Up the Corruption Ladder


The ladder is so long, so long that it pokes the sky open and extends to the heaven beyond; or is it hell? Its top most rungs are out of common man’s sight and apparently out of his reach. The topper rungs are the altars of the most powerful elite. The elite, who have climbed up the ladder, step by step, rung by rung, each of them and Manav could be one of them. He is now at one of the bottom most rungs. But who knows, one day he might climb up to the altar of power.

Do you know Manav?

Up the corruption ladder

Manav is so typical and quite predictable. He is a graduate, working for an IT Company, and yes in stark contrast to his academic specialization – with no qualms whatsoever, as he is handsomely paid. He starts his day enjoying contemporary film music and reading Hindu newspaper. His blood does boil up and his nerves tighten up in spasms when he comes across the news of brazen incidents of corruption that is so pervasive in the society. He condemns such issues – mocks at the A.Raja-kanimozhi duo, scoffs at kalmadi, is skeptical about Baba’s gimmicks and adores the venerable Anna – He is happy to hear all the good news about his country and sad about the bad. Not unlike most of his fellow countrymen (minus a few), he starts his day with the thought provoking thought: “Nothing is going to change in this country”. What he has failed to notice is, like a majority of his countrymen, he is no different from the corrupt elites.

Manav does not realize that he is going up the wrong way, climbing up the wrong ladder. And he would never correct himself unless one day he consciously chooses to, if at all he chooses to. His climb, up the corruption ladder, started some years back, on the day of his 2nd year university exam, when he chose to commit malfeasance in the test – a hero’s way to success. It was a petty mischief (and far from a crime or a sin, even excusable because of the naivety of his age) and he thought he would not face the wrath of gods for this petty mischief of his, on the judgement day. Moreover, it was a way of life. Everyone in the class had a ‘strategy’ to confront the test. So to compete with his friends and ultimately to survive he had to conjure his own strategy. And that he did. This small incident of malpractice opened the ‘Pandora’s box’ for Manav, a new way, a rather easy one and he embarked on his journey – the journey up the corruption ladder.

Manav is an avid reader and loves listening to music. Being an A.R.Rahman fanatic he has complete collection of A.R.Rahman songs. Nonetheless, obviously, he has not paid a single dime to get even a single record of that collection. He always found a friend, who had a friend, who had the song/album that Manav craved for and these noble friends, and friends of friends, never disappointed him. Why should they? After all, they also would have got the song for free! He always had a subliminal understanding that piracy is crime (now he has graduated from mischief to crime, one rung up the ladder I presume), but he didn’t give much thought into it, as it’s been a way of life. Coming from bread and butter class he had only two options; either to ignore his favourite musician’s composition or to find ways to get it free of cost. As the cliché runs ‘By hook or by crook’ or ‘Beg, borrow or steal’, as simple as that and ‘you won’t find people chasing you calling you a day-robber for you have ‘stolen’ a piece of music’, so he thought and so he did. A Way of life it was, again! This same policy of his, he extended to the books he read, which were never original but, a counterfeit as good as the original. And up he went the ladder. Slow, steady and steadfast.

He has had a decent climb till now. Completed his graduation some years back, though not in flying colours, but tinges of some lighter shades of colours did cling onto his achievement as he did make it to a cosy IT Job (snigger, if you feel like). With a handsome salary at his disposal it never occurred to him that he should correct his ‘corruptedness’ by starting to pay for the music that he listens to or the books he read. He just looked away from these apparent violations of ethics (and law) and went up finding more laws to break. Now he has more rules on the anvil to violate. He has enough money in his wallet to throw at traffic police for his petty rule-breakers, he has an onsite at the offing and passport becomes the need of the hour. No problem! With the advent of IT and the emergence of friendlier police, passport is just some days away if you could help yourself with a few hundred rupees in extra to keep the policemen happy. And the most blatant of all the violations – he submit counterfeit rental receipts to claim tax evasion. Though the discount he gets in the form of this tax evasion is of the magnitude of a few hundred rupees the pretext trite goes this way “Hard earned money” but, the same hard earned ‘a few hundred rupees’ could be thrown as a couple of hours entry fee at a city pub. Good going dude!

Now time is ripe for him to get married. The success or the spurious success that he enjoys calls for a celebration with a marriage. In fact he has been looking for a prospective bride for over an year now but, one factor always makes the prospect bleak – Dowry. He knows the haplessness of his neighbour, Venu uncle, a respectable school head master. He has 3 daughters and he is finding it hard to get them married off for the simple reason that he is not able to amass enough gold and cash for his daughters. Manav sympathises with Venu uncle and even feels bad for the girls. But, look at the soaring realty prices. If he decides not to take dowry how could he get settled in his life? “So just shut your eyes and climb up the ladder” he should have told to himself.

By this time you could have surmised that Manav is just a regular Indian middle class young man. He doesn’t have the power to swindle away tax payers money by giving out precious natural resources that are many-lakhs-of-cores-of-rupees worth, or he does not have the power to fleece government by conducting games in the pretext of public entertainment, or misappropriate wealth of the magnitude that our politicians and top level bureaucrats do, or of any other stunts of the ilk. But, for whatever rules he can break, for whatever moral and ethical transgressions he can commit he has got his hands stained with all of those and with not a speck of uneasiness. He knows that news about him taking dowry, or news about him committing his petty malfeasance won’t hit the headlines of the Hindu newspaper when he wakes up the next day morning. He knows that Suhel Seth would never condemn him on a news channels, Arnab Goswami would never question him and he will never have to sit opposite to Karan Thappar answering blunt questions. So under the cover of anonymity he commits all these grafts that are just miniature forms of grafts that politicians and bureaucratic babus in this country do; with the only distinction that their power allows them to squeeze away profits of much higher magnitude and their actions are scrutinized by the media.

What reflects at the countenance of the nation is the attitude of the multitude that forms it. Ethos and morality at individual level are ignored and violated, through some trivial and some not so trivial incidents, every day, by the citizenry. It is people like  the ‘Manav’ who one day manage to climb the ladder, out of the billion commoners, to occupy the positions of power and the attitude they carry is stained by petty grafts that they have been used to committing all along.

If you find Manav somewhere chastise him, at least warn him, and show him the ladder he is climbing. Let him at least have an afterthought.

Rajeev A