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.