The rules of the game

Aug 31, 2013, 06:02 IST | Rohan Joshi

If thieves are to claim honour, bribery must have rules. So here goes

Rohan JoshiIf thieves are to claim honour, bribery must have rules. So here goes

First, some numbers; India has over 30 lakh central government employees. It also has about 15 lakh policemen, and roughly 5,000 IAS employees. Add to that all those in employ of our various state and local bodies and you’ve got yourself a workforce of (let’s say) one crore people. But a great man (my friend Ramesh) once said “don’t look at them as people, look at them as potential.” And that’s exactly what they are; one crore potential opportunities for corruption. I completed my descent into cynicism this week, reaching a point so low that even the rupee rang to ask me what it looks like down here. I don’t think we’ll ever be rid of corruption; it’s like herpes, except it’s in triplicate, and it’s a lot less fun to get.

Under the table: The first rule of Bribe Club is that you do not talk about Bribe Club

There is a high statistical possibility that in the next year, every single person who is reading this will pay at least one bribe in some form or the other. And that’s if you’re lucky. Most will probably pay more, and so I’d like to compile for your easy reference, the Indian Guide To Bribery aka the 4 Habits of Highly Corrupt People aka Harry Potter and the Half Bought Prince.

1. It’s never a “bribe”
The first rule of Bribe Club is that you do not talk about Bribe Club. Corrupt people are people too. They have feelings, and like unicorns and teddy bears (bought with your money), and long walks on the beach. Which is why it offends them if you suggest that what you’re offering them is a bribe, and stops the process cold. It’s not a bribe, it’s chai-paani, baksheesh, or if the official in question has a flair for the poetic, sri-phal. Remember always; Bribery is like a Milan Luthria film; you must speak only in badly acted metaphors, and loathe yourself for doing it.

2. Bribers have rights. Demand them.
The key to effective corruption is recognising that you, as the briber, have rights. When you pay officials an, um, gangajal, you’re not just buying yourself task-completion, you’re also buying yourself a brand new attitude. The mithai that you pay requires that bureaucratic hostility melt away. After he accepts your Mukesh, the official is obliged to be more gentle, tender, and sensitive to your feelings. If completing the task requires more than a few hours, a good buoni buys you a chair to sit on and a cup of tea at the very least. If the official is still being hostile after you gave him a healthy Asaram, you are in an abusive relationship, so walk out of it at once. Again, remember: Jaago graahak jaago.

3. The amount must be proportionate to the assistance required
Novice kaju-katli givers often ask “How much is too little, and how much is too much?” It’s simple; what do you need done, and how much do YOU think it’s worth? Greedy officials often try to exploit first-timers by overcharging them, but if you trust your gut and hold your nerve, you can negotiate with them as you would with a man trying to sell you a Redbok or Ardidas t-shirt in the street. The difference is that street t-shirt sellers have more scruples, and bathe more often.

4. Cash transactions must happen without happening
If the Arindam you are paying is in cash alone, you must slip it across like it didn’t even happen. In the same way that a pervert ‘accidentally’ falls on women, cash Barfis must happen with great subtlety. Pass it over inside your driver’s licence, or during a friendly handshake, or just forget your briefcase at his desk. Remember the age-old philosophical notion: If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to see it, it means your Deepika was enough to make the witness disappear. 

If you keep these four rules in mind while offering Krrish, you should be absolutely fine. And if that still doesn’t work, get in touch with me, and I’ll give you an advanced lesson. For a small sri-phal, of course. 

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on

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