It may be rather facetious to suggest but I’m quite tempted to say that nothing amuses me more than a ringside view and watch the world go around. It’s fun to observe the Indian circus – an endless game of twists and turns, blows and counter-blows – as the protagonists hold centrestage and amuse and bemuse the bystanders. It is so well-scripted and choreographed that often in one such moment of trance one may be forgiven for living in a surreal world of magic realism that any fiction writer would dare capture and conjure in his novel. This, the hypocrisy of being – the charade of our everyday existence – that passes off as bravura and grandstanding.
Look around you and all you see is pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. It is everywhere – omnipresent, omnipotent, even omniscient. Be it the brouhaha over padma awards or the tragi-comedy called SPS Rathore with his Nehruvian smile or the Sukna land scam and many such others, the underlying impression is the same: all these are false accusations with the fourth estate the favourite punching bag for carrying out a scurrilous media trial that’s no better than a trial in a kangaroo court! Their argument: An accusation doesn’t make anyone a criminal till proven so only after decades of judicial foot-dragging. Till such time the party must go on. And, of course, honour be showered!
That’s the India, Hamara Bharat Mahaan we live in. Where hypocrisy rules like a potentate – untrammeled, unflustered, and unquestioned. A senior IAS couple caught with wads of currency notes running into a few crores at home. Another IAS officer raided and found with wealth far beyond legitimate earning. A Chief Justice of a High Court stopped in his track to elevation to the Supreme Court bench upon intense clamour of legal luminaries. Yet every such public servant in the dock keeps protesting his spiel of honesty. Swap the protestations of honesty with protestation of efficiency and see where it takes people up the totem pole: often to the gubernatorial office as a post-retirement sinecure.
It is as if today’s India is run on this high-octane fuel of hypocrisy, chicanery and claptrap. Nothing else matters except the ability to network. If you are a highly networked individual (HNI) your ascent up the greasy pole is assured. This is not only for the public servants. This holds good also for the corporate honchos, business magnets, technologists and everyone in society who aspires for instant gratification and nirvana: sanskritization and upward social mobility in a closed class- and caste-laden social order. People in position are respected, even feted – this regardless of their feet bogged in clay and their hands in the till.
Make no mistake – this cocktail is headier than any potent combine of the spirits. Take the issue of networking. Close to two decades ago I worked with a senior officer whose only claim to fame was to show the path of how not to work in government; he was indeed the apotheosis of this craft. He did no work, didn’t have the inclination to, but somehow “managed” to sail through. To be fair to him though he was an excellent net-worker who hosted lavish parties and managed to get invited to parties thrown by the powers-that-be. I wasn’t surprised in the least when he went up and up the slithery path to occupy enviable posts in the government of India. Today a septuagenarian, his habitat behoves his advanced age: “A bird in the golden gubernatorial cage!”
To be honest, he is not in a minority, let alone minuscule. Not long ago there was this gentleman – dumb, asinine, and inarticulate – who understood little of what was going on in the ministry he headed. To call him a half-wit would be an offence to the genuine nitwits; he was a no-wit, or, at best a “quarter-wit”. In all fairness he kept long hours in the office slouching over files trying to unravel the mystery wrapped in sundry unwieldy, nettlesome cases that were simply beyond his humble cranium’s comprehension. But that didn’t come in his way – pre- and post-retirement – and he too like other highly-networked blessed angels landed himself in successive gilded sinecures.
This is what networking does for you. It makes leaders out of monkeys. There is a plenitude of such impulses doing the beat in all fields. How else do you explain the rapist Rathore being made the DGP of a state after the molestation case had been filed? Or, how else an intellectually dishonest Pachauri (who artfully flaunts himself as a Nobel laureate and acts as a consultant to financial institutions like Deutsche Bank and Pegasus, an investment firm) be flaunted as India’s answer to solving global climate change?
If you still have any doubts about the goings-on, look at the padma awards that kick up shindig year after year for a few days (mercifully!) shortly after its announcement on Republic Day eve – to be quickly forgotten thereafter. It is largely a game of spoils – with much lobbying and jockeying that is endemic to the system – showered to reward newly “discovered” merits lying hitherto unrecognized till the high and mighty are benefacted and feel obligated to confer the spoil. Of course, the high and mighty too often award to themselves honours, forgetting (did you say?), Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad’s vintage words: “We cannot attach to our achkans the awards that is our job to confer on others”, but whoever today cares about these obsolete moralities.
This issue of immorality, nepotism, and venality is not confined to the government functioning alone. It is very democratic and equitable, it is everywhere. Satyam is certainly not the last case we have heard about from Indian Inc. We have struck such levels of moral depravity that MBA schools are today asking students to take a variant of Hippocrates oath to maintain moral rectitude in professional career, not realizing that it is a vain, vapid ask. Morality has to be appropriated from within, not taught or imposed from without. We modern-day Nostradamus are purblind, and we refuse to see the writing in the wall.
Morality and law are not exactly strangers to each other. Nor are they antithetical. While morality preaches, law imposes. Sadly both are major failures – one for lack of takers, the other for lack of will. The endgame is the same: upward social mobility where get-rich-by-any-means is the mantra and the open sesame to entry into this cloistered world that is a strange amalgam of feudal values, socialist preaching and capitalist Epicureanism, and where sunlight is not the best disinfectant simply because it is shut out.
This is the hypocrisy we live, breathe, and eat that no noonday iridescence will be able to lift. There is no light of any affirmative action on steroids. Because today it’s the being and everything-ness! Stranger still: we manage to survive amid this conundrum of being and times of glib hypocrisy, even without scalding India’s soul. And this is not a radical fringe statement. Pray, did I go wrong somewhere? Touché!