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Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’

If you happen to be a professional to whom the allure of becoming a director on the board of a company is irresistible, here is a confidential note written by the Chairman of an imaginary company to one such aspirant, listing out the unstated terms and conditions of the offer.

From: The Chairman, XYZ Ltd.
To: A wannabe Independent Director

“Dear Aspirant,

I am happy to know that you aspire to be an independent director on the board of our company. Whereas a formal letter of appointment would soon follow, I write to you in my personal capacity to explain the real rights and responsibilities of an independent director.

1. You shall be hired only for your fame, your excellent contacts and your eminence. Your subject knowledge, competence and seriousness of participation in the meetings are important but secondary to the scheme of things.

2. Our company believes that machinations of the management (read “real owners”) are supreme. Our business is run on a quarter to quarter basis. PROMOTIONSAny talk of business strategy, etc, happens against this background. You shall always remain an embellishment on the board and shall conduct yourself with grace and equanimity accordingly.

3. Please appreciate that the Chairman and the President/CEO are advised by the best brains in legal and accounting matters. Their word is final and binding.

4. For the sake of excellent PR, as also to keep our market image shining and bright, the company has a set of clear guiding principles, a sparkling vision document, an exemplary code of conduct, a well spelled-out corporate philosophy, a robust governance framework, a sound CSR policy and a clearly articulated intention of zero tolerance to graft, corruption or sexual harassment. However, based on exigencies faced in the business environment or the seniority of the person involved, the management reserves the right to be flexible in its approach towards enforcing the aforesaid.

5. During your tenure, you may discover some creative accounting practices resorted to by the company. You may come across audit notes which point out the calculated risks we take while planning our direct as well as indirect taxes. You may also discover highly ingenious ways in which we interpret the laws of the land. You shall be expected to put across innovative suggestions to further refine such practices. You shall not be expected to raise any objection to the same, whether in private or in public.

6. You shall be encouraged to represent a group of shareholders, or appear to be partial to a group of stakeholders of the company; provided, of course, that your performance shall always be evaluated based only on the key deliverables – namely, towing the line of the management and ensuring that the company’s image is protected and its business interests advanced at all times.

7. Should you become involved in any legal hassle owing to having not registered a dissent on issues of either corporate governance or legal compliance by the company, an issue-based support may be provided. In such an eventuality, the company reserves its right to publically disown you and terminate its association with you forthwith.

8. Any attempt on your part to form a group of Independent Directors shall be treated as an act of dissidence and betrayal by management. As a matter of corporate policy, we do not encourage dissent, whether expressed or otherwise.

9. In respect of any matter pertaining to the operations of the company, you shall never take a moral high ground and start teaching us ethics and value YES-MENsystems. The last thing we need is a lecture from a glorified employee, the real capacity in which you shall serve the company.

10. The company expects you to observe complete confidentiality even after the end of your term as an Independent Director.

11. Post-retirement, you shall undertake not to become a whistle-blower and seek protection under any such scheme offered by the government of the day.

12. Advances, affiliations and activities of an amorous nature attempted by you towards directors from the other sex shall be frowned upon; unless, these happen to be dictated by the business needs of the company and have prior tacit approval of the management.

Even if you do not appear in the database of prospective candidates maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, we trust that you have so far been smart enough to ensure that your legal record is squeaky clean. We are sure that you shall continue to be vigilant on this score.

We look forward to a long-term mutually beneficial association with you. We welcome you as a part of the growing tribe of (perceived to be) independent directors in the country. We have no doubt whatsoever that you shall conduct yourself in a manner which would enhance the prestige and influence of this newly created labor market.

Yours truly, etc”

Background note:

Indian companies having a paid up capital of more than INR 100 millions and those whose aggregate outstanding loans, debentures and deposits exceed INR 500 millions are now required to have at least two independent directors on their respective boards. The new rules notified by the Government of India come into force from the 1st of April, 2014.

Likewise, some companies are now required to have at least one woman director on their board. For some, it is now mandated to spend 2% of their profits on CSR activities.

Hopefully, in the days to come, the newly emerging tribe of Independent Directors would play a far more effective role in ensuring that more companies conduct their affairs with better attention to transparency, ethical standards, gender diversity, environment protection measures and socially relevant investments.

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It is heartening to know that India’s civil services aspirants shall soon be taking an examination in ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ as part of their endeavor to make a career in public administration. It is a laudable initiative, and one does hope that in the days to come, our denizens’ issues with the administration shall start getting resolved with empathy, pragmatism and promptness, sans any corrupt practices.    

