Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

110. Wrong Choice

I am in a crowded market area. Like all cities, this city also has a parking problem. The area reserved for parking is never sufficient for the growing number of two wheelers and four wheelers. So, common people park wherever space is available and pray for luck. The Traffic Police van with its subcontracted young men in the vehicle moves on and picks up vehicles that are parked beyond the reserved area. I have hardly seen a traffic police in these vans.

A two wheeler is parked outside the marked area. This time a policeman is there and he orders the men in the vehicle to pick up the vehicle. He is marking the space by chalk – generally the name of the police station is written there by the police so that the vehicle owner knows where to go and pay the fine.

A woman rushes in. She has just missed it for few seconds. She pleads to the policeman. He says, “Sorry, I cannot help. Go to this place, pay the fine and get back your two wheeler.” He signals the van to move on. But those young guys choose to stay.

The woman, in her 30s is furious. She starts shouting. She complains about the lack of space for parking. Suddenly she realizes that the time is running out. She opens her purse. She takes a fifty rupee note and offers it to the policeman. It is clearly a bribe. The policeman refuses – maybe he is sincere or maybe there are many onlookers – I do not know. But the fact is that he refuses to accept that fifty rupee note. The woman insists, she pleads, she requests, she apologizes.

I can’t help taking part in the action. I politely say, “Madam, please don’t offer any bribe to him. As he is suggesting, go to that place, pay fine, get receipt and get your vehicle back. It is a matter of just 10 minutes.”

The policeman looks gratefully at me.

But the woman snubs me, “It is none of your business. Get away”. She screams at me.

Everybody around laughs at me. Even the men in the pickup vehicle laugh loudly. I feel insulted.

The loud laugh of the young men gives the woman a better idea.

She rushes to the pickup vehicle. Offers a fifty rupee note. There is some sort of negotiation. She adds two more ten rupee notes. The woman gets her two-wheeler back. She gives a triumphant look to the policeman. She turns towards me and gives me a wicked smile.

The policeman looks at me helplessly. I avoid him and turn back. I do not have the courage to share the wound of the policeman.

Another time. Another place. Another situation. Another set of people.

I am sitting in a conference hall. There are four LCD monitors for the presentation, more than three AC are running on, chairs are luxurious, everything is luxurious. There are more than 20 chairs in the conference room. But ours is a meeting of a very small group. We are just six people. The meeting is yet to start.

As is the custom, water, tea and biscuits are ordered to the office canteen. A man from canteen arrives and starts placing water bottles in front of every chair. I know that only six of us are expected for the meeting. I bring it to the notice of the concerned person.

He tells the canteen man, “We are only six. We do not need so many water bottles. Take away rest of those.”

“Sir, you seem to be new here,” the canteen man replies calmly. “This is the way things are done here. Drink as much water as you want and leave the rest to me to manage.” He smiles and moves on.

My colleague is helpless. He avoids looking at me. I avoid any eye contact with him. Both of us feel guilty. After few minutes when another colleague arrives, we feel relieved.

I know this is a clear case of corruption. For provision of six water bottles, a bill for 25 water bottles would be put forward and approved. Everybody will have his/her share in it.

However, I am helpless again. I can do nothing in this situation.


It always starts on a small scale.
Then we ignore it; sometimes due to sheer lack of pro-activeness; sometimes due to our helplessness.
It happens in our presence and we choose not to act.
We take it for granted that such small things are part of life.

When the issues of big scams come out – say 2G Spectrum, CWG, Satyam etc., we passionately discuss.
We strongly believe that the culprits should be punished.

But have we not made a wrong choice when the occasion demanded us to act? At least I have: time and again.
Similarly there would be many others who would make wrong choices and decisions even now.

The difference is never of scale.
The difference is of choice.

And I know I have not exercised my choice well when situation demanded.
I am guilty of making a wrong choice when circumstances challenged me.


  1. The post touches exact core of corruption.
    You said it right that, it always starts from small things. Through those small things people learn up to work for immediate fruit only.
    Such people in great numbers are responsible for a social stampede. They walk over innocent people, and make it socially acceptable behaviour to bribe.
    What is bribe for you is normal custom for them....
    But just as bad things start from small scale...so do good things!
    Campaigns like 'Jago re' are like a feeble ray of hope. We must keep out sensitivities alive.
    At the same time we must also be guilt free, proud and strong.
    It intrigues me why you feel guilt when you tried your bit?! It was not in your hands as you said....
    I am curious to know what you do of that guilt?!
    Because I believe guilt kills hope... And if righteous people keep killing themselves with guilt, who will fight the wrong?!

  2. I fully agree, it is not a scale but a choice. I have similar experiences of humiliation whenever I tried to intervene.
    What disturbs me more, as you say taking it for granted

  3. Anu, thanks for sharing your thoughts in detail! No, I do not constantly feel guilty about it .. because on many such occassions, I do my best to contribute in a positive way. Only it is good to be aware of 'Wrong Choices' so that I am constantly motivated for improvement.

  4. Preeti, we too learn to take the humiliation 'for granted; and keep on doing what we can do best. Isn't it?

  5. Deepak, I still hope that it is going to change for better ...

  6. Well, I thought about it a lot. I don't know whether it would really work or no, but maybe, we might get some inner peace out of it.
    Nicely put though!

  7. Vidyadhar, yes many times these internal conflicts lead to inner peace. Sounds Zen, isn't it?


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