We, Indians, are brainy people indeed! Just listen to us arguing upon any topic under the sun and you will see the sheer potential of our brains. We can not only argue that the sun rises in the west but can make you actually look to the west the next day morning in the hope of seeing the sunrise.
The problem is, as usual, in how we use our brains. Take the tale of a yesteryear minister who was promised a hefty bribe in order to clear a file. Believing in the honesty(?) of the potential beneficiary the minister wrote ‘Approved’ on the file before receiving the bribe. Learning the fact that the file had been approved, the beneficiary declined to hand over the bribe. The minister called back for the file and added a ‘Not’ in front of the ‘Approved’. Aghast, the beneficiary rushed to the minister with the required bribe and enquired whether the minister could approve it now. The minister called back for the file and added an ‘e’ after the ‘Not’. Thus the file finally went through with ‘Note Approved’.
If you are upset by the chicanery involved, I would be pleased if you entered the bureaucracy or politics. If, instead, you are impressed by the cleverness of the minister – as most Indians tend to be – please leave governance alone and go and join some derivatives company. You will do less damage there.
It is not that such creative exercise of brains is an exclusive domain of the politicians alone. The bureaucracy is second to none. Even when it comes to the honest ones, the use of intelligence is not quite what we expect it to be. Comes the time for decision-making all the faculties of the bureaucrat are put to finding a way to fob off the decision on another ministry or, failing that, finding reasons why an inter-ministerial committee is required to take the decision. As one bureaucrat put it “Taking good decisions adds nothing to my pocket. A bad decision can, at best, screw up my career or, at worst, have me hounded by the Central Vigilance Commission.” No wonder the best subordinate is the one who saves his boss from having to make tough decisions and, therefore, all faculties are bent towards fobbing the file off – unless a separate pecuniary benefit is derived from taking the decision.
Business does not lag far behind. From companies that use the middle class aversion to courts in order to coerce undue payments from them to credit card companies that advertised ‘Lifetime free’ credit cards – when all they meant was that the card was free for the lifetime of the card, which was only one year – you have various creative uses of the brain that beggars imagination. What you will very rarely, if ever, see is the use of intelligence that adds value to Society.
How, then about us ordinary Indians? From artificial milk to auto-meters that run faster than the auto; from reverse running electricity meters to creative means of avoiding tax we all use our brains in various ways. The one absolute boundary we are pledged not to cross is the use of brains to give value for money!