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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poor little rich thug

(photo courtesy timescontent.com)

That is the photograph of Gaffar Mollah, a one-time rickshaw-puller who, thanks to a recent uproar in the mass media, has suddenly become one of the most recognizable faces in West Bengal, if not yet all over India. Goes to prove my contention that, given a little bit of luck and pluck, just about anybody can become a fifteen-minute celebrity these days.

He is the face of the dark underbelly of all that has been going on in the name of the development of the state of West Bengal over this last decade. As I said somewhere before, I once read ‘development studies’ avidly as a student of economics: the ground reality now makes me weep (but look, the happy cynic would say – isn’t this the apotheosis of the social-democratic dream: even a rickshaw-puller can aspire to live the five-star life in today’s India? What else is upward social mobility all about? You are just an elitist old fool for whom the grapes, unless you can get them yourself, are always sour…)

I should just like to say a few things here. First, don’t act holier than thou about ‘our sort of folks’ and pin all the blame on the Gaffar Mollahs and the political leaders who patronise them. They are simply on hire to do all the dirty work that the bhadralok don't want to soil their hands with; they are only members of the ‘executive committee’ (to borrow a Marxist phrase) of the moneyed elite who almost always manage to stay out of the undesirable kind of limelight – all bhadralok, doctors, engineers, actors, lawyers, NRIs, high-flying bureaucrats and businessmen of various hues – who create the demand for land that inevitably brings into being the landsharks and their godfathers. Where there is a demand, there will always be supply, sooner or later, by straight means or crooked. And when something is chronically scarce - such as land - the crooked means will always be resorted to, because the straight and narrow path is so difficult and unpalatable. So don’t call Gaffar Mollah or his political masters crooked while absolving the Raj Kishore Modi type or companies like Wipro and Infosys (see this news item) as ‘good’ businessmen, and the moneybags who want to luxuriate in the Vedic Village sort of vice-dens as ‘nice and innocent’ people; that is where you will go wrong. Nor do you need to shed too many tears for the farmers who are now up in arms (emboldened by the Trinamul landslide) against the land sharks – they are motivated by no nobler a sense of mission than to wring more money out of the buyers, now that all that hot money has driven prices up a hundredfold or more. All those farmers’ sons are now salivating over the imminent prospect of driving about in SUVs and lazing about in multiplexes and pubs, young and nubile and greedy females on their arms. Also remember: the Gaffar Mollah sort of fools deserve some pity. When the axe falls (as it does sometimes), chances are always ten to one that it is they, rather than their bhadralok patrons, who will be shot dead or locked away in prison for the crime of getting caught, while their real masters, the money-bags, can get away without getting singed, let alone put into serious trouble. So don’t envy Gaffar Mollah his few years of luxury.

Only, once and for all, get rid of the notion that a man deserves admiration or respect for the kind of car he drives, or the kind of hotel he stays in, or the amount of marble and granite in his house. Always try first to find out where the money came from. There will be no change for the better in India until every household begins to believe once more that one honest and hardworking man, though he makes only a humble living, is worth more than ten thousand rich and flashy crooks. And remember, too, that it is a really warped sense of values that can allow you to claim that the government doctor who gives protection money to his local neta so that he may not be posted away from the town where he has built up a cushy private practice (which gets the money to buy a bungalow in Vedic Village) is not a crook, but the neta who takes the money is!


Subhanjan said...

Sir, I noticed in the last paragraph that you had written, "until every household begins to believe once more . . ." I am very eager to know Sir which age was that in which Indians had a proper sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

If you still do not know the answer to that, Subhanjan, that is only one more proof that all my talk for seven years or more has gone in vain! I do not see virtue in endless repetition...

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

You have rightly pointed out that people like Gaffar Mollah are the unfortunate ones. We are a weird society and that is why at times you get news reported which says – “Taxi driver returns wallet carrying Rupees 10 lakh” – those kind of news stories make me feel as if we take it as given that people like taxi drivers would normally be dishonest. Dishonesty is so imbibed in our society.

There is probably no corner in the earth where corruption does not exist. Even in places like NZ which are inhabited by so few people, you get to see various ugly faces of human existence.

In India, since we are too many that is why, our apparent wretchedness is far too many. It not only scares me but saddens me. I don’t know how would this change? I mean one fine morning, I am sure we would not find out things have changed for better? When there is so much hypocrisy, corruption, vandalism around then how can people who have hated joining the system – be happy.

