Millennium Post

Crooks, cronies and corruption

A few things happened over the last fortnight. First, a politician friend, largely secular – charged, after a debate on whether the myriad sources of corruption lying at the door of the Manmohan Singh government would lead to its finis, that those who subscribe to various schools of philosophy originating in the West – lack the sanatan samskar (timeless traditions) of the Indian civilisational experiences.

Then broke the story of the nephews of Pawan Bansal, who turned out to be the collectors and enforcers of the Indian Railways apex functioning, on contracts amounting to thousands of crores of rupees, and also indulging in selling important positions in the bodies directly related to the working of the railways. And, third, finally came the great match fixing/spot fixing scandal that only reinforced one’s belief in total abandonment of a game that one played reasonably well in terms of neighbourhood cricket. The abandonment really led to a challenge to the cricket market economics to the core.

Exploring all these issues in the mind, taken together, finally brought to the light of day, the fact that that is what we are – crooks, shirkers, and corrupt to the core. The sanatan samskara that the un-naïve friend was talking about amounted to this: that we believe our temporal sins can be redeemed by donating a kilogram of gold, or silver or whatever, at Tirupati Thirumala temple, or the Sabarimala temple, or any other incarnation of god and its earthly abode anywhere, in any part of the country. Or, that if you are found to be a thief, you can free your conscience of any residual burden, by naming it as your ‘destiny’ – both the thievery and the discovery.

Yet, that your destiny, in the classical sense born with you, already written and preserved in its pristine pure form at the beginning of life, have a role to play; and is enshrined in the Gita or simply, the teachings of the godly charioteer who drives you to the battlefield to kill your own kin. S Sreeshanth, and his two other lesser known colleagues, are faulted for delivering against the spirit of the game of cricket. But all three are a product of this sanatan samskara that made the officials administering the game make use of their talent – their partial destiny – to make money as power. So Sreeshanth, knocking at the doors of 30 years, was aware that he and his talent was being exploited by others for reasons mentioned above.

In a true entrepreneurial sense, he showed his ‘animal spirit’ that his prime minister so longingly evokes time and again as a path to salvation for the country. He decided to make money for himself, because he knew what his destiny was a few years hence: the birth of another cricket (media) icon, who would relegate him to the background, thus affecting his ability to make more and more money.

You can call it ‘aspiration’ or ‘inspiration;’ dub it as the driving force of the dynamic middle class, or any other way opportunity throws up options. One recalls that much like the calculation about how many people were poor in this benighted country, at the beginning of the economic reform programme in the 1990s; when attracting foreign direct investment was a mantra invoked with the same regularity as the invocations of gods in the Hindu pantheon; the powers-that-be those days could not decide how many people constituted the Indian middle class – 250 million or 450 million. The number was important – for that was supposedly the currency the powers-that-be needed to exchange to get McDonalds, Pepsi, Coke or various other such important wheels of the economic train. And, of course, when all these international brands had come in, greed had to become good, otherwise how you would buy cheese burgers at Rs 70, especially when your aim was to provide Rs 32 to a poor man for his whole day’s consumption.

The samskara here is that ‘I’ may be giving only half of what ‘I’ am spending for ‘my’ entertainment, but your tradition is to remain loyal to ‘me’ as ‘I’ am your primary giver. Call it clientilist, you may act as the ‘nay sayer’ who does not conform only to become a dissenter, but ‘I’ have a bigger conscience than you, for ‘I’ look after this disenfranchised lot so that they keep faith with me, over and over again, as ‘I’ keep buying the cheese burgers.

So Sreeshanth is a poor victim of the game called cricket that was noble once, when gentlemen in flannels played on sunny days of the mild winter; excepting those days there was no 800 pound all-consuming gorilla without honour, called BCCI, that could make you play what someone worthy called ‘pyjama cricket’ in the height of summer. But more important, there is ‘you’ who is gullible and so starved of excitement, yet with pocket full of money, earned on the teeth of stiff competition only because ‘you’ were brilliant, to populate the ramparts when a game is being played.

But more important than ‘you’ is the one who did not populate the ramparts but watched the game on television, because he is the real consumer and a votary of sanatan samskara.

The author is a senior journalist.
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