The corrupt Indian

So Anna Hazare and Team Anna are back with their fight against corruption in India and to ensure the implementation of the Lokpal Bill. There are mixed reports in the media about the success of this round of agitation, as none of the expected fasting, sloganeering, jail bharos, allegations, counter allegations, etc., etc, has really taken off. It the reports are to be believed then it appears that the movement has lost momentum as well as direction this time around.

I feel that part of the reason for the Anna juggernaut not sustaining is due to their simplistic understanding of corruption. Today, corruption is no longer only about those who take bribes; it is also about those who give bribes. Corruption is not only financial; it is moral, ethical, ecological, societal, ideological, creative… It is not only the politicians and the bureaucracy who are corrupt; society itself has become corrupt.

Corruption no longer has a simple definition; today, it is highly contextualised, complex, layered and subjective. What one person perceives as corruption can be another person’s “legitimate” way of securing his/her future! Take the case of a person who bribes his or her way to a lucrative posting within the organisation he/she works for. This is done with the understanding that the returns are worth the bribe paid. Think Customs, the Mumbai Octroi, the RTO… and you’ll know what I mean.

Corruption is so endemic and blatant that we have taken it for granted in a matter-of-fact way. Regrettably, the discourse on corruption in India rarely reflects its subjective understanding or its diversity or its depth or its endemic nature. Mostly, we get to read dry and technical analyses full of academic jargon, tables and figures and how India is being bled dry economically. Most of the articles are dramatic exposes intended to shock and titillate, but which ignore the deeper malaise that grips our society. Though some of these articles go into the reasons behind the corruption, very rarely does it take a mirror to the society we inhabit and present the different faces of the corrupt Indian.

I am surprised at the blinkers that we have on as we only have to look around us to see the many faces and avatars of the corrupt Indian ūüė¶

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Two incidents and a lesson

I was 16 and¬†in my last year of school when the first incident happened. School had finished for the day and I was waiting for a rickshaw outside my¬†school to take me to the railway station, from where I would take a train home. Hearing a rickshaw approach behind me, I turned hoping that it would be empty. It wasn’t and as it¬†sped by me, I saw a horrific sight. A man and a woman were struggling in the rickshaw and the man had a¬†knife in his hand.

Photo Courtesy: Istock photos

I saw all this in a flash and for a moment I thought that I had imagined the whole thing. But then I reasoned that I couldn’t have imagined the glint of the knife, could I? Just then an empty rickshaw came and I saw to my relief that the driver was someone I knew, in the sense that I had travelled in his rickshaw many times.

I told the driver about what I had just seen and asked if we should give chase. The driver said that I¬†must have imagined the knife and what I must have witnessed was some friendly “wrestling” between a couple. Besides, wouldn’t¬†the rickshaw driver have done something if he sensed that there was something wrong going on? No, no, I must have had a stressful day, and it would not do for a¬†girl like me to have such an active imagination. I should concentrate on my studies and try to get home as quickly as possible. With these words of advice, he dropped me off at the railway station.

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