Sometimes I wonder why I am so passionately against bribery and corruption, but when I search my life I find that this hatred is not only deep but very justified ingrained in sub-conscience.
I was very young when I passed grade 8 with distinction marks in English and perhaps in Mathematics. I was recommended by my school for a scholarship for good students announced by the District Education Board and luckily qualified for the scholarship of IRs 2.00 PM i.e total of IRs 24.00 for the year. This amount was nothing less than finding a treasure for me because of my very precarious financial condition at the time. My whole family especially my mother was overjoyed and for the first time I saw her with a genuine smile on her face. I was flying very high and was expecting to be turned into a local celebrity overnight.
The few days between the announcement and the receipt of my bounty were perhaps the few best days of my life till that time. I had sleepless nights with unlimited dreams unfolding regarding the bright future ahead. I was dancing on the clouds.
Finally, the day arrived and I went at 8.AM sharp to the District Education office to receive this huge sum with two of my friends as bodyguards to ensure my safety and a sign of my celebrity status. With sweating palms and trembling voice and butterflies in my stomach I presented the letter of my school principal informing me to be entitled of REWARD. I was expecting that the person sitting on a very dusty desk will jump from his seat and even if will not salute me will at least give me a handshake, but he did not flinch and without lifting his face he in half intimidating tone told me that “GO TO DISTRICT TREASURY”.
I had no idea what and where this DISTRCT TREASURY was. I tried to ask but his tone was so intimidating and insulting that a child like me could not gather enough courage to ask another question and got out his stinky office without the second word.
On enquiry outside I came to know that DISTRICT TREASURY is located in District JUDGE’S COURT. I walked to the place about five kilometers away in 48 Degree heat of June with my two friends in complete silence. When we reached the office and after passing through various PAN stained corridors and urine smelling Toilets we finally reached in a room with a cage at the end with a small hole as a window at the height more than me which was the Cashiers’ desk. Cashier was invisible to the small mortal like me. However, having now learned the manners of a GOVT. office I stretched myself as much I could to reach this hole in sky and presented my letter to invisible angel and was waiting for the shower of IRs 24.00 from that unreachable window but instead a hoarse voice came back to bring an Affidavit at IRs. 2.00 stamp papers certified by an oath commissioner that I am RAIS AHMAD KHAN and my paper came tumbling after.
Again I was in total darkness and did not know what was meant by an Affidavit on IRs. 2.00 Stamp paper and who was that Oath Commissioner. Remember I was the student of Grade 8 of about 9/10 years of age. With tears in my eyes and blisters in my feet due to tight shoes I dragged myself to a crowd of lawyers sitting on small table and two folding tin chairs one for him and one for the visitor where my uncle was a big Advocate with his Chamber. When I reached him he was surrounded by a crowd of perhaps a few murderers and couple of robbers. He got so nervous to see me and thought that I am either caught picking some pocket or got involved in shoplifting and dismissed all his clients to attend to me. When he heard me he gave a sigh of relief and ordered cups of tea for me and my two exhausted friends and asked us to sit in front of table fan whose cool breeze brought life back to us. He took the paper from me and gave to his Munshi to take care of it and asked me to go home and comeback next day.
Next day when I reached his office he was in the court arguing some case but his Munshi gave a typed paper with few signatures and a couple of Stamps along with my paper from school principal and asked me to go to the treasury and show these papers to the CASHIER- The invisible soul with a horrible voice and with urine odor in the atmosphere.
Again when I reached with dreams in my eyes I came to know that payday is two days from the day and I have to come 8 AM sharp to receive my money. It was almost a week for me marching between various offices and 50% of my excitement and pride of performance was gone, but the attraction of IRs 24.00 was too great to leave the field.
With new hopes I reached the DISTRICT TREASURY OFFICE at 8.00 AM sharp and to my utter horror I found a huge crowd of old, feeble ill men and women in a long queue who were the pensioners to collect their pensions. Mostly they were retired clerks, compounders, nurses and municipal sweepers. I disappeared in the middle of this line and my visibility was limited to the back of the person in front of me. The line was crawling like a sick feeble snail.
Finally I reached the window above my reach and somehow ushered my papers in. After about 10 minutes of most torturous wait a hand came down from the window with two TEN RUPPES notes. I very humbly asked that the amount was IRs 24.00 where are the rest Rs. 4.00. A growling voice came. CHUTTA NAI HAI (there is no change available). Someone from behind touched my shoulder and asked me to leave the line before this monster takes this money also.
This was the first taste of bribe which is still fresh in my mouth and mind and has created a monster of hate in me against the menace of BRIBE and my fight is on from that day with lot of harms and gains on the way.
Rais Khan is a Chartered Accountant and an author. He has worked in corporate sector for 40 years in a variety of corporations ranging from IBM to Etisalat in UAE. He has worked and lived in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA, Africa and the UAE. Currently he is a freelance business consultant and part-time writer. He is the Editor of Pehchaan and can be contacted at [email protected]