Clothes do not make a Gentleman, Character Does

May 1, 2016

Kolkata Diaries

Today, I’ve penned down an incident observed by a senior colleague. The purpose of this article? Well it will be revealed as his narrative unfolds:-

“It is not every day that I go outside for lunch during the break. But that particular day for reasons I can’t recollect at this moment, I went out to enjoy a meal of paranthas. On the way to the parantha stall, there is the chamber of a renowned homeopathy doctor, Dr. Prasant Banerjee. You’ll always find a long queue outside. People from distant areas come here to get treated as he is looked upon as a savior.

While I munched on my happy meal, I noticed a couple step out from the premises of the doctor’s chamber.

Their somewhat dirty, ragged and untidy clothing, a cloth potli hanging from their shoulders and their weary eyes told me that they belonged to some rural areas, not well-accustomed to the city life and its busy schedule. Most probably they had spent the whole night awake to get an appointment as the doctor sees only 50 patients a day.

The couple slowly dragged their feet looking around at the frenzied crowd, walking up and down the street. They got shoved once or more for their turtle motion while few maintained a distance taking note of the couple’s dirty clothes.

They came to a halt, in-front of the parantha stall, pointing in the direction of a “Bhaater-hotel” (Hotel that serves rice), located just opposite the stall, the man enquired of the stall-owner, “Won’t this hotel open today?”

The parantha seller, after examining his questioner from head to toe, replied smirking, “This hotel is not for folks like you. There are stalls on the other side of the road where you’ll find rice and curry at prices that you can afford.”

Not taking into account the insult which had been just inflicted upon him, the man replied with a smile, “Dada, I am not looking for food. What I’m carrying in my potli is enough for me and my wife. The matter is that 1 year back when I was visiting the doctor, I ate my lunch here. I was short of ten rupees, yet the owner had obliged me. Today I want to pay that ten rupees for which I had been indebted. Would you be kind enough to give him this money when he opens and tell him that this was due?”

The stall owner was stupefied and ashamed at this. He took the money without any question.

After narrating this, my colleague heaved a sigh and said “You know, once on being judged for his clothing, Swami Vivekananda had said in America, ‘In your country clothes makes a gentleman, in my country character does.’

This incident is an eye-opener as to how much we, as a society, have metamorphosed to judge someone merely by his clothes.”

The incident moved me to ponder hard. We call ourselves civilized. Right? If wearing branded apparel, partying with friends, eating good food, spending on latest gadgets and treating people (like the ones I’ve mentioned) as less civilized than ourselves make us civilized, then truly civilized we are . Are we?

The Longman dictionary describes “civilized” as ‘behaving politely and sensibly’. Going by this definition who do you think is civilized?

Are we moving forward to a more cultured and civilized a future as we have created as per our needs? Or should we move back to the villages and start taking lessons on life from the truly civilized souls?



-By Pallavi Banik