Recently, I read in a Kolkata newspaper how a man was first chased and then beaten up by rouge auto-drivers when he protested against paying more than the approved / normal fees. I fear such situations thinking one day either I or anyone I know very closely. Remember how a police constable known as Bapi Das was beaten to death by trying to save a girl.

I don’t think there is any way out, other than we taking ownership of ourselves. I am sure there are numerous good things happening too – just that they don’t get desired attention. We are a busy race trying to climb up too fast after sleeping for far too long it seems.

Sadly, it seems WB is turning into a UP and Bihar or even worse.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Yes, Tanmoy... you talk about 'taking ownership of ourselves'. Few 'educated' people in India would even understand the concept today. We are

1) completely lacking in any personal moral sense,
2) We are desperate to do what everybody else is doing, and
3) that 'everybody' today worships money (no matter how it has been made) like never before ... at least, certainly never before in the last 100 years (in the 1930s, the Nizam of Hyderabad, then the richest man in the world, was alive, and so were Tagore and Gandhi. Nobody except the most uncultured and shameless fool would have said the Nizam deserved an iota of attention, admiration or respect beside those two titans. Now try to imagine that those three were alive today, and you will get exactly what I am trying to say).

That is a surefire prescription for national disaster, because once everybody has started worshipping money, very soon they will worship only quick and easy money, and then only crooks of this or that description will be role models for everybody. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out, but it takes a nation of blind people not to notice that that exactly is what has been happening behind the veneer of 'development' these last couple of decades!

devdas said...

Dear Suvro-da,
your blog makes me remember the immortal line of Tagore:
"অন্যায় যে করে আর অন্যায় যে সহে, তব ঘৃণা যেন তারে তৃণ সম দহে "
best wishes
Dr. Debasish Das
(California, USA)

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you, Debasish.

For those who are mystified, that will read anyay je kore aar anyay je shohe/ tobo ghrina jeno tare trinoshomo dohe (may Your ire burn both the wrongdoer and the one who tolerates wrongdoing as the grass is burnt by fire).

It would be a good idea, Debasish, if in future you quoted from Bangla like that, or used some software (such as BanglaWord) to write in a way that makes easy sense!

Amit parag said...

The blame game is frequently directed towards the hot headed,overnight rich and famous but otherwise a discardable human tool-the "poor little rich thug".
What was worth noticing is that all have a share of guilt-the rich business masterminds,the poor "affected",and the political party(ies) involved.The people villifying these acts are many times them who will reap direct benefits by working in those factories the creation of which they were against.An important question-who should be actually blamed ? or better,who should not be blamed?

But what I think is that people get retribution on the basis of the magnanimity of their guilt.The rich can get away from their land buying spree(but even then I read somewhere that the MNCs are increasing their capacity by making buildings on more land and not by expanding them vertically) because technically they are not doing much wrong by asking for land, the political party-no comments , and the ultimately poor class-the farmers-after all they are the affected and this masks their other shortcomings and failures.
The left ones are the Gaffar Mollah types.

devdas said...

Again a master one line from Tagore:
"এই জগতে হায় সেই বেশি চায় আছে যার ভুরী ভুরী,
রাজার হস্ত করে সমস্ত কাঙ্গলের ধন চুরি"

Suvro Chatterjee said...

If you read again, Amit, I didn't spare any sympathy for the 'poor' farmers!

And as for laying blame, I have no confusion in my mind at all, because I have always been leftist in the Jesus/Tolstoy mode: I blame the fact of greed, and the fact that this society allows some people to have too much money, so that their tastes/preferences dictate everybody else's lives and choices. Every man deserves a decent livelihood: no man has a 'right' to be a millionaire! Think about it...

Amit parag said...

Point taken ,Sir

devdas said...

Dear Suvro-da,

you are a serious person and so pardon me for some light words which I cannot stop from using after seeing your comment above.

"Guru, eta byapok hoyeche, ekdum amar moner kotha......."

You are very much correct or too correct and maybe others should appreciate that you have the guts in this fallen world to think straight about leftist thoughts which is grossly mis-interpreted.

Again back to Tagore:

"Ei jogote hai sei besi chai ache jar bhuri bhuri;

Rajar hosto kore somosto kangaler dhon churi"

(Tanslation: In this world people who have more hanker more and loot the poor more....)

Again, "Jio Guru"---- Jadavpur style... I am also from there!

Sorry for getting a bit more excited. If you feel bad the delete button :)

best wishes,

Dr. Debasish Das
(California, USA)