Bribes and Bargains: Exercising Our Buying Power

Posted on June 26, 2011 in Specials

By Sushmitha Krishnamoorthy:

Controversy brewed when Bollywood music director, Ismail Darbar disparaged the integrity of A.R. Rahman and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. He alleged that Rahman bribed Academy officials in order to win an Oscar. Having grown accustomed to gimmicks that cry for attention, most of us would dismiss Darbar’s preposterous claims. He probably just wanted some free publicity for his upcoming film, right? But the very nature of his accusations reveals that there is more to this story.

It is strange that a country which often boasts of its virtues and values should seem inherently pecuniary in its motives. And this, even parents hunting (yes, it’s that tough nowadays) schools for their kindergartener can confirm. The kindergarten seat is valued at a complete year’s worth school fees and upwards if the kid turns out luckless in the admission lottery process. This practice continues to college admissions, when a generous donation can secure a seat in a private university. The fact that the cornerstone of one’s life is being laid with a bribe shows how deeply rooted is the belief that everything can be bought for a price.

In an article for The Times of India, Chetan Bhagat wrote that the most celebrated Indian businessmen have one thing in common, the skill of navigating the Indian Government maze. Naturally, our businessmen can buy their licenses (and bureaucrats can sell them) for outrageously low prices. It comes as no surprise that they can easily get away with unlawful activity by a few monetary favours. Raised in the atmosphere these people were, their morally wrongful behaviour is quite innate.

Matrimony in India is another trivial, yet alarming scene. Prospective brides and grooms are almost allotted price tags. “With that much dowry, you will surely find a doctor for groom.”, “That boy is an NRI; he will get prospects from very prestigious families.” They are not looking for a soul mate. They are looking for the best bargains!

These instances may seem very queer to us when seen in a light of awareness. But we have become so habituated to a pecuniary thought-process that such situations often pass off as quotidian. Perhaps it is not so surprising that Darbar should come up with such a ridiculous allegation. After-all, the idea of buying talent, achievement, proclaim, praise and what not, is so well imbibed in our mentation. Anyway, Ismail Darbar did apologize for his derogatory words when the Academy threatened him with a possible lawsuit worth Rs.250 Crore. Does that sound like Darbar, the man who accuses Rahman of buying the Oscars, let the Academy buy his own right to speech, anyone?