Monday, February 28, 2011

"Setting ho gaya, boss..."

This appeared in the Asian Age\Deccan Chronicle on saturday.

The Budget Bakwas is still droning on. I have never been able to decode it... don't even try. All I know is year after year, I cough up more and more by way of taxes.

Watched the last half of the Oscar's - pity our Rahman didn't win one. But that doesn't make him less of a genuis.


Late one afternoon, my car drew up next to a police van, and my firebrand driver Choudhary ( yes, Raj Thackeray, he’s from Bihar, and I’ll never sack him!) pointed to a couple of Nigerians in the van. “Nothing will happen to these ‘charsees’,” he said laconically, “ Sab setting ho gaya hai.”. He went on to narrate a longish story about his friend, a taxi driver ( of course, he’s from Bihar, too), who had similar looking drug dealers as passengers recently , and saw an exchange of money (“Thappas of 500- rupee notes”) between these burly men, a couple of cops and a local supplier. “Pura setting tha,” repeated Choudhary, his tone almost respectful. Well… as we know, without ‘pura setting’ nothing works in this country. As I watched Arun Jaitley’s incisive, cutting and brilliant address in parliament last week, I wondered about the assorted ‘settings’ that must have culminated in this outspoken attack on the prime minister ( who sat stone- faced through the broadside, like Jaitley was giving a lecture on the breeding habits of flamingoes).Next came Sushma Swaraj’s “Pranab- Da” broadside that really rattled our Bengali Babu. She taunted. He fumed.Where was this moral outrage earlier? How come everything is coming apart all of a sudden? In one dramatic week, several silenced voices rediscovered the larynx and tongue. Even though, in Mumbai, the Kasab verdict was met by an indifferent, thanda response ( largely because of the ‘settings’ factor – people believe he’ll go scot-free eventually). The next morning, India woke up to the Godhra ruling ( a few shockers , but otherwise, pretty predictable). Then came the Kalmadi bomb ( “Uska setting khatam!”). And Sheila Ki Badnaami.Plus, the JPC decision, where again, cynics believe nothing will emerge, given the sensitive nature of the matters under scrutiny.Sandwiched in between all these dramatic disclosures, was the fate of a young Collector and a junior engineer kidnapped by Maoists in Orissa, besides the endangered lives of Indians trapped in Tripoli. So many ‘settings’ to put into place, that too, in such a short time!
For those unfamiliar with Bambaiya ( the street speak of Mumbai), ‘setting’ refers to an arrangement or a deal between two parties. Someone has to broker this informal but pucca understanding. That ‘someone’ plays a key role. There are several revered corporate honchos whose sole job is to organize key ‘settings’. These men make it to the boards of mighty corporations, and in return for a fat fee, they promise complete co-operation while undertaking mega ‘settings’. It’s deal making at its sharpest. Kalmadi was once known as the King of Setting ( his mentor had trained him well!). He could not have pulled off the CWG without such skills. But what invariably happens when our local satraps try and adopt the desi model to foreign conditions is that they trip over themselves and get caught. Greed catches up, and someone or the other in the long food chain, snitches on the boss. Besides, people like Kalmadi misjudge ( or underestimate) the settings undertaken by their foreign counterparts. Every country has its fixers, and every country creates its own settings. Kalmadi and his cronies obviously lacked the sophistication needed to pull off an international scam of this scale and ended up in the dog house. Imagine, even the sweet old Queen of England got to know about their evil deeds at some point! Like an A.Raja, Kalmadi was not operating on his own. Which is another reason why Delhi wallahs believe, Kalmadi’s personal settings with his ultimate bosses, will see him through this crisis. It is being speculated he has agreed to take the rap for other, high profile culprits, in return for several concessions that the public will never know about. By agreeing to become the face and villain of the CWG scam, Kalmadi may, in fact have saved his own scalp.
From our stock markets to the World Cup and beyond, we accept corruption in all spheres.We express shock and grief when matters go completely out of hand ( Godhra, 26\11 ), but at the back of our mind we acknowledge our helplessness and agree ‘That’s how it is in India’. Talking to an International hotelier of Indian origin recently, I wasn’t all that surprised when he expressed his desire to meet the ‘right’ people in order to get his ambitious projects off the ground. The man was candid enough to admit that marketing a top- end, very exclusive resort experience was one thing ( and he’s probably the best in his field at that), but getting around bureaucratic road blocks and traps in India, required skills he did not possess.He’ll learn! They all do eventually. Once people like him get over the unorthodox methods of conducting business in India ( a practice that has been cultivated and encouraged by successive governments), they promptly forget their ethics and moral principles as they scout around frantically for touts to move those files. ‘Settings’ takes place at each and every level. Try hiring domestic help on your own, without the intervention of a local supplier who takes a fat commission – well, at least in Mumbai, that is virtually impossible these days. For whatever reason, house maids come from Jharkhand or Chhatisgarh. Drivers from Bihar and people who do ‘top work’ ( such a comical term!) from Karnataka.The cornering of lowly municipal jobs is also complete, with each state having its own quota . Not that anybody is complaining. So long as the job gets done, it doesn’t matter who the person is or where the person comes from. It’s the same logic that protects those Nigerian drug dealers (who speak fluent hindi). The story remains identical. They do it because they know they can. Simple.
‘Settings’ are everything, yaar. As India will discover once the JPC charade gets under way.
Jaitley and Swaraj should have saved their breaths. But what the hell… it was good television.


