Corruption in India: My Changing Tide

“Corruption in India begins at birth. You need to bribe someone for a birth certificate. It ends only at death when you bribe for a death certificate.”

These were the words offered to me by an Indian man, and during the 8 years that I lived in the country the man’s advice rang true.

It started when I first arrived in the country and collected my unaccompanied luggage from the airport.

“Something for me,” the customs official demanded.

I feigned ignorance with a shrug. It didn’t work. I ended up forking out $1 while internally scolding myself for giving in to corruption.

It continued when I moved into a house and the government garbage collector rang my doorbell once a month with her open palm thrust towards me. One month she inflated the charge by 100% (perhaps her child’s birthday was approaching) and I refused to pay. She, in turn, refused to remove my rubbish bag from the front of the house.  So the next time she fronted up with her hand out I gave in.

It became irritating when the postman tried to charge me ‘tax’ for a returned package in the mail. The amount he wanted was greater than the cost of the goods in the package.

“I’m not paying,” I said. “You can keep the package.”

“Madam, I cannot.”

“Give it to your wife,” I closed my front door.

It got worse when my driver was regularly pulled over by the traffic police for fictional offences. “What to do, Madam?” he smiled at me.

image from en.wikipedia.org

image from en.wikipedia.org

When I realised that nothing could be accomplished in India without bribing somebody, I followed my driver’s advice. What to do? I discarded my morals and forced myself to find humour in it.

“Tip, Madam?” said the gasman.

I chuckled as I dropped some coins in his hand. What he calls a tip, I call a bribe.

“Diwali bonus?” requested a delivery boy.

I smirked as he shoved my rupee notes in his pocket.

I have fought against corruption. I have given in to corruption. I have been irritated by it and humoured by it. That is my changing tide.

 

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