Both Davids were shot by Arundhati. One , in Florence a few months ago. The other, in Mumbai last night. You pick your favourite David!
This appeared in Sunday Times...
Silvio Berlusconi must be an Indian…
In India, we believe in past lives. Our television industry relies heavily on that belief. In fact, if a canny businessperson from the organized sector actually got a business plan in place, cashing in on the past life theory could make him/her a billionaire. Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s ex-P.M. must have been an Indian in several previous avatars. Matter of fact, he sounds alarmingly like an Indian even in the present one. Perhaps, there is a dominant Indian gene in his DNA? It is entirely possible. When he declared , “Bribes are necessary,” a chorus of approval was heard across political classes in India. Netas of any and every hue rejoiced at the audacious comment, and probably kicked themselves for not having had the errr… testicles… to beat the billionaire three -time P.M. to the delicious quote. The irrepressible Silvio brazenly said what we in India accept wholeheartedly. Bribery has been a way of life here for as long as we can remember. It is the great equalizer, and undoubtedly Asish Nandy has a unique perspective on the subject. Indians bribe. It’s a given. Indians do not think before bribing. Indians are convinced there is no alternative to bribing. ‘Chai –Paani’ does not refer to “Tea-Water” as every Indian child knows. Talking of children , we bribe our own kids… we bribe teachers to get them into good schools… and later, we bribe employers to get those kids a job. Kids watch mothers bribing the gaswallah for an out of turn cylinder. They watch fathers ‘pataoing’ traffic havaldaars after breaking a light. Even grand parents aren’t spared as they offer a few hundred bucks to the clerk releasing their well earned pension. We have embraced bribery and corruption unconditionally. Indians believe it is impossible to do business in the country without greasing palms. Chhota ya bada – it doesn’t matter. Even the illiterate migrant looking for work in the big , bad city arrives with a potli filled with whatever little cash he possesses. He knows he will have to pay a cut to the labour contractor who will hire him .The nasty truth is that bribery is not considered a moral issue any more. It is seen as a survival tool.
Berlusconi is bang on when he states, “ Bribes are a phenomenon that exist. It’s useless to deny the existence of these situations. These are not crimes.” Hear! Hear! He also mentions that if one lets such trivial issues (“ moralisms”) get in the way, one cannot become an entrepreneur “ on a global scale.” Our chaps have known that all along – from the biggest to the smallest. For them, Berlusconi’s words may sound like nursery rhymes – a bit too obvious. For the Big Boys of India’s mighty business empires, keeping aside money for “corrupt activity” (as was done by Italy’s State-controlled Agusta-Westland, for the chopper deal) is just another requirement, especially when the stakes are this high (3,600 crores). Giving middlemen ( former Air Chief S.P.Tyagi’s cousins) a piddly Rs.72 lakhs in cash, is not worth wasting a sneeze on. As for the silly nexus between the Air Chief and the Tyagi brothers, why, come on, let’s listen to the former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh as he pooh poohs the coincidence, helpfully adding,“ My first cousin was a smuggler. Does that make me a smuggler?” Sir, we are not saying that – you are!
So, here we are with yet another messy scandal involving a former Air Chief. It’s a pretty foul story and no matter what the main players say, the stink cannot be passed off for anything but a stink. Grazia, Silvio Berlusconi, for the clarity of your thinking. And for pointing out to the rest of the world that the hefty bribe was necessary because “ those are the rules in that country.” So they are. As Bofors’ middleman, the notorious Ottavio Quattrocchi before him had figured way back in ‘80’s and ‘90’s. So much water has flown down the Ganga and the Arno. And we are still playing holier than thou. Let’s drop the charade, pronto! And hail Berlusconi as our hero. He sounds as desi as homemade ghee. In a clumsy attempt to brush the scandal away, Jaswant Singh has jauntily accused the Italian Government of being the “ Gold Medal winners in corruption.” What does that make the Indian Government? Platinum World Champions in the corruption stakes?