none too innocent, none too guilty

This season of scams

Across town most hoardings are taken by jewelers and a number of them are a lush purple with diamond rings on them. The jewelry stores are always full and same-size crowds flood the tall glass halls of German-car dealerships, just as in the Harley Davidson showroom where all the bikes on display are sold. The CEO of an MNC repeated the popular intonation over lunch with me last week, that the entrepreneur is driving Indian growth, and that the public servant has played no role in our economic surge. That is not true. What has happened is that the public servant has turned entrepreneur, and has partnered with the old-timer in business, and the two together are reaching critical mass in wealth creation. With this en masse migration to entrepreneurship, the business of governance has been left short, and we should do what they do in rich countries when locals wrinkle the nose at dirty jobs. We need to look for places in the world where people exist who will work for work alone, or for the common good. We should ready visas for them.

We have been surprised by a high season for scams and scandals, a season for PR exercises by those already arraigned. For a long time we looked to politicians and film stars for entertainment arising from scandal, but now some key purveyors of such fine entertainment, in the media, seem themselves the co-perpetrators of scams, and the fine lines that differentiate one from another are gone, and mass entertainment through scandal has so greatly multiplied that we don't anymore know in India what boredom means.

Some years ago, I read in a newspaper that Mr. Narayanamurthy of Infosys was going to start a political party with his own money, and I had thought then that I should merge my small savings with his oceanic lot and work with him if he should accept me. Much later, he declared that he knows to work only with civilized people, so my savings are idle with me, which is all to the good because there is no section of our society that isn't crying for some cleaning, and I'm sure that if I train my eyes upon my work I'll see the blots that need to be rubbed out.

Are we stung by an angst of the type that soaked the West in the sixties, when smoke and policemen appeared on the campus, and Tariq Ali led mass protests in Paris, and Street Fighting Man and Gimme Shelter became anthems? When Lennon did bed-ins for peace and held up bag-ism and people gave him time for his stuff? Or, are we serene in our situation? Is every one of us at once the scammer and the scammed, none too innocent, none too guilty, and will our life go on in the manner of some households which succeed not to break even though they cannot hold?