1970s SMC VPFA Mohan rushed into my office past the startled secretary and stood looking at the desk in anger. His lips trembled as he tried to articulate the stress exercising his mind, and his fists clenched and unclenched in a strange rhythmic action. I waited for him to bring himself under some semblance of control, then motioned him to sit down as I transferred to the chair opposite him to further put him at ease. Instead of taking the chair indicated he began to pace up and down in front of me and his troubles poured out like a flood. Al, an expatriate stranger to the area had recently been employed as an additional faculty member at the college, and it was obvious we’d chosen someone with a self-control problem. He’d just been to visit Mohan’s office on some accounting problem, and not liking the way things were done reached across the table and grabbed Mohan by the collar of his shirt. Now that I looked closely I could see that some damage had been done. Mohan was in a dilemma. In his society such action must not be left unanswered, and the incident had been witnessed by employees Mohan was responsible for. Even worse, some of the student body had viewed the event. This was not only an affront to him personally, but it was viewed as a collective insult to the community Mohan belonged to. The word had spread like lightning, and representatives of his community were there to insist justice be done. The insult must usually be met by a greater insult, and it was even suggested by extremists that a knifing was the most appropriate response to Al’s action. If Mohan didn’t act quickly he and his community would lose face, and he’d be the object of derision. He’d turned to me as a friend before taking action, and his body convulsed as his mind weighed custom against ethic. Mohan finally agreed to let the administration handle the problem, provided the matter was dealt with quickly, and some form of public apology or punishment arranged. We did act quickly, knowing that the matter was very serious, though it was difficult to bring headstrong Al into line, make him aware of the terrible danger he’d placed himself in and arrange for him to make suitable amends. Something had to be done to satisfy the community, and to convince everyone Mohan was not a coward. Fortunately we managed to work out a suitable solution which was acceptable to all My respect for Mohan knew no bounds after that incident. He’d restrained himself in spite of tremendous peer pressure put on him, and he’d stood firm for a better way. He’d raised himself above the culture of his world and demonstrated restraint instead of tribal vengeance. “© Copyright Ian Grice 2015 All rights reserved”

16 thoughts on “THE CHALLENGE

  1. Great story – very vivid. I know that it is about Mohan’s restraint, but what was the solution which you managed to negotiate? I’m eaten up with curiosity.


    1. The President who I took the problem to spoke the same language as the group in question. He was higher caste so was respected. He forced Al the foreigner (not his name) to make a public apology to the community on pain of losing his job and used his influence with the community in question to dialogue with them until they’d been calmed down enough to accept that apology. We were still under tension for a while after that though as the insult was considered considerable and we were not sure if an individual may have second thoughts and settle scores.


    2. I just took a look at your site link. It all looks very familiar. I think one of the most unhappy hospitals I’ve ever visited in connection with development agencies was in Northern Laos in the Golden Triangle. I felt so sorry for the government doctors who had few medicines at that time and sparse facilities.


  2. Mohan is indeed a courageous and controlled person, but he trusted in you, and you handled the situation appropriately. I missed that important detail in the story. You are too modest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I would love to take all the credit but it was a joint administrative action leaning on Al to force him into an apology to the person and community. His job was at stake. Some people have just no control at all and need to be severely dealt with to get their attention. He’s lucky he didn’t get killed.


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