Friday, May 31, 2013

We are all corrupt

We have just witnessed the exit of a BJP government in Karnataka, ostensibly because of corruption and non governance. It has been replaced by a Congress government which is reeling under mega scams at the Centre. So is corruption really an issue in electoral politics?. I think not, judging by the number of corrupt politicians who keep winning elections over the years. Inspite of the mega scandals during her first tenure, the current Chief Minister of my State has come back to power twice. We will have to wait and see how much the mass awareness created among the growing middle class in the country by Anna Hazare and his team at India Against Corruption is going to affect the next Parliamentary elections.

I have been pondering over this much talked about topic of corruption, trying to find out the root cause for corruption in our society. I find that a man’s greed, impatience and his unwillingness to follow rules of the land helps corruption to spread like cancer. Besides corruption in our country is a part of our culture. It starts with our system of `bribing` the God to get what we want. For the last 39 years I have been offering the elephant God (Vinayaka) 108 coconuts whenever I am facing a crisis or before I get involved in a major project. Each one of us in our own small ways is contributing to corruption.

Let me explain. Take the simple case of a traffic offence. While your vehicle is stopped by a traffic constable for some offence and he tells you that if he books the case against you and you have to go to the court, you will end up paying `X` amount; but if you agree to pay him `X` minus `Y`amount on the spot , he will let you go, without registering the case. What do you do? Most of us will obviously take the second alternative because it is hassle free and costs less. The cop is happy and you are happy because you have no time to waste! You have inadvertently contributed your bit to corruption.

Similar thing happens when a person applies for a driving license or goes to a Registrar`s office for registering some document, or when Corporates have to close any kind of tax related issues be it income tax,, sales or service tax. The list is endless. To escape the harassment and accompanying waste of time, they agree to pay the bribe demanded by the officers concerned, albeit after some negotiations. Even if our books are in perfect order and as per the rules; we have no patience to fight the system because of the hassles involved. If we have the patience to find the time required to fight a case, we will win but we don’t because we are in a hurry to get over a problem fast , at any cost!

It is this inherent unwillingness of the public to fight the unreliable system and the delay in meting out severe punishments to those who indulge in corrupt acts, which according to me is the causes for all types of corruption.

When I started my advertising agency and had to apply for accreditation with Indian Newspaper Society (INS) so that I can avail of credit facilities offered by print media, I was told that I can be successful only if I grease the palms of a certain gentleman in charge, at the Society. I refused to oblige and naturally my application was rejected twice for some petty reasons.. But I persisted with my stand, providing all the clarifications that the gentleman asked for. Ultimately my agency did get its accreditation after a delay of two years, but without paying any bribe. It is another matter that in the meantime I could manage my finances thanks only to the generosity of my client-friends.

As an entrepreneur, I have followed value based business policies, with ‘no give, no take’ as my credo. While this has helped me get a reputation in the industry as a honest person, it has not helped me make any money out of my business. Looking around, I find that people who have made big money in short time or Corporates who are in a tearing hurry to grow big are the people who compromise on values and who have encouraged corruption to become a way of life.

Ultimately the giver of a bribe is as guilty as the receiver when we talk about corruption. It is wishful thinking to believe that `Lokpal Bills` or enactment of Laws will eradicate corruption. As I said earlier, as long as a human being wants to cut corners or break rules to achieve his goals, there will be corruption. Indians by and large do not consider giving or taking bribes a great sin!

While I have followed the `No give No Take ` policy in doing business, I must confess that I am equally guilty of going with the system when it comes to a simple traffic offence, which I seem to commit more often these days because of old age. And even today, as a faithful Indian(!) I continue to bribe my `Gods` seeking special favours!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Friend in Need

I was reading an interview of  a celebrity in a leading Tamil monthly.  This celebrity was  very popular on the small screen for nearly two decades as an anchor of a film music programme in Tamil,  sponsored by a  soft drink brand.  She was  missing from the limelight for a few  years and has  just made a comeback.

In the interview she mentioned the reasons for her long absence, one of which concerned  her health.  During the  years that she was  going through multitudinous  problems, she found out that most of her so called friends had deserted her and only her parents remained with her as pillars of strength.

We all have heard such comments from many people – especially celebrities when they bounce back after a lean period in their life. 

This set me thinking about the definition of friends. A true friend is one who stands by you through good and bad times. Through thick and thin as they say. If he does not, he is obviously not your friend.  `A Friend in need is a friend indeed` is an oft  repeated saying.

Very often celebrities think that the coterie around them consisting of admirers, business associates, fellow professionals or other sycophants who like to be seen with them, as friends. They don`t realize that most of these people are `fair weather cocks` who are friendly with you because of the position that you hold, the status that you enjoy in society or even the chair you are occupying.  The moment you lose the status or the  position, the crowd around you melts.

Many such celebrities also tend to forget their genuine friends who were  their bosom pals  in their earlier years,   while  they are  acquiring  new  friends befitting their new social status. Super Star Rajnikanth being an exception, as the media loves to tell us.

Though I am not a celebrity, as a person who was involved in several voluntary organizations, I have a legion of friends spread  across the country.  A few  of them are  very close to me and I know that such friends will surely stand by me in my hour  of crisis.

As I found this out when I was on the cross roads in my life and  started my own advertising agency, with only “good will ” as my principal capital.  The way my friends from the Round Table (a youth organization with which I was involved for 14 years)) rallied  around me to kick start my agency with free office space and  telephone, money, business, contacts  besides moral support, is something which I can never  forget in my life.  Nor can I forget the genuine concern and offer of help from a number of friends during my wife’s  terminal  illness.

To make this happen one must be genuinely friendly with others.  One has to first invest one`s time and efforts in helping others. Friendship is not a one way traffic. When people notice that you stood by them in their hour of crisis, they are likely to  come to your help when you need them. As they say,` Be good to  the people on  your way up: they will be good to you on your way down`.

I can hear some people murmur, “that does not always happen.  A few people I helped don’t even recognize me now”.  Don`t worry. Even if the recipient of your good deed does not respond when you need him, God will ensure that help comes through some one else.  You will discover new friends who are genuinely interested in you.

There are  ofcourse some friends who are very good at heart but do not have the time or inclination to really help. They only pay lip service.  When you are going through a tough phase in your life, they will tell you “Any help you want, please do not hesitate to ask me”.  But when you try to contact them , they will not be reachable. It is not difficult to spot such friends.

On the other hand a true friend, however busy he might be, will be by your side extending a helping hand. when you need it.  You are invariably  in  touch with such friends  sharing your joys and sorrows regularly. You can only have a few such genuine friends in life. I have had friends who have helped me when they sensed I was in  need of help, without my asking for it.

If you are able to distinguish between such genuine friends  from the  legion of contacts you may have, I assure you that you will never complain about friends deserting you in your hour of crisis.

I  would like to conclude with a quote from `THIRUKKURAL` by the  well known Tamil sage Thiruvalluvar:

`Mughanaga Natpadhu Natpu Andru; Nenchathu Aghanaga Natpadu Natpu`

`Friendship is not one coming from outward expressions like a casual smile but a sincere feeling that comes from within`.