The Bribelands

Recently I completed the circle of life in handing out bribes and I want to pay homage to the “system”. A system including myself that puts the onus on the receiver to reward the provider for performing an act. An act which was part of the duties of the said provider and which was already being compensated for.

For the sake of legality and sanity, read this like a story. All these are alleged acts that may or may not have transpired in real life. If you are a person with any kind of office – treat the content below as pure fiction and the ramblings of a mad man. You can stop reading at this time and go back to work or entertainment.

For the rest of you at the same position as me – you will understand the exact message that needs to be told.

After all, we live and die in such a world.

The Trigger

So, this happened.

I handed over five times the stipulated amount to the concerned at a certain crematorium for the last rites of a loved family member.

I did not blink at being asked for “something”. I had forgotten to show emotions or even twitch at the act. It was all but natural.

I come home, the process through the thoughts for a few days, and then it dawned on me. I had achieved a milestone in life – I had completed the circle of life in handing out bribes.

The Re-realisation

I come from the Great Indian Middle-class of 1990s. While I did not have money to spend on clothes, movies and stuff, I had enough support to spend on college tuitions, books, cable TV and the like. While we did not have enough money to buy a house during my college days, we had enough to get through an occasional trip, visits to the restaurant, or to afford a then super-expensive computer – thanks to my parents.

And that just enough money also meant we valued time and convenience. Also, the Indian newspapers tell a decent enough story for anyone intelligent to understand what’s going on without as many words in print.

So, I was not new to the world of bribes. A world was not narrow by any extent but was mostly the domain of my parents. That changed when I started handling life events by myself.

I was part of a well-established tradition and well-oiled system. I was never far from the way things worked at key events.

  • Get a health certificate to join Engineering degree course. And yes, this has to be from a qualified professional in a Govt. institution
  • Get a driving license for a bike
  • Receive my marks card from the university after a 2-month delay (at the risk of losing my job offer on-campus)
  • Lodge a police complaint about a lost mobile phone/documents
  • Buy a bike and then a car
  • Buy a house
  • Get a marriage certificate
  • Get the birth certificate of my kids

Or, for most mundane of activities –

  • Cleaning the street and clearing out garbage. Cleaning the clogged pipes on the street, or fixing street lights
  • Getting an over-due payment for services/products

The system feeds itself and all its stakeholders at every level. A person who accepts a bribe for overlooking faulty road repairs is not enjoying that by himself, but pools it for his peers, supervisors, politicians at local, state and centre levels. Ask any of the people in institutions like RTO, Sub-registrar offices, or RTO – accounts are kept and “income” distributed amongst all, with a percentage pushed up the chain.

There is no consequence

I don’t see anyone flinch when a politician or an official of any authority takes a bribe – even in a cheque. We don’t get shocked by unaccounted money buried in toilets, their lands, and even in walls/house compounds. I don’t see any adverse reaction to people in power spending extremely huge amounts of money for parties and festivals other than the lip service offered at the altar of no one in particular.

I saw only people having a good laugh about it all when RTOs got occasionally raided by anti-corruption units and money was thrown out of windows. Or, when officials literally ate the money so that they were not caught with proof of the act.

All that considered I wonder my India is not the deepest of red in the index.

Source: Wikipedia. By SSYoung – Own work [1], CC BY-SA 4.0

There is no consequence of taking bribes – as long as the power sides with the person.

People have been dropped from investigation for no reason, people are investigated later for no apparent reason, and criminals and hapless foot-soldiers are secretly interviewed for future leverage.

Everyone at the receiving end of an unfair advantage realises just that one thing – have power, have leverage and face no consequences. Institutions, authority and power are used towards achieving that objective. Every, effing day.

Lalu Prasad Yadav is a good example of the rise and fall of a person who did what he did and landed where he is today. Things can go south and they keep going south all the way to the pole and beyond.

But, there are do-gooders

While I hold on to my cards about the system being too far ahead to change, there are plenty of examples shining through the darkness.