Radhika Gupta said...

that's true.. settings are everything and everywhere.. nice post!

goodluck said...

You must be earning more and so you may be paying more taxes.

The novelty value of Rehman may be no more. Remember the spate of awards won by Indian girls at beauty pageants for a while. Let Danny Boyle and his music director go back to the ghettos or slums of mumbai and showcase India's abject poverty with some jaihos.

Sushma is allegedly close to the Reddy brothers and has not much moral right until she and Jaitley come clean on Karnataka with as much fervour and missionary zeal.

Our prime minister is like god. God or godlike entity has created a very unjust universe, with uneven opportunities and devilish minds along with victim types and the general public prays to the same god to make things better with little result. If there is really a god out there, he must be like our prime minister.

Anonymous said...

farming / fishery karo boss...

Pooja Rathore said...

I liked your column on settings ...All True!
Read the interview of Mohan Agashe , nice interview He is balancing his academic Profession and creativity(theatre)very well, alesson for me to learn from him.
I studied Law then forgot all about Law(i fell seriously ill could not practice by the time i was fine,i lost 3 years i lost touch and intrest in Law, during that time i persued my passion Astrology, but now iam planning to multitask and work on both difficult but nothing is impossible!
I saw Nari Hira (on television - star Dust awards )He is quiet and magnetic ,everytime i would see him i would remember you and all that i have read from selective memory came to my mind.
Get well soon wishes for your will be fine Dost!

Capt. Ajit Vadakayil said...

for another setting--


what do we know?

NAT said...


Something should be done about these characters selling the Country/State to these outsiders.
In Mumbai it is these Nigerians. They have a huge population in North Mumbai.
In Goa, we have the Russians who have claimed a good piece of property...
and then we blame the outsiders.
We have to look at our inner selves, before pointing fingers...

Jai Hind!


Siddharth Puranik said...

Dear Shobha Ma'm,
I read your blog regularly and have great respect for your views. The way you see life is really amazing and you have lot of things to share with your readers. Whenever I see Nigerians ,I still get feeling that they are carrying drugs.The perception is set like this. Thanks for one more informative yet knowledgeable post.
Yet to get convinced:
Do we really need to comment on Marathi-Bihari relations and the outbreaks which we recently had due to Mr.Raj Thakarey?I believe you regularly touch base upon these issues. I do understand your concerns and sometimes I feel we are too much into these regionalism these days but by saying this "my firebrand driver Choudhary (yes, Raj Thackeray, he’s from Bihar, and I’ll never sack him!)",I feel you are just teasing some community.(of course know that you never cared for this due to your courageous attitude)however, as your loyal reader, fan I wish you may avoid this. Nobody will want people in any other community in bad condition; unless the entire local system feels that their presence is threatened. If all are living in symbiosis, there should not be any issues or ‘Raj Thakarey’ philosophy but pressing these issues thru’ blogging too hard or banging one person for his views most of the time for his regionalism,does not really go well.
There can be big issues in Mr.Raj’s views and may not be acceptable to many people including me sometimes but starting the article with such sentence is also firing the regionalism. This is everywhere in the world, right from US to Australia where Indians are staying, why blame and pinch Mr.Raj alone with this? I am not convinced for your views for the first time. Let me clarify that I do not endorse any political views in this.
Regionalism and Issues on outsiders were at its lowest or nil during natural calamities like Mithi river floods or Mumbai attacks. Nobody was discriminated as UP/Bihari/Marathi or Bengali, so we still can say ‘United States of India’ .Nothing much has gone wrong.:)

Tsomo85 said...

