The golden mean and the go-betweens

Maverick: The golden mean and the go-betweens

By Farzana Versey

Covert, Feb 1-15

It’s time for ideological palm-greasing. The very same industrialists who were weeping over terrorism a couple of months ago are now propping up Narendra Modi as the leader at the helm.

But, are we sitting in judgment only because we are talking about prominent people, when we are well aware that bribery is a part and parcel of everyday life – even our own?

Why must we get so uptight and upright over such backing, when we are a country of middlemen? Have we, even in our daily lives, got things done without the services of a well-wisher, a balancing force?

If today you know of some obscure people, it is because they have paid to become known. As P.T.Barnum, the public relations biggie, said, “The bigger the humbug, the better the people will love it.” So, the wannabes get to hobnob with the cream of society, many of who are of doubtful merit, and the impression given is that, look, we believe in equal opportunities, we don’t care about who is who. Few are honest as an advertiser was in one of our respected financial papers, when he stated clearly: “Wanted person experienced in the art of ‘lubricating’ top executives in banks.”

Isn’t this a regular occurrence? Can any of us get any work done without paying for it in cash or kind? Does the middleman not make life somewhat easy, just like the blackmarketeer at a cinema hall, the helpful peon at a government office whose only demand is chai-paani and the high-ranking official, who miraculously provides water in drought-prone areas because the private sector, which he publicly claims to hate, provides him with a brown paper packet?

Why get into this serious area of moral accountability? Births, marriages and deaths, all need someone to make the passage clear.

Social workers are go-betweens of another kind. They act as buffers between good and evil. They also get catapulted into the forefront of a movement or sit in air-conditioned offices of corporate honchos, sipping herbal tea and demanding donations.

Demanding has become a normal practice. If you are a beleaguered soul seeking justice or merely have a case in the courts, the black-robed ravens swoop down on you. The ‘names’ charge a neat 50,000 rupees for a one-page consultation. Some straightaway ask for a cut if it is a property matter.

Real estate agents are another bugbear. Forget what they promise you. Just watch the gleam in their eye as you sign on the dotted line and they get their two per cent commission.

The doctor sends you to a specialist; the specialist parcels you off to a bigger guy; the cut at the end could be in lakhs. While the general physicians have to make do with weekly luncheons that pass off as conferences, the ones with fancier degrees get all-expenses-paid trips abroad sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. How does it affect you? Your friendly doctor will insist you use those medicines which might be infinitely more expensive.

The media cannot be absolved. It is the most in-demand profession. Hacks who have managed to re-word a press release a few times on a certain topic are called experts and invited on junkets to hold forth on the subject. Academicians enjoy similar elevation, based purely on the number of footnotes in the paper they present.

God has not been spared. When you go shopping for a guru or a saint, you are looking not so much for solace as for a nice middleman. Everyone knows that the Real Thing is somewhat confusing, an abstraction, and understanding this entity can get time-consuming, besides taking a toll on your brains. So you deposit your searching soul at the feet of a holy one and leave it to him/her to pass on your messages, requests, and complaints to God. Along the way you drop some money into a donation box or sprinkle ghee into fire or slaughter an animal, depending on what you are told to do. This is not to appease any Higher Power, but to make your earthly messenger feel that something is being done.

When two sides have a dispute, it is the ‘agents’ who get away, pleading quite truthfully that they are merely caught in the middle.


  1. FV,

    Pay a registration fee at the hospital, then some huge consultation fees, then get some whoppingly expensive medicine, do expensive pathology tests.

    Sometimes, you wonder whether the friendly neighborhood hakim and his nuskha would have been good enough..

  2. Oh, the hakims too have become savvy...and we have our fancy Shahnaz Hussain doing the ayurveda scam quite happily.


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