Bribes, through life and even beyond!

So who’s afraid of Anna Hazare?

No one except, perhaps, the Congress, I must say. And if at all the Hissar byelection results go in favour of the party, then perhaps no more after that.Hazare, of course, has become a household name in India. So much so that my family priest recently thought he would drop Hazare’s name to save himself from having to pay a bribe.

I was not really surprised when he narrated his story to me, though he seemed rather shocked and disappointed by the events. According to him, my priest was helping a client conduct the funeral of his father. “Although the top municipal officers cleared all the papers, the last man down the line, a new appointee, at the ghat just would not give me the death certificate without a bribe. He demanded Rs 1,000 and when I threatened to go to Anna Hazare with the complaint, you know what he told me?”

I didn’t. “He said, you may go to Anna Hazare, or his father or even his grandfather. You can even go to his kaaka (paternal uncle) maama (maternal uncle) or naana (maternal grandfather). I do not care. If you want to light the funeral pyre, you will have to pay me Rs 1,000. Or else the body will lie here for as long as you don’t pay me that sum.”

My priest was shocked at that fearless insolence. So he decided to go to his local corporator (this one was from the BJP) for his intervention.

“And you know what? The man did not even try! He advised me to pay up!”

The corporator told my priest, “You are in this business of funerals. You will have to visit the ghat and run into the same man again and again. How long will you resist? I will get you off this once. But the next time you have to conduct another funeral, the man will up the ante. You might have to end up paying double or even more. The best for all would be that your client pays up. He can well afford Rs. 1,000. It is a small price to pay to ensure his father’s soul rests in peace.”

“We paid up,” said my woebegone priest, rather stripped of his naïveté by now and expressing the certainty that corruption will never end.

“Kya karega? Marne ke baad bhi paisa khilaana padta hai. Nahin toh yeh log vaikunth bhi chain se jaane nahin degaa!” my vadiyar said in his broken Hindi and was not amused when I laughed at his innocence.

So while Anna might have caught the imagination of middle class India which, like my priest, naively believes his movement will end corruption, it is that very middle class India which is continuing with its own bribery and corruption as though there is nothing to fear, not even God and not even when cheating/blackmailing the dead.

And I, for one, do not buy into Team Anna’s campaign in Hissar. What, after all, is there to choose between Kuldip Bishnoi and Ajay Chauthala against the Congress?

And if any one believes there is, then he or she is either as naive as my priest or a fool – or both!

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