This is a hypothetical conversation between two Indians A and B.
A: We all deeply respect our father. Many others in our society respect him too. He has lot of values and he is a very principled man.
B: So what are his values?
A: Oh, there are many. For example, he never eats meat, no matter what.
B: Really? So how does he go about implementing his values?
A: He does not even touch meat or consume anything that has animal produce. Even when he is traveling abroad he will make sure he eats only vegetarian food though the people in those countries are predominantly non-vegetarian. He even avoids cheese in those countries because sometimes these foreigners use animal fats in their cheese.
B: So, did he become a vegetarian at some point of time in his life after realizing the inhumanness we extend to the animals?
A: Not really. He was a born vegetarian. He is born into a family which has a very long history of being strictly vegetarian.
B: So what you are saying is that he doesn’t eat meat because his parents didn’t eat meat. Isn’t that a habit he just inherited from his parents? How come it is a value?
A: Well. You don’t understand. He has many other values - not just that one.
B: Like what else?
A: He doesn’t drink alcohol. Not even touch it.
B: Let me guess. Your father’s parents don’t drink alcohol. Is that right?
A: Yes. Hear me out. It is a principle he holds onto no matter what. And he really scorns people who eat meat or alcohol and avoids their company. He ensured none of his kids even sniff the smell of alcohol. While growing I was tempted to drink alcohol but he is such a strict man - he forbade me from drinking alcohol. I thank him for that.
B: According to you that makes him principled?
A: Yes. Very much so! If you hold onto your values in all trying circumstances, then you are principled. Many things he does are actually his principles in action. He goes to temple every day and that is not something his parents do all the time – therefore you cannot say he inherited that from his parents. Also, he does many pujas, reads scriptures daily in the morning, and fasts twice a week.
B: Whatever you have told me are his habits, things he does on a daily basis, as a routine. How can you call them values and principles?
A: Look. You are only saying that because you don’t have his values and principles. I know that you drink alcohol and eat meat – and therefore you are not able to appreciate his values. He holds onto his beliefs no matter what.
B: Can you please elaborate?
A: Like when my sister married out of caste, he did not accept the marriage and eventually boycotted her. Even when she got a kid, he refused to embrace the grand kid. He is very determined and he did not waver from his stand. For this all our relatives grew immense respect for my father – they said he is the only true person in our caste. Most others would have succumbed to emotional pressures and relented to embrace the grand kid. Not my father. His values are pretty strong.
B: So what are your values? Eating food on time? Or taking a shower daily?