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Analysis: Me And My World

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We all want to live in a parallel world. A parallel world that has parallel rules for us and ‘people like us’. It only allows some people into it. It has privileges like the first basement with reserved parking or the table booking without the booking, hospital appointment without the wait, or coal mine license without the experience of running a coal mine or a highway contract with land around it at dirt cheap rates and sometimes even a search for a liver without a related donor.
This ‘please take special care of me and mine’ world has a special police force. It has an accented education system, a magnificent health service and it has special laws. It has its own language, processes, ethics and means of redress. It is like our private gated communities. However, it has a pervasive ‘boundary-less’ geography as well.

An entry to this parallel world is the greatest ambition in India today. People kill for this ambition, sell themselves for it, and even revolt for it. It is not the existence of this parallel world that is the most damning fact of our lives. It is the sometimes veiled and sometimes blatant pursuit of this parallel world that is nauseating. We spend a lifetime trying to enter this parallel world, and when we enter it, we spend a lifetime trying to keep others ‘not like us’ out of it.

This private world is the aspiration for all because it gives everyone a sense of great power and a feeling of immortality. It is like a world of Gods who can get a water tanker to their gate any moment or who can make a driving offence and much else vanish in a proverbial wink.

Like me, most of the readers of this column were born into this parallel world. We had the luxury of parents who struggled to be a part of it. I reap the benefits of their effort now. If we were not born into it, we have ensured that our children are and will stay here. We ensure that this legacy stays through various ways. This world is not a satellite of this earth, it is also unlike an alien ship, which has descended unto the earth. It is more like a smell that is spreading. The name of this parallel world is ‘No Qualms World’ or ‘The Vampires for Corruption Inc’. Jenneck is good small example of this world.

This parallel world has many gatekeepers. In this case study we find many gatekeepers reflecting (read ruminating) on ways of justifying the existence of this parallel world. The flow of their conversation can be paraphrased thus:
  • We are an ethical group of people because we are discussing other people’s corruption.
  • The only time we were corrupt was when we were forced by the circumstances
  • We overlook other people’s corruption because we worry what would happen to them if we took action.
  • It happens in our vendors’ and dealers’ offices, not ours.
  • It is a good philosophical discussion, but the commercial reality is that you have to be corrupt.
  • You cannot be successful if you are not corrupt.
  • If you are not corrupt, people will make you corrupt.
  • When you fear losing your power, assets and opportunities, you must become aggressively protective and intolerant.
  • We can make products out of nothing and yet we are not corrupt.
  • When I take away other people’s opportunities for years and not allow them to complain, they are just being too noisy or dumb. It is my birthright to rule over them.
  • When they threaten to take over the parallel world I ensure that they are first discredited, and then I ensure that they are investigated for wrongdoing and punished.
  • When they break my rules I banish them.
  • When I cannot banish them I isolate them.
  • When I cannot banish or isolate them, I co-opt them.
  • When I cannot co-opt them, I make sure that they do not tell their story, somehow.

When we are seen as people who are not effective gatekeepers, we enrol the help of other gatekeepers. But we forget to ask what is the impact of our actions on people and their lives. We live out our rationalisations everyday. We believe in our lies as not only our reality, but also as the only truth.

So dear Atul, Krishnan and Rahul, if you want to make India a better country, take the following steps:
  • Believe in yourself as the change agent by acknowledging that you, like others, are a fountainhead of corruption.
  • To begin afresh, you will have to challenge your need for the special world of me and mine, and your need to sustain the hierarchy of the more powerful versus the less powerful
  • If you want to grow in a world where clean business is not an oxymoron, you will have to do more than armchair criticisms. You will have to be the change. And stop being the gatekeeper of the no-qualms world.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 01-10-2012)