No Laughing Matter

We Indians aren’t new to scams. Especially with today’s central government, we have grown highly accustomed to seeing one skeleton after another tumble out of the closet; so much so that it’s scary that we may soon lose interest. It has already become a joke among the middle classes. One Facebook post had two imaginary characters talking to each other. One asks ‘What’s the latest release this Friday?’; the other responds ‘It’s a new movie called Helicopter, but it’s a low budget fare. Only 3600 crores!’ To which the former says ‘Well, nothing to beat the mega-budget feature released by A Raja. That was a great film!’

Very soon, the jokes too will turn into clichés and we might relegate scam news to third or fourth page. We have already forgotten the ‘mega-budget’ fare released by Raja. Last week there was a sensational development on 2-G but The Hindu couldn’t bother to allocate the entire first page to it. They had a brief introduction and then moved the story to the seventh page. No one is talking about the Coal Gate and Commonwealth scams anymore. They are mere footnotes in the large saga called Indian decadence.

Why are we not affronted by these scams? It is perhaps because these scams are in a way reflective of us. It tells of who we are. We laugh at them, not because they are funny. It’s kind of a nervous chuckle; a form of acknowledgement for the talent in corruption and a rap on the knuckle for the stupidity in having been caught. That’s what we are. We do not think abiding the law is a serious matter. On the other hand, we have come to believe that, in order to survive, and prosper, one must break a law or two; if necessary a bone or two as well. The talk or thinking of Gandhian morality are a thing of vague distant past, which is so blurred and so ritualised that we look at Gandhi like how we look at Rama or Krishna, a sort of mythical heroes whose historical veracity we are not sure of. Gandhi too could be a mythical hero, who may not have existed in real life; most of us alive today haven’t seen him anyway!

On the contrary we see Sonia Gandhi, who props up her son in a sort of coronation ceremony, stoically remains quiet whilst scam after scam tumbles out of her cupboard, the tentacles of one even dangerously reaching up to her beloved son-in-law. We see Karunanidhi, shamelessly swindling property after property through sickening scams, running his government purely for the benefit of his family’s welfare, destroying the state’s economy, bringing the administration to a grinding halt and turning rowdyism a way of life in his state. We see Manmohan Singh, powerlessly defending one scamster after another, reigning in meek and insensitive disposition. We see Gadkari, threatening the IT officials raiding his office about the possibility of his party returning to power.

Not to be left behind, we too violate law and swindle, in our own small ways of course! We treat road traffic rules with utter disregard, and retort in anger if someone were to reluctantly point out. We bribe to ease our way out of many domestic situations. We ‘buy’ licenses and ration cards. If we are lucky enough to be working for one of these government services, we too solicit and accept bribes. We throw trash on the road, spit, piss and, if push comes to shove, even defecate in public places. We look out for any ‘opportunity’ for making additional money at our workplace. In our ‘small-man’ struggles, if we see a ‘big-man’ struggle, we look up in respect. We ‘chase’ papers to pass exams and when we see a minister ‘hiring’ someone else to write his exams we admire his courage.

We don’t know what caused this moral deterioration, whether we created Karunanidhis and Sonias or if they created us. Regardless, the process seems to be nearing completion now. The escape from this cycle seems impossible.

Not unless we stop laughing or snickering at these robbers. Unless we get sufficiently agitated, this won’t stop. When we get agitated, we naturally end up questioning our own eligibility criteria. We look at the mirror and wonder what ‘right’ we have to become angry. We will see our own tiny skeletons crawling out of our closets and sneaking out of our carpets. As we confront these ghosts of our past or even present, there is a possibility, albeit a faint one, that we may become ashamed and start clearing them out. What we need is not laughing or pointing fingers at Karunanidhis and Sonias; of course philosophically speaking. But we need to question ourselves. Try and reform our ways, refine our integrity, become better citizens, however small way we can make that difference, one bit of trash lesser on the road, one fewer violation on at the signal, one less person to bribe and corrupt the government officials, one more person to stand in the queue.

That will not only make one another person’s life easier, it will stop us from equating episodes of political robberies to film releases!