Our Passport office is one of the early success stories. The intervention through technology brought about a thorough change to queuing, processing and delivery systems.

IT department is yet another good story of transformation. Everything digitised = no visits to the department for silly reasons = no bribe changing hands.

And, there are shining stars of human beings. There are quite a few good officers in RTO, in Police, in sub-registrar offices, and other such institutions where corruption is universally accepted phenomenon. I had a pleasure to meet and interact with really good human beings who extended courtesy even when I was wrong. I hold them in high esteem for doing that to the commonest of the people.

But, but.. there seems to be no light in end of the tunnel

The current system is far too entrenched in its current doings for its own good. In all my optimism and for all of the peoples’ complaints, I do not think anyone wants any change.

People with means keep bribing others for convenience or to look the other way –

  • Get ahead of the queue for anything that legitimately requires a queue
  • Not renewing auto-insurance on time or for jumping the traffic signal
  • Getting certified on a skill without undergoing the due process to earn the certificate

And, for the most part – the system will not go away because we breed that with inaction.

  • Keep falling from our bikes at the same potholes
  • See our elders and children get hurt by the same footpaths
  • See the same garbage day after day, lying by the side and dumped on vacant lands
  • See people expecting even more rewards and feeling cheated when not being compensated enough – when their duties include compensation by the employer

We value convenience and we suffer because of it. We are not fully aware of our situation and “feel for the discrepancies” enough to care.

And please – don’t get overly defensive or offensive about any of this. It is not about which party or influencer came when. It is about the current state and what we are doing about it. You can feel disgusted and close the browser, but if you had been living in so-called “third world” country – you exactly know this. Don’t blame me, my society or my country.

So, what gives?

We can speak all we want about digitising the entire economy and start tracking the micro-transactions, but there are plenty of examples today where bribes are in services, in gold, or in farm animals.

Nope. I offer no solutions. Just – “wake up”.

Or, shift to a developed country where corruption is not as rampant and not in-your-face.

Let technology help to write your rama naama’s

I was cleaning out my code repository the other day and found this ‘raama naama generator’ that I created a few years ago.

I have open-sourced the program out of concern for the society – so download it today (or) go through the complicated code – if you are into such a thing.

tldr;

Accumulate just enough punya – quickly and without boring sadhana using the generator. You can do all this in the comfort of your own home.

What’s a rama naama generator?

Easily generate a million raama naama’s at the click of a button. Yes, you heard that right.

It is equivalent to writing all those mantras in tens of books. I have taken great care to automate that and make it easy.

  • No more worries if you have been busy and could not complete the allocated number of mantras in a day, week or month
  • No spending time on writing
  • No pains in the wrist
  • No impact to environment – no papers wasted, no ink spilled and no plastics used

What is the objective of such a generator?

There are three key objectives –

  • Save your time
  • Save your energy
  • Help save our environment

Is enlightenment guaranteed after using this program?

Assured. Never guaranteed. YMMV.

Religious practices are serious business. Is this all joke to you?

No, and no.

Enlighten me more about this program and why use it?

Yes, this is sarcasm – dummy. But sarcasm of the serious kind. I am a great arm-chair philosopher and will take nothing less.

My mother and I discuss a lot many things. Among them was a topic about how we think about things and utilise time in our lives.

One of those things that we find around us is to write many many Rama naama’s. When I say “around us” – I mean the narrow world that my family and I have carved around us in a South Indian state, at a time that probably has no meaning even if I say it loud (well, 21st century – just for the records).

There is this custom of writing many (I mean many) naama’s (a prayer that you write in the book) and submitting those books to a temple. The prayer goes something like –

“Shri Rama, Jaya Rama, Jaya Jaya Rama”

Translation: Glory be to God – this is referring to one of our revered Gods – Rama.

After the writers write their many lines and books, they submit it to a near by temple. The temple performs a big ceremony at the very end, distributes ‘prasad’ and everyone goes out happy.

