Monday, December 5, 2011

Boy scout


It was Diwali night and I was thinking of a dead man. To be more precise, a murdered man. A more ideal setting for the use of that favourite 90s Bollywood villain one-liner "Kyaa zaroorat thi hero banney ki?" [That's what comes of trying to be a hero!] couldn't be found than in his life story.
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It really wasn't worth making such a fuss about. The Government of India was looking to expand and ramp-up at last the National Highway System of the country at the beginning of the new century and there were construction contracts being handed out. So was under-the-table money such that certain contracts went to certain private companies. Routine work. Routine corruption. No big deal.
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In steps Mr. Goody Two Shoes, an engineer named Satyendra Dubey. He didn't like what he was seeing. On the face of it, you could ask him, what was so wrong? People stole money from much more important public causes like rural education, flood relief and what not. A little exchange of money to ensure that the nation got its roads albeit made by a particular organization was never a real issue, was it? Thodaa bahut toh chaltaa hai naa? [A little give-and-take is always acceptable, isn't it?]
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Dubey in his immaturity reported his displeasure to concerned authorities; in fact even in a direct letter to the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee. In his letter to the PM, he also requested anonymity for the sake of his own safety and mentioned a grave threat to his life from certain groups who had their reasons to be dissatisfied with him and his "Do the right thing" boy-scoutish honesty. 
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His fears were not unfounded. One night in 2003, he was shot dead on his way home. Of course, there were arrests. The accused were proven to have the motive of robbing him of the suitcase he had with him and so they were duly punished. Obviously, according to the investigating agency, his murder had nothing to do with the information he was planning to reveal.
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Let's face it. There is very little or absolutely no incentive for being honest. Had he known for sure that he was going to pay for his vigilance with his life leaving behind a grieving family, would Satyendra Dubey have pushed on with his mission? He wouldn't have. A honest man, no matter how scrupulously honest, is of no use when dead.
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It's painfully evident that no bearded benevolent old man up there in the sky is striking down people with ill-gotten money or power. In fact, if you steal enough amounts of money and stuff the right mouths with it, you could build the world's most expensive house from scratch right in the country's commercial capital and be proclaimed a role model for the nation's youth.
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It was Diwali night and I was looking at the two short rows of diyas (earthen lamps) lined up on the pathway to our door. We had done a reasonable job with their cotton wicks and filled their boat like spaces with oil but in spite of all that, their time was limited. The oil would run out, the wicks would burn away and the dark of the moonless night would swallow them as if they had never existed.
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Was there any point in fighting the inevitable? Why not join them if you can't beat them? Watching a lamp quietly fulfil its duty in the face of insurmountable odds holds the key to that question. What is wrong is wrong, what is theft is theft and to call it out as so is not over-simplification, but an overbearing necessity, an imperative need of the hour. Being an honest man is neither a popular choice nor an easy one; it historically never was either. That one of them shows up every now and then is in itself some miracle of nature.
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When the vast majority conveniently day-dreams of some Squad of Anti-Corruption Superheroes who will come to our rescue seeing the Lokpal signal flashing across the Gothamnagar skyline, it is only an ultra-shabby excuse for inaction. For even the deepest darkness dare not cross swords with the smallest lamp. Never does its existence go in vain. Fragile yet potent, alone yet unafraid, transient yet inspiring, no one can contest the message of the little flame, lighting the only path forward to a brighter future.
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2 comments:

R I T I said...

Very well written , and you have drawn a very apt example .

R I T I said...

Very well written and drawn an apt example. Dubey will remain alive through your little post.