There is a saying in Marathi , my mother tongue, that actually defines terribly "savvy" folks , as those who can do a sort of "auto-completion of words" in life; if you say "ta-" they know you mean " taakbhat". As a corollary, I wonder if such folks develop the amazing ability to glean "meanings" from certain actions and words , that stupid folks like me take literally.
This comes to mind, as the newspapers are full of stuff on "corruption" stories, what with the stuff happening in the capital, shouting in Parliament, and the media going into fifth gear, in a frenzy of repetitive reporting.
I have always wondered, as an academic exercise, how a person says or indicates, that he needs a bribe. (watch this ad for Tata Tea Premium)
One hears stories of X, taking Y from some office, for a cup of tea somewhere, and offering or agreeing to a bribe; and I have always wondered how X and Y understand that this is not an honest "expression of interest in each other " but an invitation for a surreptitious transaction, where you now have an anonymous table to transact under.
There is a complicated cross roads system close to where I live. There is a badly planned traffic signal, where you sing the Lord's praises every time you make it successfully across in a vehicle. There is a police "presence", but not at the crossroads. Further down the road, one sees them exchanging papers and checking things with folks on two wheelers and truck drivers who are waved away to their side. Those crossing red signals , in the meanwhile, get away. I once asked a cop there why he didn't catch all these folks who run through a red light. This was on the arterial road outside which is always crowded. He told me that if he caught everyone who skipped a red, there would be a traffic jam till a kilometre away, and there would be a mess . So they stand beyond the signal and catch folks.
The other thing I noticed is no one is traumatised by being caught. I've been told that when the licence is asked for, the smarter types, add some stuff in the plastic licence holder jacket. In fact the licence is always kept ready like this . There is something happening like filling of forms , next to the cop's motorcycle, the licence is returned , perhaps minus the extra something, and everyone is happy.
Vehicle owners , particularly those on motorbikes, think they own the road, even overtaking the buses on the side where people are getting in and getting out of the bus. Several of my friends have been injured by this rash driving, and I once saw a motorcycle driver being stopped by a cop for that.
I was walking next to them, had seen what had happened, and so I asked the cop, why he doesn't let the air out of the guy's vehicle, to teach him a lesson. (in my childhood , the police used this to punish errant cyclists). The motorcycle guy, removed his helmet, gave me a look and said he paid his taxes; I told him I paid mine too; an argument ensued, which the cop stopped (because he had other people to catch), and I moved away, quite sure that papers would have exchanged hands.
A few days ago, on a Sunday , we were returning from the western suburbs, and were debating which road would have less traffic. We thought we would take a right turn at a major junction, and noticed , that when the light turned green, there was only a straight arrow pointing ahead. Since we interpret only what we see and not hidden meanings, we continued straight, while tons of folks were merrily taking a right turn.
What looked like a rookie cop, waved us to one side.
Two senior citizen types, who have been driving for the last 43 years, without getting a"ticket", paying taxes on time, never breaking rules , never treating driving like a sport even in their younger days, naturally got upset, when the cop knocked on the glass .
We asked him what the problem was. He asked us if we didn't see that we were in a "right turn lane". We said the signal indicated a straight path and no right turn, so we followed the signal. Then he said we should have "presumed" that we were in a turning lane ! Asked for the licence, and we innocently gave it , naturally without any accompanying stuff. He then asks us to come out and accompany him to where the motorcycle was parked. There were several other cops , some with walkie-talkies, spread around there.
What he didn't know was that he had just met an honest senior citizen, and that hell hath no fury than an honest citizen fooled, cheated and scorned. An argument ensued. We asked him to accompany us to the signal to show him how it didn't show a right arrow at any time. (he probably thought this was a new way of going someplace to get a bribe).
I asked him to return the licence as we had not committed a crime. He refused. Voices rose. I tried to collect my licence from his hand. He held on. I too didn't let go. (I knew he wouldn't dare use his other hand. To push. I read and learn). In the meanwhile , the person with me lost his temper and started shouting at them in disgust. Loud and clear.
We asked what this business of "presuming" signals was. Was it OK if I presumed a red signal was green , and if I presumed that I could double park everywhere ?
The sight of a white haired senior citizen shouting at the cops, and a oldish lady gesturing and glaring at the cop, drew the attention of one of the senior cops walking around with a walkie talkie. He came around to check. Heard us out.
And he asked the younger cop to hand back the driver's licence to us.
And said, "Now , go " !
A fellow from another car passing by , leaned out of the window, shaking his head, to tell us we should have paid up !
We left, this having spoiled a day that had been fairly good so far. We were still angry and fuming when we reached home.
And I wonder , if some infrastructure stuff is deliberately messed up, so people like us can be caught and fined. We have signals which don't work and nothing is done. We install CCTV's all over the place , every time there is some kind of violent attack, and do not check if they are working. You go to Malls, and people in fancy uniforms do cursory checks of your purse, apologetically. They make you walk through fancy doorways and no one pays attention to beeps, or maybe it beeps wrongly. I have even asked a lady security officer if that was all she was going to check, and what about pockets and stuff. At which she just smiled. I didn't.
Just like our roads, where the contractors are hand in glove with municipal folks, all merrily making money, and who cares if people fall off two wheelers going into potholes and get run over (as happened recently on the arterial road outside). Sadly, that was a cop travelling to work, and going to leave his wife at her workplace on the way. She died.
Just read this post by Neha, about the bribe-taking merrily happening here while the big anti corruption Hazare event takes place in New Delhi.
I just hope we learn to take this seriously, and not restrict it to slogans, catchy writeups on tees, candle light marches, and singing songs , and standing in chains holding hands.
Anna Hazare and his group are doing something and highlighting stuff where no one else was doing anything. There is some discussion happening on whether his methods are right or wrong. But what must be understood is that he is the first one to vocalize and formally define it as a national curse and problem. When most of us take the easy way out. His method may be right or wrong. Once started, and followed up, the correct way of handling will automatically become clear, through dialogue and interaction. There is a lot to learn by observing the approaches, the words, the responses, of both sides in this, and the response of the common man.
It is also eminently clear, that unless each of us, avoids the quick and fast solution related to money, where solving a problem is concerned, this will remain, what can only be described as a 'scam'my life.