Thursday, 12 May 2011

Thought Detonation #6 - On Corruption

I frequently wonder why people choose to go corrupt. Practicing corruption is something like compromising with one’s dignity, like begging with hands and legs in place. It is actually the worst kind of begging. Every penny that is dropped as bribe is actually like a sweet poison. With a million curses coated with that meekest of smiles be held by the victim. Only the hands giving the bribe actually know what the heart would be yelling when saying “Sir ye le lijiye kharcha-pani”. Moreover it’s ultimately of no use. The biggest corrupts are the victims of corruption themselves. Corruption actually doesn’t differentiate between the commoner and the babu. Is affects all of them the same way. It all ends up in same place. Exactly like in this short story.

…He was a prematurely retired office clerk, in his early forties, with grey-black hair and a dense moustache; Bent a little forward, and thin. He had bifocal glasses on, with black square frame and thick lenses. His hands were dry and wrinkled, and the nail of right thumb broken. He was dressed in khaki jacket and dhoti and wore torn black shoes. He was a prematurely retired office clerk called Sharmaji waiting outside the city police station. His forehead displayed lines of anxiety and discomfort. He was shaking his left foot in impatience and repeatedly looking at his mobile phone, going through his phonebook and recent calls list in nervousness. He was waiting for the constable to “introduce” him to the Station Inspector.

Suddenly the wooden doors flung open and the short, round and dark constable took a step out. He bent towards the wall corner and spat the beetle he chewed, while signaled to Sharmaji that he could come in. Sharmaji rose from his seat quickly which was instantly grabbed by one of the three other men who were waiting for Sahrmaji to vacate. As they both entered the room, the SI sitting right in front of them smiled to welcome them. He had his legs on a chair beside the one he was sitting on and two buttons of his shirt undone. “Bahaut garmi hai sharmaji yaha pe”, the SI exclaimed. Sharmaji dint reply to him and stood there nervously. There was silence for a few seconds. “Accha haan apka kaam yaad hai mujhe. Maine ladkon se baat kit hai. Apka kam ho jayega”, said the SI in a consoling tone.

Sharmaji had been robbed nearly a month ago. He was carrying his wife’s jewelry in a khaki bag when two men on a bike snatched it away. Sharmaji wanted to sell it off at the local jewelry shop. His son wished to do an MBA and Sharmaji wanted him to do that as well. But since the jewelry was stolen now, the fate of the Sharma family hung loose.

Sharmaji went to the police as soon as the incident happened. He requested the men there to file an FIR. They insisted him to “look around” for a few days. As filing an FIR was a “long” process and even if the bag was found within a few days, he could not get it till the court allowed him to do so. They told him that the process usually took three to four months and it was better to let “them” handle the case “themselves” rather than filing a complaint. They made Sharmaji pay Rs.4, 000 as the “search expense”. Now it had been over a month since the robbery took place. No FIR was filed yet and neither the “search” was finished. They said Rs 4,000 was too less an amount to look for it in the whole area. All the money got consumed in that locality itself. After all who pays for the fuel in their motorcycles? Should they pay for it from their own pocket? The government sanctions them fair of a bus. Would constables board a bus to look for thieves? What would the people say? “Dekho darogaji bus me ja rahe hai”. There was no AC at the police station. They sit in scotching heat all day. There are millions of works to do. Look at those files, there are fifty more. They have to reach court by Monday. Should they go on a beat and look for a khaki bag instead of finishing this work? Moreover Sharmaji had paid them only the exact cost of “search”. Shouldn’t he keep those men motivated by giving away a few perks? Who pays for the afternoon teak break? And what about the samosas? Even they have started costing more. Now Ram Lal sells it for Rs 5 instead of Rs 3. Even the size is reduced. How could Sharmaji expect these men to work in 4, 000 bucks that he had provided? Such a fool.

Sharmaji stood there in silence, in front of the SI. He joined hands and tears rolled down his eyes. He took a control of his breath and said,” My son will lose a chance to study. I could never give him anything. I could never prove to be a good father. This is my only chance. He works very hard. He has qualified after four attempts. If you find the bag, his future will be bright. It’s all in your hands now. Please help us for god’s sake. My pension can’t pay for all his study cost. Please don’t make a father helpless in front of his child. Please help us.”
The SI told him not to break down and that his boys were working very hard and it would take them just two or three more days; and only a little more money to nail the thieves. Sharmaji helplessly handed over Rs3000 to the SI and strolled out.

But the bag was never found, nor were the jewels, and Sharmaji’s son took a job of counter boy in the nearby mall. Sharmaji never went to the police station after that noon.

A few years later, when the times were changed, the former SI was now retired. He had married away his daughter in most fashionable of ways and had loaded the bridegroom’s family with dowry. After all 10 Lakh of cash plus a safari wasn’t a small deal. The bridegroom was a “businessman”. He had six trailers working for some transport corporation and owned two petrol pumps. So he was a rich guy. Young, father gifted rich and out of control. Everything was going fine, until one day. His petrol pumps were shut down as the land acquired to build them actually belonged to the reserved category and the authorization papers had loop holes. This was the time of the global recession. The transport company with which his trailers were working was shut down. All of them stayed parked in his courtyard. The drivers were fired as he could not pay them. Looks like the 10 lakh dowry went all in drinks and puffs. There was no work. They managed to run the house for a few months until they ran out of money. The bridegroom’s family had restricted the bride from informing her father (former SI) about their critical condition. Talking of bad financial situations to in-laws was considered against the family pride. Things were getting worse. Former SI’s daughter was about to deliver her first kid. But there was certain complication with her. Local doctor had “advised” the family many a times during checkups about the quality of food and hygiene. Her in-laws excused all this by saying they dint have enough money to buy her “comfort”.
That night she was supposed to deliver the baby. She was at the local hospital. Things got really bad. The little clinic established by the government didn’t have good infrastructure to help her. The doctor on duty was at his clinic in other part of the city. He didn’t care to pick up the phone as well. She was hanging between life and death, of her and the child she bore. His husband lay back in the house drunk, unaware of all this. The family and hospital nurse just stood there horrified. Nurse had called the ambulance from a private hospital. It was on its way to clinic…

But the ambulance could never carry her to hospital. Her family did; to the cremation ground, Where the lady and her child were burned. The former bridegroom married again, and now his new wife’s dowry runs his family. And the former SI is seen walking alone in the nearby park every evening, half shattered, half horrified and fully in remorse. He curses the doctor who didn’t do his job; like Sharmaji cursed him, like someone curses someone else, and that someone curses someone else.

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