Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Great Indian Socialist Darkness-1

The following are excerpts from a great Indian economic thought book! The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga.

“The inspector made me write my name on the blackboard; then he showed me his wristwatch and asked me to read the time. He took out his wallet, removed a small photo, and asked me, "Who is this man, who is the most important man in all our lives?" 

The photo was of a plump man with spiky white hair and chubby cheeks, wearing thick earrings of gold; the face glowed with intelligence and kindness. 

"He's the Great Socialist." "Good. 

And what is the Great Socialist's message for little children?" I had seen the answer on the wall outside the temple: a policeman had written it one day in red paint. "Any boy in any village can grow up to become the prime minister of India. That is his message to little children all over this land." The inspector pointed his cane straight at me. 

"You, young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals—the creature that comes along only once in a generation?" 

I thought about it and said: "The white tiger." 

I came to Dhanbad after my father's death. He had been ill for some time, but there is no hospital in Laxmangarh, although there are three different foundation stones for a hospital, laid by three different politicians before three different elections. When he began spitting blood that morning, Kishan and I took him by boat across the river. We kept washing his mouth with water from the river, but the water was so polluted that it made him spit more blood. There was a rickshaw-puller on the other side of the river who recognized my father; he took the three of us for free to the government hospital. There were three black goats sitting on the steps to the large, faded white building; the stench of goat feces wafted out from the open door. The glass in most of the windows was broken; a cat was staring out at us from one cracked window. 

A sign on the gate said: 


Kishan and I carried our father in, stamping on the goat turds which had spread like a constellation of black stars on the ground. 

There was no doctor in the hospital. The ward boy, after we bribed him ten rupees, said that a doctor might come in the evening. The doors to the hospital's rooms were wide open; the beds had metal springs sticking out of them, and the cat began snarling at us the moment we stepped into the room.

"It's not safe in the rooms—that cat has tasted blood." 

A couple of Muslim men had spread a newspaper on the ground and were sitting on it. One of them had an open wound on his leg. He invited us to sit with him and his friend. 

Kishan and I lowered Father onto the newspaper sheets. 

We waited there. Two little girls came and sat down behind us; both of them had yellow eyes. 

"Jaundice. She gave it to me." "I did not. You gave it to me. And now we'll both die!" 

An old man with a cotton patch on one eye came and sat down behind the girls. 

The Muslim men kept adding newspapers to the ground, and the line of diseased eyes, raw wounds, and delirious mouths kept growing. 

"Why isn't there a doctor here, uncle?" I asked. "This is the only hospital on either side of the river." 

"See, it's like this," the older Muslim man said. "There's a government medical superintendent who's meant to check that doctors visit village hospitals like this. Now, each time this post falls vacant, the Great Socialist lets all the big doctors know that he's having an open auction for that post. The going rate for this post is about four hundred thousand rupees these days." 

"That much!" I said, my mouth opened wide. 

"Why not? There's good money in public service! Now, imagine that I'm a doctor. I beg and borrow the money and give it to the Great Socialist, while touching his feet. He gives me the job. I take an oath to God and the Constitution of India and then I put my boots up on my desk in the state capital." He raised his feet onto an imaginary table. "Next, I call all the junior government doctors, whom I'm supposed to supervise, into my office. I take out my big government ledger. I shout out, 'Dr. Ram Pandey.'" 

He pointed a finger at me; I assumed my role in the play. 

I saluted him: "Yes, sir!" 

He held out his palm to me. 

"Now, you—Dr. Ram Pandey—will kindly put one-third of your salary in my palm. Good boy. In return, I do this." He made a tick on the imaginary ledger. "You can keep the rest of your government salary and go work in some private hospital for the rest of the week. Forget the village. Because according to this ledger you've been there. You've treated my wounded leg. You've healed that girl's jaundice."

Other post 1

No comments: