- brand new balls, bats, wickets everything. I was requested by my team mates to step down and make way for him."
"What did you do?"
"For the sake of the team I stepped down from the captaincy. To take spite on me Govind did not give me even one over to bowl and as a result we lost the match by eight wickets."
"That must have made him unpopular?"
"Only for a short time. Govind has so much money that he can always win friends by giving gifts, buying ice-creams and taking boys for a ride in his car."
"That means Govind is basically snobbish because he has money."
"Son money, as they say in Hindi, is like the dirt on one's palms. Here today and gone tomorrow. If one at all has pride it should be about more permanent virtues like honesty, courage and intelligence.
* * *
Vipin's father Mr.I.K. Menon and Govind's father Prem Sethi worked in Bharat Steel Company. They stayed in the company quarters inside what was called the Steel Campus. One day Vipin had overheard his mother talking to her friend about Uncle Sethi.
"You know Uma, Vipin's father and Mr.Sethi were classmates in College. While Vipin's father got into IIT, Kanpur, Mr.Sethi could not get admission into any Engineering College. Ultimately he paid capitation fees and got admission into one of the donation colleges. After passing out both of them joined Bharat Steel. While my husband was posted to the Rolling Mills, Mr. Sethi managed to get himself a posting in the Purhcase Department. Now my husband, as you know, is very sincere about his job. As a result he spends more than twelve hours a day sweating it out in the heat and dust of the plant. Mr. Sethi, on the other hand sits in an airconditioned office. Even in our lifestyles there is such a great difference. After twelve years of service my husband cannot afford even a second hand car. And the Sethis have a washing machine, a microwave oven, they move around in a Maruti Esteem and go on a holiday once a year to some hill station or the other."
"But Sarita, how can they afford all these luxuries?"
"What I have been told is that Mr.Sethi takes bribe."
* * *
"Papa what is a bribe?" Vipin asked his father one night just after dinner.
"Son, let me explain by giving an example. Let us say you are going on a train journey. You do not have reservation. You give some extra money to the ticket collector and get a berth. The extra money that you give is a bribe."
"But is there anything wrong in giving a bribe?"
"Yes son. By giving that extra money you have managed to get reservation. But at the same time you have deprived some one else of his right."
"But Papa mummy was telling Uncle Sethi takes bribe and that is why he can afford a Maruti Esteem and so many other things. Govind, by spending money can win friends. If we can get so many good things by taking and giving bribes why shouldn't we?"
"Because taking or giving a bribe is a crime. It is not an honest thing to do?"
"But Papa what does honesty give?"
"Son... honesty pays .... in the long run."
Just then the phone rang and as usual Vipin's father had to rush off late in the night to solve some problem in the Rolling Mills.
* * *
"Papa, Papa there is police in front of Govind's house. They are taking his father away in a jeep. Govind and his mother are crying. Mummy was saying Govind's father has been arrested."
"I know son."
* * *
Two days later when Vipin came home from school there was a lot of hustle and bustle in his house. His father's colleagues from the Steel Plant were there. Sweets were being distributed and everyone was hugging his father and slapping him on his back."
"Come Vipin," his mother said pulling him close. "Your Papa has got the Jawahar Award?"
"What is that mummy?"
"It is the award given once a year for the best officer in the company. Your father is the youngest officer to get this award."
Vipin threw his bag in one corner and rushing towards his father flung himself in his arms.
His father hugged him and softly whispered in his ear," See son, honesty pays."