Monday, April 11, 2011

The baksheesh culture.

It’s time to celebrate the birth of Rama, the mythological king of Ayodhya who stood for all that’s just, moral and righteous in this world. It’s also the right time for Middle India to seethe with righteous indignation and rile at the ten-headed demon of corruption. What an Indian means by “corruption” is “graft”. Or, “baksheesh” in street parlance. If history is any indication, we Indians have been giving and receiving baksheesh with guiltless impunity from time immemorial. It stems from our feudal past that has seamlessly extended into our present. Again, if history is any indication, it will continue to extend effortlessly into our future too. The Middle Indian housewife who was excitedly waving a candle just yesterday to support Anna Hazare will hand out baksheesh to the peon in the school where she is seeking admission for her darling son to help her jump the queue for the admission forms the very next day − without blinking an eyelid. In the bad old days of Socialist India, it used to be fashionable to curse the licence-permit-quota regime for nurturing the baksheesh culture. It is ironic that, in the times of liberalisation, Middle India has become even more liberal with baksheesh. The baksheesh culture, further bolstered by the spread of rentier capitalism, has an insidious way of spawning an endemic sense of entitlement even among non-performers and marginal factotums. The queue of ministers, bureaucrats, go-betweens, petty officials and other hopefuls at the receiving end grows longer by the minute. Can you imagine the lewd obscenity of the baksheesh announced for the World Cup heroes. As if they were playing for peanuts in the first place!