If I tried to do a frequency distribution mapping of human honesty, I’d likely end up with the familiar normal distribution – the bell curve. 32 On this curve, amma would have certainly belonged to the 5% on the right – representing the really honest.

Fig 7: Amma’s place in the honesty spectrum: Amma would have certainly ranked in the top 5% of the honesty spectrum, perhaps even slightly better than the honesty of those who we think of as really good guys.

Some may term it naivete. In some contexts, she indeed was naive.

But it wasn’t naivete alone that was responsible for her honesty. She was fundamentally honest, that was that. Both her sisters were remarkably honest too. Many times when I met her eldest sister, I used to feel worried for her as she was way too innocent and honest, something that can get easily abused in this world.

Amma sometimes was too frank and spoke her mind outright, regardless of who was in front of her. You might feel that’s not a smart thing to do, but for her, she could not keep something within her.

Such frankness certainly did not win her a lot of friends among our relatives living nearby, but kept her mind free of negative thoughts.

Her honesty shone even when she got wild about something and took the whip.

As you would have guessed by now, I was not the only one getting whipped. This burden was generously – and sometimes disproportionately – shared by Appa, though I doubt he cared.

If the maid unfortunately happened to be around when amma’s whipping-moods happened, she got a few lashes too – unlike appa, she cared, and made sure that amma knew she cared by doing what maids do when they get really annoyed.

But amma was exceptionally fair and honest even while handing out punishment. If on any occasion the mistake turned out to be hers and she had wrongly screamed at any of us, she readily admitted it and immediately apologized.

She may have been a task master, why even a slave driver, but she was fair – a feature that reflected in every aspect of her life.

There’s something calming about honesty and fairness. Which is perhaps why, in spite of so many fights between us, and so many traumatic leg pain episodes that I had had with her in the nights, when I try to remember her, what I always see is a face that’s honest and at peace with itself.

And that’s the way I would like to remember her always.

Enthusiastic <= Honest => Each in its place



32. The normal distribution, also known as a Gaussian distribution or “bell curve” is the most common frequency distribution. This distribution is symmetrical, with most values falling towards the centre and long tails to the left and right. In simple words, most people belong to the middle, while there are very few at either extreme.


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