I can’t turn without bumping into a corrupt politician these days. So I’ve been told to stop turning. That’s the only remedy you got for a cure, the wise-crack said with a grin as big as some of the scams unearthed in recent days. I looked at him and thought ‘this guy if he weren’t a journalist would have fit the bill for a politician, corrupt to the core’.
Blame it on democracy, he said as if reading my mind. What democracy, I thought. There’s corruption in China. Yes. But in China when the corrupt are caught, they usually get a bullet in the head. In India the corrupt, especially the corrupt politician, gets the backing of his party and colleagues and the man goes away laughing in your face.
I will not say Nitin Gadkari is corrupt or that Robert Vadra got corrupt Congressmen to help him hit the jackpot. These two are model citizens and who am I to point the finger at them. There’s only envy in me. It’s all about making the right choice at the right time, the wise-crack told me with another of his annoying grins. His theory is that I should have opted to be a politician years ago rather than pick up the pen. But I know journalists who too have hit the jackpot with the help of politicians; gentlemen hacks who own farmhouses, others who have been handed flats out of turn in housing colonies in Gurgaon and Faridabad and Delhi and Mumbai and Chennai and Hyderabad and...
Shucks, how many cities should I name, there will be no end to it.
Corruption is a state of mind, the wise-crack cracked, cracking his characteristic grin. ‘It’s a gene. Yeah, it’s genetic. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry can be corrupt. That’s why there are politicians who aren’t corrupt while there are journalists who are.’ I told him to shut up. With that ‘some journalists are also corrupt’ comment he was getting too close for comfort.
Most journalists who are corrupt are corrupt in a different way. It has to do with the degree of power we wield in some way or the other. The power that comes with the pen and the written word. With that power we invade the system and turn it to our benefit. Getting last minute reservations in chock-a-block trains is just one of the ill-gotten rewards we routinely get because we’re journalists, forget the allotment of flats out of turn in choice apartment. We greedily lap up gifts from business houses which want a good word written about their businesses.
There’s is this story of a business house holding a press conference in Delhi in the early 1990s. At the end of the meet as the journalists trooped out each one of them was handed a wrapped ‘gift’ which when opened contained suit lengths. What riled the organisers was that they found some of the journalists return to the queue for a second helping. So disgusted was the business house that within a few days it announced another press meet. This time close to a 100 hacks turned up, quite a few of them in brand new suits .As at the previous meet, at the end of the meet each one of the journalists was the recipient of a wrapped gift, the size of which held promise.
Guess, what was the gift this time round? Briefs! Yes, VIP briefs, all of them size 90 .
It was a slap on the butt, and it hurt.