  • Devotees get the satisfaction of a few weeks well spent
  • Template trustees feel elated on making devotees out of mere mortals
  • Priests get to recite the holy mantras
  • Singers get to sing some classical, devotional songs
  • Speakers at the occasion get an opportunity to reaffirm their beliefs and seek a few followers

I did not quite understand what happens to the books thereon, but the fate of the books is immaterial to the conversation. But, I do know that there are banks (like this) that keep track of the naama’s written and punya accumulated.

So, it was that we debated about how we choose to spend our time, and to what benefit.

  • Is it because we try to discipline our mind to think the same thing (much like mantras, but with writing + mantra both)
  • Is it to slow our thinking and calm our minds?
  • Is it because we want to enforce the belief that we stand for something greater than ourselves (as in humans)
  • Is it because we want to take up something that we see as “big” and prove a point?

This generator was just a prankish way of saying times have moved on but has our life progressed well in line with those “times”.

What if we had a program that generated a 100, 1000, or a million naama’s in couple of seconds. Does it say anything about the journey vs. destination debate?

Happy to say – we never found the answer and the debate continues. But, there was no way I would miss that opportunity to share something invaluable with y’all.

AI is our destiny

I work with technology day in and out. And, I never stop feeling amazed at what I can do today. We live in a day and age like none other in the remembered human history. And, technology is only growing.

AI is one such piece of technology that is feared and revered at the same time.

AI starts with machines that can learn by learning how they can get to the desired outcome. The machine learning program is a program that runs routines itself to optimize results until you get to that expected outcome. You don’t tell the machine what to do, you just tell it what you want, give a data set of starting points, a data set of results and the degree of correctness in those results.

All this is because I recently came across this site that is having intelligent routines figure out how to complete a paragraph that is started by a human (presumably – we will get to what defines a human later).

So, this is what I provided –

Do we human beings make any difference in this world or in the universe? The universe is so vast and we are so tiny to matter.

We cannot remember the last 100 years but claim to make sense of the vast, the billion years, and all that is associated with that.

We simply do not matter.

Pretty depressing outlook on our state of affairs. And, I bet a human would react with incremental additions depending on at what state she is in – a happy person will react with how we could see something positive there and what we could do about it. While a person on the other side of the spectrum may reinforce all the pessimistic thoughts circling around in his brain at the time.

No surprise by now – that’s how a machine reacts and continues my thought for me.

Pass 1

This was a good start – we had a positive-sounding person who was smart and intelligent. What more – this guy quotes a Dr. Hern, who I am sure, will be my friend in the future.

“So in that sense, we are nothing but a speck of dust. Perhaps the idea that we are important to everything in the cosmos just to be of service to it is just as illogical and as illogical as saying that all life in the universe is insignificant.

“Perhaps all that the world is is insignificant and if we really were all mere molecules we would not have to be afraid of death and pain, we would be content.”

But Dr Hern had been at pains to add in the past to acknowledge that in some ways he wanted to see the universe in an age of technology where people had more control over their environment. He said it was not a contradiction in terms to say that human beings are only important because of the power they possess, which “in many places” can make some people ”

Pass 2

This guy pushes me to a deeper depression.

This is such a sad thing, but it is true. It is true in the sense that human beings could not have changed the past, or changed the future. Human beings are just one part of the universe and, therefore, we do not matter.

Pass 3

But we are so small against all forces, to that there is no answer.

It’s like in music. The chord of the piano is important, but the sound can be produced by other chords. In nature, the same thing would apply. It has much more to do with who is listening to it or being affected by it than it does with the sound itself. If there is no melody, there is no meaning. But if there is something to be affected by it, that also changes the way we hear things. When some people were living in very simple times and were unable to comprehend the vastness of it, they had their minds closed. And as time goes on into the present, they have been able to make sense of it, and they can understand the importance. What they understand is nothing but the present moment.

The third response blew my mind and made me cry (well, that’s that). He does not just quote the scriptures or agree/disagree with what I said. But he takes the whole conversation to a new level. A level that many authors will only dream to reach in their life times.

