1760000 crores. This was the estimated loss to the nation in the infamous 2G coal scam. This, added with other corruption scams heated up the country’s common man who had become helpless. The public became furious. There were protests. There was the revolutionary ‘Anna Andolan’. Issues like corruption took centre stage in every conversation- in metros, coffee shops, colleges, shops. There was a general sense of anger against the politicians, bureaucrats, police and all officials associated with corruption.
I, as a die-hard patriot have vociferously spoken against corruption. People are looting my motherland, this was intolerable. However four days back an incident reminded me of how it’s us- me and you who are the root causes of corruption. You know why? Because that day, I too indulged in corruption.
I had gone to get some sheets photocopied in bulk. I went inside, straight to the worker (and not the owner) and gave him the sheets. While he was photocopying his sheets, I went casually up to him and said- ‘Bhaiya, itni sheets karwa ri hoon. Koi discount nahi doge kya?’ (Brother, I am getting it done in bulk, won’t you give me any discount?). He looked at me and almost whispered- ‘Haan, haan, wait karo aap’ (Yes, Yes, just wait). Confused, I just sat on the chair. When the shop owner got busy with other customers, the worker came up to me and gave me a clear offer: ‘Ma’am, your copies cost around Rs 1000, I will tell the owner it costs Rs 300, you give me Rs 200 and you can keep the remaining 500 with yourself’ Intuitively, I nodded my head. This happened within 5 seconds, I had no time to decide.
However, when the worker went back to his work, I had over 15 minutes to say no, to refuse. I thought. My conscience shouted at me, told me- ‘Hey Ankita, you are the biggest hypocrite’. And you know what I did? I dint refuse. I saved myself Rs 500. But I deprived the shop owner of Rs 700. His deserved Rs 700.
On my way back home, I kept on justifying my actions to myself. I made excuses. ‘Maybe the worker really needed those 200 bucks, maybe for his child’s school fee or for some emergency’, ‘The shop owner as it earns loads of money, it’s the worker who deserved it’, ’It’s okay, that’s not really corruption, it was just 500 bucks’ I said all these things to myself. I said them aloud. Again and again. I wanted to assuage the guilt.
However, I found it difficult sleeping that night. This action of mine made me question myself, my integrity a lot. It made me think hard. It made me realize it’s we- you and me who create corruption. Our leaders are nothing but people amongst us. Today, I indulged in corruption of 500 bucks, tomorrow when I get into governance and politics, it might escalate to 5 billion or more. A part of me lost every right to accuse all corrupt politicians.
This post is probably my way of reducing guilt. I am writing this out of utter selfishness to make myself feel better. Because that day I indulged in something that I have vociferously been against. Because that day, I too became corrupt.