Friday, September 7, 2007

The One-rupee bribe

It is not easy to be ranked among the top five. It requires plenty of sustained hard work. Our state has worked hard for decades to reach that level. Ask me where! - In the corruption list! The 3 Ps - Police, Politicians and Public, they all contribute! Gone are the days when the ‘mamool’ used to be handed over from ‘under the table’. It is now open, like a yawning hippopotamus. This mamool has now evolved to the illegally legalized term ‘fees’!!

Let me share a very small incident that took place before the ‘fees-era’. It was 1979. Interest in Philately had drawn me to the Head Post Office for a new issue of a stamp. I was going from Ashoka Road to reach there. As I neared the PO I got off my bicycle saddle and balancing on the left pedal, I coasted for a few metres on the wrong side of the road, parked it and went inside. It was just the way most did as there were no dangers of any accident. Those were days when traffic was sparse.
I had bought my new stamps at the counter and just as I was about to turn and leave, I was shocked to see the traffic policeman [TP] looking in my eye and asking me to come to the Police Station [PS] -just across the road - and meet the Sub Inspector [SI]. He had come down from his traffic umbrella at the centre [there was one, then] of the road junction. I begged him to be let away but he would neither heed to my explanation nor my request.

Who had not heard of bribery! That presented me with my first opportunity to offer a bribe to the TP – in fact his colleague suggested this to me while I was keeping my bicycle inside the PS. I was a student then living on a monthly pocket allowance of fifteen rupees. My stamp-purchase had left me with just a crisp, unfolded one rupee note in my shirt pocket. So I tried my luck to approach him at the traffic umbrella [he was back on duty] and see if that worked. My action of partly pulling up that note to make it visible to the TP while uttering “for coffee” is just unforgettable! The TP’s attention shifted to my action and since it was of such a low denomination, he retorted “Come, I will get you coffee, you keep that”! Unable to anything more, I returned to the PS and waited for the SI.

After a while the SI arrived to the scene. When we student-cyclists were caught by the TP there was the usual sympathy-begging by way of falsely telling that our houses are in a far off locality – usually “Vidyaranyapuram” [3-4 miles was far off then!]. I had to use it too! Luckily for me, the SI politely warned and asked me not to repeat it. So I was relieved to be back on the road again, but with a lesson.

When I come to think of how nowadays dare-devil-wrong-doers committing unpardonable offences and “paying” crores that gets reported in the Press and yet escape scot free, this one-rupee incident makes me laugh.