As an average person, one is tempted to ask if our politicos should also be taking a similar test! We live in an era when probity in India emblempublic life is at a nadir. The conduct of some of our honorable MPs and MLAs on the floor of our august legislative bodies often leaves us red-faced and scurrying for cover. The only time we see a semblance of unity amongst politicians of different hues is when they are faced by the threat of declaring their finances under the landmark RTI Act or when trying to thwart the judiciary’s attempts to keep criminals out of our polity.

How about an Indian Political Service?!

May be, the time has come to introduce an Indian Political Service? If meritocracy has to rule, those aspiring for a career in politics can be made to first apply to a body like the Union Political Service Commission! Detailed CVs backed by details of socially relevant projects handled, vision for the future, parentage and financial backing etc will need to be submitted and made public. Thereafter, the aspirants would need to undergo a rigorous selection process, comprising a written examination, followed by a group discussion, individual PPT presentations for the benefit of their target constituents, personal interviews and the like.

A professional working license can get issued only after a five-year internship with a duly registered political party. Thereafter, the incumbent could become entitled to joining the election fray. license can be put up for renewal once every five years.

Criteria for disqualification can also be laid down. Involvement in scams of any kind, a lapse in discharge of core duties, getting convicted in a court of law, disrupting legislative work, browsing the net for pornographic content while on duty, tax arrears of any kind, etc., could lead to suspension of the license to practice.

An exhaustive appraisal system can be put in place. Performance could be rated on various aspects like development works completed in the constituency, number of new legislations introduced, hours of legislative attendance registered, besides core targets met for the portfolio handled. For re-election, the license will need to be renewed based on the ballot performance.   

Would a Management Development Program Help?India Parliament House

In case our leaders and constitutional experts declare the above mentioned approach as null and void, another option is at hand. We can ask some of our premier management institutes to design a Management Development Program for our politicians! Such a program could have modules on ethics and integrity and behavioral sciences – with a focus on etiquettes and manners. A crash course on meditation techniques could lead our politicos to do some introspection on their own part, trying to figure out ways to attract today’s educated youth into the political mainstream, handling important legislations with equipoise and equanimity, controlling passions on the floor of the house and cleaning up the finances of the parties they owe their affiliations to.

In an era of scams and systemic corruption, the reputation of our political honchos has taken a severe beating. This is not to say that there are no straight forward and honest politicians ruling us. But corruption appears to rule the roost. Whether it is through a loot of the exchequer (Westland helicopters, fodder scam), sale of patronage (allocation of natural resources) or plain extortion and rent-seeking (pay or take the highway), the ingenuity with which public money gets siphoned off to either fill the political parties’ tills or to shore up personal fortunes is something which one cannot learn at management or accounting institutes.

Connecting with the Post-reforms Generation

All political parties need to do some introspection as to how to win and influence potential voters, specifically Gen-Z, meaning those who were born in the post-reforms era and who expect performance in place of promises and delivery in place of dithering.

The writing on the wall is clear – cleaning up political funding, giving up vote bank politics, avoiding inane bickering to win India Rashtrapati Bhavanbrownie points and joining hands to work together and taking concrete steps which enable common citizens to become successful entrepreneurs and make the delicately nurtured amongst us experience true freedom.

It is apparent that as a country, India has so far focused only on economic reforms. Reforms in the other realms of a vibrant democracy, like legislature and judiciary, are yet to be conceptualized and rolled out. We have miles to go before we get to sleep!

 

 

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It is heartening to note that as many as six large Indian corporate groups have joined World Economic Forum’s Partnership Against Corruption Initiative at a recently concluded WEF India Summit in New Delhi. Infosys, Wipro, Godrej, Bajaj and Genpact have thus joined ranks with MNCs like Siemens, ABB and Rio Tinto in pledging to stamp out corruption across all their business verticals. Thirty more companies have apparently discussed concrete action that they can take to curb graft in their business dealings. A small beginning, but a crucial step appears to have been taken in the right direction. 

Corporates – Victims as well as Participants

To lay the entire blame for corruption in high places at the doorstep of either the politicians or the bureaucrats is like looking at only one side of the coin. The corporate world is not only a victim but also a participant in the vicious cycle of corruption that corrodes our economy and saps the vitality of our constitutional institutions. The fact that business has finally articulated its voice against unfair practices goes on to confirm that anti-graft measures make eminent sense as a business strategy.

