On July 4th, 1976, Anil Jethmal celebrated the U.S bicentennial with his family in downtown New York City. Several tall ships from all over the world sailed into New York harbor to commemorate the event. To this day, Anil recalls the feeling of patriotism and pride that he and his family shared that day.
However, it was something that his father did that stamped an even more indelible and enduring sense of pride on his then 11-year old son. The South Street Seaport saw over 1 million revelers that day. To Anil’s mind, each and every one of them littered the streets early and often that day…..bottles, soda cans, paper bags, napkins, etc. Everyone seemingly committed that offense that day…except for one. Anil’s father walked a block and a half in ankle deep garbage to throw away his napkin in a garbage can. Anil’s mother teased him for doing so when there was garbage strewn about the streets everywhere. His father smiled, but said nothing.
This is what Anil Jethmal’s father did that day……and that is the way he lived his life. Metaphorically speaking, even though there may have been filth, deceit and corruption all around him, he would not contribute to or collude with it. He always did the right thing and he never beat his chest when he did so.
When closing out his fiscal accounting books the previous year, Anil Jethmal’s father discovered that his bookkeeper had overcharged a client in error several months earlier. He told his bookkeeper to issue a check to the client to remediate the error. She protested, reasoning that it was not necessary since the client did not notice and never would. Anil Jethmal’s father firmly and immediately repeated his instructions to issue the check.
That was the essence of the man. He did the right thing, even though no one was watching.
Unbeknownst to Anil’s father, his son was watching.
A father himself now, Anil Jethmal often casts his mind back to his own father to help provide a blueprint on how to be a good father and a good person as well.
In his entire life, Anil never once heard his father tell a lie….even if it was “harmless” or convenient. His father never, even once, yelled at him. Even when reprimanding Anil, he explained why he was doing so in almost dulcet tones. To this day, Anil views that restraint as a leading, if not defining, characteristic of being a good father.
In fact, Anil Jethmal’s father never really had to yell. His actions spoke louder than any words possibly could. And while, sadly, he is gone, his example endures, making Anil want to be a better person—–if, for no other reason, his own children may be watching.