Nepotism equals corruption

"Guruji..Guruji…I want to learn archery from you and become the best archer in the Universe" expressed a young starry-­‐eyed boy, resolute and driven to leave a lasting dent in the universe. Little did the boy know that the Guru, whose counsel he was seeking, would, in fact, be his biggest nemesis and ask for his thumb as Guru Dakshina. Ironically, the Guru's dharma wasn't to teach but to further the glory and prosperity of an illustrious family and its kith and kin. Alas! A promising career was cut short by the cruel hand of nepotism.

We are all fairly aware that this boy was none other than Eklavya -­‐ a metaphor for being a victim of nepotism- a practice so prevalent in our culture that its roots can be traced back to thousands of years.
This is the land of nepotism where an embryonic talent is aborted and sacrificed every single day at the altar of privilege and clout. But then how does it matter to us, we're dying to catch a glimpse of some star-kid at a nearby mall who is going to sweep us off our feet with his or her stories of struggle and grit. They'll tell us that they didn't even use their surname and in fact struggled in the Mumbai locals just as the regular folks do and guess what, we'll totally believe them. Who could know it better than Karan Johar, what it means to knock on some producer's door relentlessly, despite being shooed away by his second-fiddle assistant or sometimes an even more insignificant peon or ward boy?
But let us be honest, it's not just Bollywood which is pervaded by nepotism. In fact, unlike other 'isms', this cult is a slow poison with tentacles that has now spread its relevance across every domain be it politics, arts, entertainment, businesses - you name it we have it. You'll find its nascent aura even in the simplest areas like securing admission for your child in school.
To be fair, yes we all agree that in the long run maybe it is merit that counts but let's not discount the number of opportunities these star kids receive or the sheer, smooth access they have at their disposal. Compare that to an average Joe who somehow claws and crawls his way up for a solitary chance where every move of his is scrutinised under a microscope; where failures and second-chances are just not options.
Let's just talk about an average Joe in our great country. Let's say someone from a middle-class background aspires to make it big in an unconventional sector like photography, arts, entertainment or even healthcare for that matter. What are his options? Either he must have a great uncle who works in the same domain and yes better start wishing your Uncle on Diwali, Holi, even Nag Panchami for that matter and start doing that now so that it doesn't seem opportunistic when you ask him for a push tomorrow.
The other option which is the hard way is to start knocking on the doors and keep asking for work, hoping that one day somebody would indeed budge from their comfort to give you an opportunity to work with them. Be ready to ruin the formative years of your life, languishing in a rented one bedroom, living hand to mouth, irking your family members and countering those endless bouts of anxiety and insecurity with nothing but hope that you will survive to tell your story one day. A few indeed live on to narrate their tale of guts and glory but large majorities succumb to the vagaries of life, being forever silenced into oblivion.
And just as Ekalavya lost his thumb to the whims of nepotism, there are thousands who lose their very spirit of life in this mad scramble to chase their dreams in a world heavily skewed in favour of the privileged. However, in the same mythological narrative, there was another archer as sharp and bright as Ekalavya. He, too, was castigated, scorned and turned down at every step but he didn't back down. In fact, every single slur fuelled him, even more, to accomplish his goal in life. The world came to know him as 'Karna'; the great archer from Mahabharata who many believed was probably the best in the Universe.
So if ever, nepotism looks you in the eye and knocks you down, get up again and be a 'Karna' and not an Eklavya. As for nepotism, well it's actually a very refined form of corruption, the only difference is that it is even more damaging. Can we imagine someone saying 'Corruption rocks'? Well, that would be blasphemous, but such is the might of sugar coated elitism that a catchy term like nepotism doesn't come across as cringe-­‐worthy as corruption does. Well, as an author and a public speaker who had to work relentlessly to get started to make a mark in an unknown world, I, for one, am not falling for this elitist narrative. I am going to say it loud and clear—Nepotism stinks and it's time we get rid of it.
A nation's prosperity isn't measured just by its wealth or by the might of its arms but by the fact that every single citizen has a fair chance of scripting his or her own destiny. Everyone, born under the sun should have a fair shot at greatness. It is this egalitarianism and not nepotism that should determine the future of our great nation.
(Karan Verma is a public speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Views expressed are strictly personal.)

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