India Inc willy-nilly becomes a partner in institutionalized corruption not only because of its need to line the pockets of those who make and implement laws and regulations which touch upon their businesses. The need to milk the exchequer to generate vast sums of cash to fund political activity also contributes towards the malaise.

Setting the Moral Compass Right

Siemens’ is a case in point. Based on investigations between 2001 and 2007, the German engineering major admitted to several bribery charges and paid fines of USD 1.6 billion to US and German authorities. The cases involved its operations in such far-flung countries as China, Venezuela, Argentina, Iraq, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

A massive clean-up started, starting right from the Board of Directors. A Compliance Director was brought in. Besides organizational changes, compliance teams were set up across all the business verticals. All such teams formed an integral part of the respective business processes but functionally reported to the Compliance Director. As a policy, internal whistle-blowing platforms were created. A conscious decision was taken to withdraw from projects and territories where it was not possible for the company to engage in clean business.  In other words, rather than confining itself to paper affirmations and lip service, anti-graft measures were made an integral part of the business processes of the company.

It is not surprising that Tatas, a group renowned for its ethical standards in business, decided to study the Siemens model. It is well-known that for more than a century, Tatas have maintained a steady rate of growth without succumbing to the charms of shady deals as a means to the end of making profits. The result has been a steady build up of the trust placed by the public in the Tata brand.

There are many instances of small businesses the owners of which suffer sleepless nights when asked to shell out taxes of any kind. Some reckless souls end up crossing the thin line dividing tax evasion and tax avoidance. There is no dearth of professionals who specialize in supporting such efforts, either due to pecuniary considerations or owing to the need to be in the good books of their bosses.

Quality and Types of Corruption

The World Economic Forum deserves to be lauded for its efforts to facilitate the anti-graft renaissance amongst India Inc. However, what needs to be realized is that the quality of corruption has undergone a major change over the past several decades. Way back in the late 1970s, it used to be either about bending the rules or for terming a “wrong” as a “right”. Now, it is mostly about framing the rules in such a way as to favor a privileged few, and terming a “right” as a “right”!

Corruption, as we face it today, has become more refined, operating within the legal paradigm, at subterranean levels. Corrupt practices brook no standardization; there are different kinds which have evolved depending upon the situation at hand.

The customary kind is designed to prevent harassment and delays. “Speed money” helps smoother implementation of a business venture, within the ambit of rules and regulations in force. This kind also covers a bidding process where all players do not get a level playing field.

The predatory type of corruption is one where those connected to power centers exploit business opportunities armed with prior knowledge of the development projects being planned. Again, all activities would be within the ambit of law, though there would be an in-built advantage in favor of the well-heeled.

The patronage kind of corruption is based on cliques. A team gets formed, and the proceeds typically flow towards the higher echelons. Private businesses as well public sector entities fall prey to this type of corruption.

Companies typically face internal corruption in such areas as procurement, logistics, outsourcing and the like. Internal audits are useful to curb these to some extent, but the real game changer is a clear message from the top, as also an exemplary reward and reprimand system for those who work in sensitive areas.

Then there is petty corruption which all companies and individuals face in their day-to-day operations! Eradicating this type could perhaps be the toughest challenge.

The Road Ahead

The RTI Act in India has surely been a very progressive step in the right direction. It has brought the corruption issue centre-stage and continues to remind us of the fragility of our systems and procedures at regular intervals.

The response of our business leaders to the initiative of WEF is praiseworthy. One would watch their future actions with a keen sense of anticipation and hope. If the business in India comes together and forms a self-regulatory Corruption Watchdog, it could bring in a major change in the way the masses perceive its conduct. Corporates can also resolve to make all political donations transparent, thereby dismantling one of the main pillars of our parallel economy.

The fact that India is ranked 94th out of 176 countries in corruption by the 2012 scores released by Transparency International is a wake-up call to all stakeholders to address this issue with all the seriousness it deserves.

Leaders with a High Moral Quotient

I may sound like a pessimist, but I do believe that just like the oldest profession in the world, viz. prostitution, the oldest practice in the world, viz. corruption, cannot be altogether eliminated. But all self-respecting citizens – corporate or otherwise – would perhaps agree with me that it can at least be reined in, if not eliminated.