In Conclusion

All hail our future best friend and feared enemy – put into one being.

AI will just take the current condition and make it even more so that the brain wallows in the unimagined happiness, sadness, the horror and excitement. Give more of anything, and it returns more of the same.

So, at one point – this will be just like the Universe. Give more of good, and you get good – ever true, but in quantities that are not consistent.

Head over to https://talktotransformer.com/ and have fun.

Books I read: The Choose Yourself Stories

I am a fan of Altucher (written about that before). I have read Choose Yourself and am a fan. So, I could not resist picking the book up despite my misgivings on Kindle Unlimited :).

What is the book about?

“Choose Yourself Stories” is a series of stories about people who have chosen themselves. You will be right at home and begging for more if you are already familiar with Altucher world.

tldr; Cry. Learn. (a lot). A definite read.

choose-yourself-stories-review

A Short Summary

 

Get to real stuff quickly

You need the basic structure, and learn how to navigate your way. You don’t need to be an expert at everything and have a deep knowledge of everything. You only need to do it better than the customer expected. Always add a bit extra that makes you the magician.

In the end, don’t get burnt by anyone and take things as they come – you and the rest are dead and gone soon.

James is an HBO guy making documentaries, and he has a brush with the shady sort on the bus to Riker’s Island. There are all sorts of things happening in dark places, but life moves on. You still get up the next day and get breakfast.

Everyone will die

You, your neighbour’s dog, your worst enemy and the car driver who has pipes coming out of his heart that he acquired after trying medicine to lose weight fast.

However, what matters is what you are doing today, how well you are living today, what ambitions you are charting out to yourself, and how do you finally plan to go – smiling, crying, fighting, or just being silent?

Know who you are

No matter how famous you become – and how everyone adores you for everything that you know, there is a likely chance that you know nothing. Break free of that ego and be who you are. TV, news, opinions are all hogwash.

Maintain that enthusiasm for life

Today, you are peddling up without any assistance, with the sandstorm in your face, with a wild cat and possibly the creature from tremors behind you. You so want to sacrifice yourself to any of those entities. But, you still persevere – there is fun in the next corner. You just need that little thing that carries you forward in the difficult moment.

There are always situations like Junior High in one’s life. You are treated to a pleasant surprise on the first day – the gut-wrenching, shocking surprise that no one wants to have but secretly desires. Junior high and the first day come to pass.

Carve your mantra to strive for success

Altucher went from having 15 M in a bank to $150 and then $0. He struggled to make ends meet and then climbed all the way up by – no, not by waving a magic wand but doing something similar to what you do – living life.

  • Exercise everyday
  • Sleep nine hours a day
  • Be around people who make a positive impact on you

Live now, succeed and then succeed even more. You may like or dislike the journey, you may absolutely hate your current state of life – but this moment is what you have. And, that is what you have to use to get forward in life.

Don’t get hung up on people and external factors

People can hand over shit to you at any moment. The people whom you fought wars, died for, the people who you loved, and experienced life’s better moments – it does not matter.

Any or all of them can easily turn into total jerks when it comes to a difficult moment. No matter what they do – life moves on and always for the better.

Do not think about all rejections and delve into the negative energy – but think about the positives that happened and will happen. And yes, positives happen even at the darndest of the times. At all those times that you are alive.

Spot the illusion, but always as an audience

It is fun in taking part in a three-card monte. But the sleight of hand can damage you with whatever you are willing to spare. And that happens in all walks of life.

Now imagine yourself as the audience – you will laugh no issue at the entertainment, take it in, and then move on. You are least impacted since you’re there for the laughs, not to make or lose money.

Grief too will pass

You go from a multi-millionaire IT guy to being a bus driver who drives from Queens to Riker Island in the middle of the night. Of course, you will see that all the rules that we have created in the “normal society” do not exist. You are not happy with what has it has come to. There is only much sadness, but the good is always ready to get itself unshackled at any moment now.

