“Even the gods don’t forgive those who break the Sacred oath of Bread and salt “
– Arya Stark
These words spoken by a character of the popular TV series Game of Thrones were in the context of her brother getting murdered by a rival house while being under their roof having eaten their bread and salt. The two houses Stark and Frey had been allies for centuries but all it took was a moment to break those ties with a cascade of blood. The long-held trust was broken in the most vulgar way possible.
Trust is an intangible quality, it forms the basis of the majority of human interaction. Since the time man found his feet every perspective of his interactions is based on trust. He trusts that his parents will take care of him from infancy to adulthood, he trusts that if he renders a service he will be fairly compensated for it. In fact, the switch from barter to a monetary system was based upon the common trust a currency holds. As civilization progressed the scope of trusts to be placed grew. He trusted his ruler to do the best for him and his tribe, he trusted the systems of that rule to govern him fairly and provide succor in time of need. He trusted that if he did no wrong no wrong will come to him. This trust took years to build, millenniums, but it is a fragile thing, made of gossamer, it takes only a moment to break.
What happens when it does break? Well, for one, all our existing notions of right and wrong go out the window. We lose our moral compass. We lose something precious to us and once gone it is near impossible to regain, we become unwilling to ever trust again. All of our years of believing in someone or something is lost and all it takes is a fraction of time.
We can see such examples all around us. A businessman who built his business and his brand over 20 years, put his and others money into it, built trust into it lost it in a span of a week when he fled the country hounded by his loan collectors. No matter the outcome of the legal proceedings, he has lost that precious commodity that still runs the wheels of business, big or small, trust. He will find it nigh on impossible to find others to ever invest in his dreams again. Or we can take the example of a civil servant who has fulfilled his duties exemplary during the course of his long career. He has been sensitive and forthright, upstanding and decisive while discharging his duties. He has built the trust in him amongst the populace and the system piece by piece, painstakingly, devoting years to the cause. Then in a moment of weakness, he is caught taking a bribe in a sting operation. The structure of trust collapses. Even actions which were pure are tainted, the breach of trust going back in time to undo all the good that he had done. For to be sure if the civil servant had not built his reputation over the years the backlash would not have been so great. People are hurt more when the seemingly trustworthy betray their trust rather than the ones who were never that trustworthy to start with.
Such is the power of trust. It takes years to build, seconds to break and once broken it can never easily be regained. There is always a hesitancy to bestow trust on someone who has betrayed it once and is likely to do so again given the chance. The Indian state is built upon the trust that its citizens have on its constitution. They trust that they have certain fundamental rights and trust that the state will never impinge on them and not let them be impinged upon by any other agency. India is a dream all of its citizens share and this dream would be shattered if this trust gets broken. This, unfortunately, happens more than it should. A pensioner who is made to run from pillar to post for his pension despite being advanced in years, a citizen who just wants the garbage taken out regularly from below his house on time but cannot do so without greasing the palms of the corrupt, the farmer whose crops failed due to the monsoons and, despite having insurance, finding out that his compensation would be nowhere near what he was promised. These incidents turn these people who used to trust their country into cynics who see its every man for himself and the disadvantaged always get more advantage taken of them. They will lose their hope in elections, in democracy and the rule of law. Theirs will be a trust the state would have to go out of its way to rebuild, a trust which it simply could have maintained if it just followed the guidelines laid down in the constitution.
“Do you trust me ?” is a refrain we often hear in movies when the protagonist asks this of his lover. The answer is invariably yes and this precedes a leap of faith that the lover needs to take to fulfill her love. The reason she says yes is the same reason we all so highly value this delicate notion of trust, we believe that it will not get broken.