For this to be achieved, both the Government and India Inc can work in tandem. The Government can pitch in by playing the role of a transparent facilitator of business and by renewing its efforts towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society. Corporates can effectively contribute towards this goal by depending upon those who have the wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong. In other words, by having leaders and managers who have a high Moral Quotient!

In the long run, a sound business strategy means steering a business by using a moral compass as well!

 

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Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.

Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.

If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact that wealth is not always ill-gotten has been ignored. The reality that every business activity has social spin-offs – like employment generation and wealth creation –   has invariably been given a short shrift.

Likewise, the subject of management appears only on the fringes of the narrative. If the story revolves around a business family which is trying to modernize its factories by bringing in advanced equipment and machinery, the issue gets hijacked either as a personality clash  between the hero and the villain, or as an industrial relations dispute between the management and the workers.

Nevertheless, quite a few movies have captured some facets of management. It would be instructive for us to review a random sample and see if we could learn some lessons from these. 

Setting Clear Goals

Way back in 1992, we had “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (Director: Mansoor Khan) which showed the single-minded pursuit of the hero avenging a humiliation by winning a marathon cycle race in an interesting climax.Lakshya

Lakshya” narrated the story of a youngster drifting in life, clueless as to what he wants to do for a living. Circumstances lead him to join the Indian Army and he gets involved with the Kargil incursions by Pakistan into Indian territory. In the process, he discovers himself, achieves a clarity of purpose and leads his men to victory. (2004, Director: Farhan Akhtar)

Yet another coming of age story came our way in “Wake Up, Sid”. It is the heroine (Konkona Sen Sharma) who inspires the hero (Ranbir Kapoor) to set his own goals in life. (2009, Director: Zoya Akhtar). 

Let Goals be Based on What You Excel In!pondy movie 3_idiots

Rajkumar Hirani explained this concept rather well in his immensely successful “3 Idiots” (2009). If you are passionate about a hobby of yours, and make it your profession as well, you would surely excel. Happiness, contentment, recognition and rewards would automatically follow.

Ethics in Business

Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year” (2009, Director: Shimit Amin) had a theme which spoke of ethics in business. If marketing efforts are directed at deceiving customers and if either the product or service is shoddy, the business will go down in the dumps. Philip Kotler would have surely approved!

Managing the Boss

Aziz Mirza delighted us with both “Yes Boss” (1997) and “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” (2000). Scratch below the glitzy surface Yes bossof these slick flicks and you are sure to learn quite a few tricks on managing bosses. If “Yes Boss” was about being a yes-man, “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” was about manipulating bosses to get them to announce decisions which were contrary to their original stands. Yes, the bosses were mere caricatures and depicted as bumbling buffoons. But the hero and the heroine could get away with it purely based on the outstanding results they brought in!

Another interesting dimension we got to see was in “Aitraaz” (2004, Directors: Abbas Mustan). The movie was based on a Hollywood flick by the name of “Disclosure”. In return for rapid promotions, the female boss ends up trying to seduce the subordinate hero. However, thanks to a zealous wife and smart technology, the hero manages to wriggle out of a tricky situation!

Handling Corruption

Hrishikesh Mukherji came up with “Satyakam” in 1969. Based on a Bengali novel by Narayan Sanyal, the movie tugged at our heart-strings by taking us through the trials and tribulations of Satyapriya, a whistle-blower who suffers in his professional as well as personal life and loses the battle against corruption.Well done abba

In 1983, Kundan Shah gave us the memorable “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. With sterling performances by Nasseruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and others, it tackled the issue of corruption in real estate and construction deals in a humorous vein. The movie ends with a cut-throat gesture made by both the protagonists, signifying the death of justice, fair play and truth in an age of corruption.

Fast forward to 2010, when Shyam Benegal gave us a heart-warming “Well Done, Abba”. A great satire on our public delivery failures, the movie captured the effect of rampant corruption on laymen. Armaan Ali, a driver, plans to dig a well in his farmland to ensure adequate water supply. Depending upon a government scheme, he soon learns the pitfalls involved. How he wriggles out of the situation forms the interesting part.

Getting Hired!

Of the several interview scenes one has witnessed in movies churned out by Bollywood, the one portrayed in “Golmal” (1979, Day_of_the_JackalDirector: Hrishikesh Mukherji) remains my favorite. Facing an eccentric industrialist, Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt), who believes in traditional values and thinks that all those without a moustache happen to be characterless, Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma (Amol Palekar), desparate to get a job, puts on a moustache and manages to charm the boss in the interview. He not only lands up with a job with a salary higher than expected, but also manages to eventually sing his way into the heart of the boss’ daughter!

