Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Price to pay for honesty :
We were caught for speeding on the freeway yesterday. For my friend who was driving, it was a real shock as it was his first speeding ticket in his 3 years stay in the USA. Although the vehicles that were with us on the road at that time were cruising at almost the same speed, the fact that the interceptor's eyes landed on us alone can only be construed as sheer ill luck. We were moving at 85 miles on a route where the speed limit was 70 miles. Anyway, let that not draw me into a discussion and make me digress from what i wanted to point out.
When my friend pointed out that he had never received a ticket previously and that the act was not deliberate, he would have hoped to be let off the hook with a warning. But the officer preferred to give him a ticket and asked him to report to the court on a specified date. Although my friend had to come up with a vacuous smile while trying to justify his act, the officer was as serious as he would have wanted to be and gave the best possible justification in such circumstances saying that he was only doing his job that he was paid for. "Perfect" !
Can you ever retort if that is what you hear unless you decide to deliberatley display an intention to bribe him? I had come across a similar experience at the mumbai airport,while returning to India. Although the Customs officer was certainly doing the job that he was paid for by asking me to open up my bags, he always kept my options open. After arguing for about 15 - 20 mins, i realised that it was for me to ask him whether he could, with the powers vested upon him save me from the trouble of opening all my suitcases. Though i had nothing more that a digital camera and a worn out speaker(which were evident in the X-Ray scans), the officer was hell bent on giving me that pain for which he alone had the medicine. And the medicine in this case was two $10 bills, which brought a smile to his face. On being led away by the officer's lieutenant ( or a man who thought so ) i was asked a very innocent question " Why did you waste so much time before doing this." I was floored by the sheer innocence of the question. It was as if he was asking me why i hadn't paid him the money i owed him. It was as if he was asking me his legitimate claim.
Why does this happen in dear old India? Why is it that i we had to pay the penalty here for speeding while all we would have lost for the same infringement in India is rupees fifty that the constable would have slided down his pocket with such deftness that would have put even P.C.Sorcar to shame. I wouldn't buy the argument that American Police do not contain venal elements within their ranks. Corruption is a universal phenomenon. Unscrupulous men and women are present everywhere irrespective of civilization or geographical location. But why is this phenomenon so pronounced in India?The answer, quite possibly lies in the discrepancy between his income and expenditure. The pittance that he is paid in India would have evaporated even the last shred of morality he held. Honesty to him would be a luxury that he cannot afford. It would demand too heavy a price.Domestic issues which are mostly due to poor living conditions would always weigh heavily on his mind and why should he not bypass it by making use of the power that he weilds as long as it doesn't pose life and death choices for any? The cursed customs officials in the Indian Airports, would perhaps attribute the reason behind their actions to the cost of living in those metros which their salaries can hardly match. There might not be anything intrinsically evil about these men who are often referred to in every article on corruption (incl this one), and who do nothing more than following the trend. Does that condone their act? Does poverty absolve a theif of his crime? These are topics that have been debated and written about ad nauseam. Answers to these questions are required at an individual level if one is to ever act against or condone an injustice done to him. I may perhaps be doing an introspection and mull over these things in the next few days as this topic returns to mind time and again. Lets talk about my ruminations in subsequent posts.


At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

U have a natural flair for writing and should take this up seriously in your spare time, and share your spills with a bigger audience..........magazines, newspapers etc.
well done.......keep it up.

At 6:32 AM, Blogger Sarath said...

Thanks for the compliment. I shall think over your suggestion.


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