September 26, 2001

the making of a (civil) hypocrite

marriage registration: rs 3,000 only. take it or forget about it.

(continued from here)

“she’ll also get the certificate on her wedding day,” mr kale assured my father. our caterer mr kale worked at mumbai airport before he switched to full-time catering. he narrated his experiences when he and his colleagues would nab baggage-thieves who would cut the sides of suitcases or baggage at the airport…everytime they nabbed one, the general manager would smirk at them and ask “kyun? tumhara kya problem hai?” (why did you nab him, what’s your problem?)

apparently, he got a commission for letting them go. and as for the person who lost his/ her baggage, there was always the insurance that could be claimed. “and do you think they tell the truth about how much they have lost?

kuch fayda nahin (it’s all futile) madam, there is no one person who’s clean. you pay rs 3000, and you have the guarantee as well as peace of mind.”

my father did not need much convincing. sadly, most fathers don’t. for someone who has to handle a hundred things at the same time for a daughter’s marriage, and also tackle sticky government issues like a marriage certificate without which she cannot get her visa to travel abroad, one would rather pay a little extra and get the damn thing sorted out. the (marriage) registrars know this very well. and no one’s complaining, so why should the daughter care?

when my father asked me this, i said that i do. so did two of my friends who were asked to cough up rs 4000 and rs 1000 for their marriage certificate. they do not yet have a marriage certificate, because they know it is not worth a bribe. i fully agree with them, but i need a certificate for my visa, so how am i going to tackle this alone?

all our lives, we are taught at schools and colleges that it is wrong to bribe. what most of us are not told, is that to get into the institutions we study in, our parents have had to pay a “donation” to the school principal, apart from the normal education fee.

why, even my driving instructor advised me during one of my initial lessons. “don’t worry, i’ll teach you how to drive. as for passing the driving test, a few 100-rupee notes to the rto (road transport officer) should get you a license. in fact, you don’t even need to take a test!!” he said matter-of-factly. no wonder there are so many road accidents in india.

some years ago, my father told me of a police sub-inspector who reached his level by paying a rs 5-lakh token (read, bribe) to his seniors. of course, there was another father to have paid that through his nose.

there are millions of fathers right here in india who’ll give many more such instances of where they have had to pay ‘under the table’ to buy happiness or security for their children. it’s not surprising then that instead of advising us against supporting corruption, our elders are justifying why it’s “not wrong”. now we know our teachers have been hypocrites all along. even as you read this, there is someone somewhere sowing another seed of corruption in the form of a donation, a token fee, a gift or bakshish, or chai-pani.

if there is anyone who can stop this cancer from spreading, it is us. right now, i have neither the age nor the experience to convince my own father, or mr kale of how i am going to fight it, and get the marriage certificate the right way. but that will not stop me from trying.

1 Comment »

  • Deepa Nair said:

    Hi Radhika,
    was looking info on marriage registration when i stumbled on your blog. I seem to be in a similar fix, getting married in kerala and have no clue how much time the marriage certification needs. need it within a few days for my visa.I dont stay in kerala which i guess will make matters worse.Do let me know
    how this works in kerala?


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