I totally agree with you! Seriously healthy setting is ok....just as from day#1 how Sri Krishna did btw Pandavas & Kauravas. Everything is master planed game & we all have to play our own crazy role. Gee I think I would be big time loser without any setting. lol

ashwini said...

M'am, settings are everywhere, even at the Oscars! Its all about the money isnt it?
Just the way the Bihari driver was biased against the Nigerian, so are all Biharis in Maharashtra!
Only if the whole country was getting developed at the same rate, we would not have these regional problems! But will this be allowed by our politicians?
Voting would be better if consistant development and policies are made with a view to the future, you cant just move the voter to the other states, can you, all the time!!
As for the businessman, well if he does a setting to provide electricity to his clients or factories for employment, thats fine! Am sure there are many businessmen who are more patriotic than our leaders!
All this is done abroad as well, it is just that the countries are already more or less developed so the difference is not seen. Yet their comman man too cribs about the govt!
Well like they say: What cant be cured, must be endured!

Arjun said...

The growth of the economy at 9.5% sounds mouthwatering, but wait till the following views might serve as a spoiler, an eye opener, only to leave your mouths dry. Pun unintended.
With a 3 trillion dollar economy, bustling at 9.5%, ever wondered, why there is not much to see on the ground, barring a few shining islands of excellence that you see peppered around the country (read major metro cities) yet still running up a huge deficits that successive ministers/govts fail to rein in ?
Politicians and powers that be will always take refuge behind the reasoning of the country's mammoth population and the efficiencies/inefficiencies of the great democracy India is, to put to rest any one pointing to the lack of an efficient system, and importantly the lack of an equitable system.
Everyone in the country loves the idea of capital coming in to the country, be it through FDI, stock markets, outsourced jobs et al.
If the people of the country are hardworking, talented, and enterprising, the political class, bureaucracy, and powerfully rich individuals have let the country down big time.
We talk of country-wide scams adding up to big numbers, all associated to some politico or another. My take is, siphoning money off by a few select individuals in power in international trade dealings, though ethically absolutely wrong, is not so much of an issue for us all, so far as the money stays in the country black or white. Read on...
Its the flight of capital out of the country, for good, thats worrisome.
We are a nation that was ruled by foreigners, and still reel under the influence of a colonial hangover. The powerful and the political class do not mind serving as the agents of loot for earstwhile and currently rich foreigners in this new age economy too.
Its called the art of global politics, that in the age of globalization makes it all the more justifiable for the country's power brokers to cement their individual global standing by appeasing and pleasing their western and now also the nuveau rich eastern masters.
There are several known channels from where the flight of capital out of the country is made possible.

- Flush funds making their way in and out of the stock markets.
- Highly leveraged complex financial instruments introduced into the country by foreign financial institutions to tap into the greed quotient of a bubbling economy, understood well by a few and very well by only a select few.
- Unaccounted money stashed away in Swiss banks and those lesser known CROOK'S Island.
- Shady non-transparent defence, power, energy deals.
While we all revel and celebrate in our new found status of a powerful emerging economy amplified by our own sound bytes, there's a backdoor virus thats eating away deep into the foundation of our economy.
The country's fiscal state is held to ransom at the hands of the political class, and a few wealthy individuals, who've known to get around the system by decoding well this messy system that this great country operates in.
Investements in defence deals here takes the cake from among the three key points listed above.
With spends that are a significant chunk of the country's GDP, several deals involve buying of military hardware from western nations that are outdated and/or non-usable in the western economies itself, and our goverment terms it as upgradation of our defence systems.
I wonder how many RTIs are raised for information seeking defence deal details. Perhaps these deals qualify for special immunity against RTI due to its classified nature, and thats probably what makes it a classical "protected" loot.

Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary said...

SETTINGS IS WHAT WE ALL LIVE ON. Its strange how JUGAAD it is only present in the Indian genes.

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