Honesty is the best policy

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In the past few weeks one topic has dominated the conversation at many social gatherings and that is the arrest and detention of princes, businessmen and government officials who have been rounded up and sequestered, facing charges of corruption, money laundering, kickbacks and bilking the government of billions of dollars.

Most if not all people I have come across have expressed their appreciation to the government for taking a stand against the corruption that has plagued much of Saudi society since the beginning of the 1980s. So much so that projects paid for handsomely by the government in the last century have yet to materialize today. With the arrests, the residents of this country expect increased accountability and financial transparency and are clamoring for further arrests of fat cats in and outside the country who have padded their bank accounts illegally at the expense of the state and its people.

However, while corruption may swirl around the suddenly rich, such is not always the case among the working class. Take the case of Syed Quadri, an Indian national from Hyderabad who has been working in the Kingdom for several years. Recently, friends from his home country came to perform pilgrimage and were staying at his home.

One evening, with supplies running low at home, Quadri decided to do some late-night shopping at the supermarket close to his home before they closed. Rushing to beat the clock, Quadri and one of his visitors scrambled up the aisles filling their shopping cart with essentials. Breathing a sigh of relief, they realized they were the last customers to reach the checkout counter. Once their purchases were rung up, Quadri handed the clerk a SR 500 note and received his change, and along with his friend they left the store.

As he got into his car, Quadri checked the change given by the clerk and realized that he had been given an extra SR100. Double-checking the change, he confirmed that the clerk had returned to him the extra amount. He quickly made his way back to the store as the lights were dimming and went straight to the cashier, asking him to accept the SR 100. The clerk told him that there was nothing he could do as he had closed his accounts for the night and it was best that Quadri leave.

Not satisfied, Quadri made his way to the night manager and explained his dilemma. He wanted to return the money that did not belong to him but could not do so. The manager went into the clerk’s transaction history on his computer and determined that indeed a mistake had been made and that the clerk had a negative take balance of SR 100. Taking the SR 100 back, the manager thanked Quadri profusely for his honesty.

A few days later, with the same friend along, Quadri went to the automobile auction market (haraaj) to see what he could get for his car. He wanted to buy a new one and figured the money he would receive from the sale of his present vehicle would serve as a down payment for the new car he had in mind.

When a buyer was found and the price of SR 25,000 was agreed upon, money and car ownership exchanged hands. With the money in his pocket, he made his way out of the haraaj. He hadn’t gone far when he heard someone calling him. Turning around, he noticed the buyer fervently beckoning to him.

When Quadri got back, he couldn’t help noticing that one of the man’s hands was closed around something. The buyer asked Quadri to count the money he had received for the vehicle. Fearing the worst, Quadri took the money out of his pocket and slowly began a recount, the second time that day. When he finished, he realized that the amount was SR 500 short. The man smiled, opened his hand and handed him the SR 500 that was his. It was an inadvertent error that he wanted to correct.

His friend who had witnessed both events involving the wrong change was amazed. Quadri gently reminded him that the rewards of being honest are plenty. He said, “I was brought up to believe that the path of honesty opens the roadway to Heaven.”

Perhaps this is what should be implanted in the minds of all the crooks who amass ill-gotten gains. Honesty is indeed the best policy.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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