“Today may be an ordinary day. But may be I can try to make every moment in it extraordinary”

— James Altucher

Write ideas down

Maybe they click one day. Maybe they interact with each other in strange ways to create weirder ideas that you could use?

Freedom

Enjoy your freedom. Do something new and you may feel as though you are free for life – but a new worry can always come back.

Keep striving for new freedom. A change will happen anyway, and you embracing that change (or driving it ahead) will make you feel that you are on the top of the world.

Nothing sells like embarrassing stories

Not because people want to laugh at you – only people with something wrong with their mind do that. Normal people wonder what they would have done in your shoes, cry some, laugh some and love the guy telling the embarrassing stories.

In Summary

Go read this book.

If you never knew the author, you will be wondering why the heck will someone write all this sh*t?

Not once do you recognize that Altucher is a multimillionaire with a knack for selling stuff, creates successful companies, is a great negotiator, helps people, and has created a raving community who stand by him (until you read ‘About the Author’ that is).

Books I read: Common Inner Peace..

I was deeply suspicious of books that are free on Kindly Unlimited – yes, incl. Harry Potter series. I have learnt to be suspicious of books that are selling really cheap – think 80-90% off as well. And, yes – this includes my own books :). “Come on Inner Peace .. I don’t have all day” by Sachin Garg reinforced my belief and made me proud of my own narrow-mindedness.

I read “COIPIDHAD”.. or “Come on.. ” about six months back, and took a while to digest it. After all, a lot of things happening in my life too.
Hopefully, not as messed up.

Come on Inner Peace!: I Don't Have All Day! by [Garg, Sachin]

[click on the affiliate link and buy something else. I will pray for you if buy this book]

A short summary

The story is straight from the pictures of yore – the ones your grandfather used to watch and think “deep things” about life. Only it could have been considered “risque”?

  • A man (our hero) catches his beloved with his best friend in a compromising position. Only to be known that it was CPR after an asthmatic attack.
  • Without any explanation, the hero leaves for Goa for a long hiatus (was it after, before or during college?) and ends up in a resort.
  • After working in menial jobs the tragic heroine visits him in the same resort and dies from our old friend – asthma.
  • Some “bestest” friends guide the dejected hero to an ashram. The Guru makes all the pain go away.

If you are at “WTF was that”, hold on to the thought. “Come on..” is about to get way interesting.

  • Enter the second heroine. A girl of nineteen who ran away from a potential career in pharmacy to sell paintings & read/collect literature in Goa, live in a resort, and date bald men.
  • Hero meets heroine no. 2, but is not convinced. He is all caught up with first (though he does not know she’s innocent). No. 2 returns to lowly life.
  • You remember it was an ashram? Swami tells hero to go meet no. 2.
  • He also instructs hero on the best peace-making secret of our lifetimes – “breathe in, breathe out”.

The hero and I are confused at this time. We are through 25% of the book.

  • Now, there’s another female who helps the hero search for no. 2. This lady is another mess-up from another life. But hey, who is counting.
  • In the run-up to find no. 2, hero’s chemical engineering skills are used to make meth, the lady doubles up as a drug pusher
  • Lady’s cough gets aggravated – has 20 days to live (what?). A donation site to help her does not gather much cash. Who cares – the hero can make meth anyway. The two head back to Ashram
  • Lady cannot be saved by surgery
  • No. 2 meanwhile gets reinstated by dad and heads over to Ashram
  • All of this culminates in a PG13 scene of a fake marriage and passionate love – in an ashram that serves “satvik” food.

Ah, the harsh world.

Conclusion

Seriously messed up.

I think “Come on..” is overread by most of the pseudo philosophers. Kindle highlights kept me reading till the end – e.g., 30+ people highlighted “Your mind is like the horse. And you are the one riding it. Nobody is born with excellent riding skills. It is acquired and mastered over time with experience”. Our hero felt overwhelmed by that; I puked a little.

I deleted the book from my Kindle. I also burnt the darn device and spread its ashes in the Kengeri river – just to make sure.