- I have never bribed a traffic cop! Though this does not really apply to me, because I don’t drive
- I haven’t paid a donation for my child’s admission – This is something I went to great lengths to achieve, hunting schools till I found the right one which suited my concepts of education, as well as didn’t ask for a donation! I pay a hefty amount in fees though, but completely by cheque! Not a penny in cash!
- I have never bought a movie ticket in black – not very difficult, since I either book well in advance, or wait till I can get a ticket.
- I have paid the entire amount for my apartment by cheque – this is something I have to thank Shankar for, because he was the one who insisted on this, and actually found a builder who was happy to take a cheque for every single penny! For those of you who know me, and are wondering what I am talking about, the house is almost ready and we will be taking possession soon, the reguistration has been done, and the stamp duty paid, all without a single penny in bribes or as cash!
- I have never bribed a government officer – I have got my passport, my election card, ration card, and multiple other things, all without paying a paisa as bribe! It has not been easy, but once the officials realize that I am not going to pay anything, and intend to come back again and again till they do my work, they tend to give up!
This was especially true at our local election office, which is notorious for their inefficiency. I turned up with a printed copy of their ward wise list with our names on it, and the officer’s face was a sight to see! It took me a while to explain to him that the entire lists were online, thanks to the government, and I had just printed it. Since my name was there, but my photograph wasn’t, and since I didn’t have an election card, but had voted at every election in the past 10 years, he had no choice but to give me my card, which he did, throwing a filthy look my way! When I turned up again with the application for my in-laws, and then my husband, he simply stopped looking at me, but simply gave me the card without a murmur!
The only time the officer insisted on a bribe was years back when I was in college and needed a domicile certificate. I tore and threw the form into the dustbin right in front of him, and walked out of the office without a backward glance.
Having said all that, there is something else that must be mentioned – this does not mean that I have never paid a bribe in my life!
The ‘baksheesh’ that we give everyone at Diwali – from the boy who delivers my newspaper to the postman, even the telegraph man, who is now redundant – it is not a big amount, but it is a bribe nevertheless.
The small change that I give the LPG delivery man, what is it, but a bribe to ensure that he brings my gas cylinder home as soon as I book it?
What about the money I pay the pujari in a temple so that he calls me aside and does the puja for me, helping me bypass the crowd and give me a moement alone with the Lord. What is it if not a bribe?
I can go on and on about the small ‘bribes’ we pay to our service providers to ensure that our lives are made easier…. Is any bill or rally going to change all that? I wonder!
But then what do we expect in a country where even our prayers are but bribes to God for answering our prayers. I do believe in God, and even in some rites and rituals, but what about our attitude of promising Him a coconut or an amount if our wishes are fulfilled? No matter which part of the country we visit, there are trees outside to which are tied either threads or cradles, or bangles. Each of these is the promise of an offering if a particular wish is fulfilled. It makes me wonder – does He really want us to offer Him all that? The minute we are faced with troubles or face some difficult times, I am told, “Pay this amount to this temple for this puja. It will solve all your problems” I can understand going to a temple and pouring out our woes to the Lord. Speaking for myself, I don’t need to go to a temple for that! I can see Him in the most unexpected places and communicate with Him when I feel the need to, but I can still see and feel the atmosphere in some temples which induces me to communicate. But I can never understand the need to pay money to solve my problems. Aren’t we attributing Him with too many of our human attributes, especially our failings? Aren’t we assuming that He is as corruptible as our politicians, willing to help us solve our problems for a few coins? Is this really the one we want to worship? And what does it say about us?
Much as I appreciate seeing how Anna Hazare has managed to bring Indians together for the first time after independence, I must admit I have doubts about how far the Lokpal Bill will actually help eradicate corruption from our society. It is not a magic wand which once waved can bring an end to corruption! If only it was so easy! There is so much more to be done, and is much much more difficult than shouting slogans, waving flags or even getting arrested.
Some interesting articles I read today....