Nov 23, 2010
"You must understand," the minister said to Umesh. "Try to understand for my sake and for your sake," he coaxed.
To Umesh - a civil servant, born to a poor family that spent everything on his education, so that he would become an able, honest civil servant with dignity, and make his family's name shine in their village - to him, the minister was God. And he was trying to understand.
"You see Umesh, things just do not happen the way you think. Wealth cannot be built overnight. I always had this urge of sharing my story with a person, an honest person, and you are that person. I have now crossed 70 years and I guess you need another four decades to cross my age. It all began in a small village, I was out of school even before I could complete 8th standard as my parents could not afford my education. It is difficult to take care of family when you have over a dozen kids and most of them girls. I really do not know what has happened to them, but I do have a brother, an elder bother at Barkarla, who I visit once a year and he is all I have left of my family.
"I was just 17 when I reached this capital city, not out of choice but out of default. I had no choice then but to go as per the dictates of the street gang leader. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire”? Just imagine me as a child like that. But may be I was a bit smart. I could take it all - brutality, beatings and pain. With a bit of patience and a bit of luck and smartness, I could learn the tricks of the trade in no time.
"It was not that difficult. Let me explain. You need entrepreneurship – as they call it now. You see those sewage covers, understand they are made of metal. At least they were made of good metal those days. Just remove a dozen during the night and sell it to a scrap dealer, or say, the middle man who supplies them back to the government. And you know what? You will earn what an average man earns in one month. That is the beginning. You know we are a democratic country - by the people, for the people and of the people - that is me. Once you know how to get money out of tank cover, it is all relatively easy.
"Do you know why I remained a bachelor? Friends' wives are always there to satisfy my lust and there are no strings attached. One fat job and that takes care of the rest always. Sometimes one stupid woman may cry rape, but what does that matter?
"It is 40 years since I have been in this field. What started as a petty business of selling of tank covers led to a gold mine, in the form of real estate, flesh trade, betting and most importantly, giving cover to government ministers. Before I knew, I myself became a political leader and now you see, I am considered as the most respected, powerful minister of this country and leader of the masses too.
"Money in any case falls on my lap and I share it equally. For instance what Yogesh Mamu wants is my generous donation to the temple of his choice, and what Appu Parbu wants is unlimited supply of liquor to him and his chelas and Usman Bhai is happy if I can provide Haj facility for 200 pilgrims every year. Actually I wanted to increase 200 pilgrims to 500. You know every thing is an opportunity. For every traveling pilgrim, I can increase my personal fortune. No, I do not want to give you the details. But that is the way the system works. More the roads you construct, more the money you make."
Umesh was stunned. He was sitting with his reverred leader, who was his icon and ideal. It was a matter of great honour for him to work under his leader. No, it is impossible, it can't be true. This must be a joke.
"No," the minister’s voice was heard, as if he had read his thoughts. "You see, Umesh, problem with common people is that you think you live for the sake of the country. You should live for youself first and then for others. What is the use of giving saris to poor people while you remain poor? Give them sari. Give thousands of them, but when you distribute a sari, make sure you make 25 percent profit. This way both are happy. Give the contracts to those who will give you a share. Why should you bother about people who do not know to take care of themselves?"
"Umesh," the minister continued, "I have to open my heart to someone. All these years, I kept all this to myself. I am now nearing 70, it is a matter of few years before I die. Who will know what I have achieved in the last 40 years? Who will know that I am a self made man? People should know my might. Who else but you can I trust?"
Umesh, the young, honest and sober man that he was, was angry by now. "Can I allow this corrupt minister to continue? He should die." He was enraged, and it showed all over Umesh’s face.
But the minister could read his mind even then. "Umesh, we need to be smart in this field. Do you think I am stupid? Remember I sent you to Malapur on duty and you spent the night with those whores that I had planned for you? If you have doubts, there are CDs and you can watch them and enjoy your adventures. Remember you came with a request to place your sister in a good job, and yes, she is in good care, unless you decide otherwise; and remember you are in love with Jyothi - the CDs can easily be sent to her too. It is your choice, you must understand."
And the minister continued to serve the people. News of the humiliated and hurt Umesh’s suicide could only make the minister announce on TV the next day that the government lost a brave servant.
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