The Day of the Jackal” (1973, Director: Fred Zimmermann) has the professional assassin appearing for an interview. The OAS team is astounded by the fee of half a million dollar quoted by him to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. The Jackal responds by saying that he deserves the fee, because he is the best in the business!

In both the cases, professional capability, coupled with self-confidence, won the day!

Industrial Relations

In “Namak Haraam” (1973, Hrishikesh Mukherji), the issue of rising trade unionism was portrayed effectively. Vicky (Amitabh Bacchhan) plans to defuse the situation by getting his friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) to become a union leader. In the process, Somu gets influenced by the workers’ point of view and a confrontation between the friends ensues. Love-u-mr-kalakaar

Management Lessons

In Rajshri Production’s 2011 offering, “Love U…Mr. Kalakaar”, Sahil, a struggling artist, is faced with the challenge of running his future father-in-law’s business empire more profitably, so as to be able to win the hand of his lady-love Ritu. In order to ensure success, Ritu, a fresh MBA, ends up giving marketing and HR lessons to Sahil. The movie, directed by S. Mansavi, also captured office politics effectively. Performance on the job and the strong bonding between the lovers eventually saves the day.

Self Confidence vs. Shyness and Diffidence  

Basu Chatterji treated us to a sumptuous fare in “Chhoti Si Baat” (1975). Both the hero and the heroine work in different offices. Love blossoms, but the hero is a simpleton and keeps losing to a colleague of the heroine – whether in social skills or in indoor games. Eventually, Arun (Amol Palekar) decides to undergo a crash course in self-confidence, comes back in style and wins the hand of Prabha (Vidya Sinha), the girl of his dreams!Guru

Finances, Share Markets

Satta Bazaar” (1959, Director: Ravinder Dave) portrayed the ruin of a family due to over indulgence in the share markets very effectively. In another Rajshri offering, “Jeevan Mrityu” (1970, Director: Satyen Bose), the hero uses share price manipulations to seek revenge from the bad guys who had got him convicted for a theft he had never committed. “Guru” (2007, Director: Mani Ratnam) was loosely based on the life of late Dhirubhai Ambani. It restored our faith in the equity markets and showed us how one’s fortune could get reversed and then regained!

Work-Life Balance

In “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein” (2012, Director: Pramod Joshi), the hero is so busy pursuing his career goals that he fails to attend his daughter’s arangetram. His family deserts him for a weekend. The movie is all about his regaining the work-life balance, and 220px-Bumbumboleposterarticulates the current dilemmas being faced by managers. There are some useful tips on the art of living, placing the movie on a spiritual plane.

Innovation

A high-risk business like producing movies can survive only on continuous innovation. Of late, the upwardly mobile middle class in India has opened up a new segment of the movie goers’ market. Bollywood themes are no longer confined to romantic duets, with the hero and the heroine chasing each other around trees. New themes have been experimented with, and the results are heartening. Consider movies like “Iqbal”, “Pa”, “Bum Bum Bole”, “Chak De India”, “Dor”, “Welcome to Sajjanpur”, “A Wednesday”, “Udaan”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Vicky Donor”, “Kahaani” and “Barfi”. The sheer diversity of themes is remarkable, even if there is a romantic angle deftly woven into some of the plots to ensure commercial survival. 

Giving Back to Society

Swades” (2004, Director: Ashutosh Govarikar) set a good example of how rural problems can be addressed by talented people who decide to chuck their lucrative careers abroad and return to their roots in India.

A recent IFC report showcases Indian Social Ventures like Husk Power Systems, WaterHealth International and Suvidhaa Infoserve. In the days to come, trust Bollywood to come up with more variants of the “Swades” theme!pati patni aur woh

Extra-marital Affairs

If “Pati Patni aur Woh” (1978, Director: B R Chopra) touched upon the boss going wayward, “Rang Birangi” (1983, Director: Hrishikesh Mukherji) brought home the issue of a bored housewife getting her busy husband’s affection back with the support of a mutual friend. Both were excellent comedies with serious messages; one showed us the futility of romancing a secretary, the other spoke of the need to attach a better value to the needs of our loved ones.

Corporate Intrigues

When it comes to the inner machinations of business empires and corporate feuds, one readily remembers “Kalyug” (1981, Director: Shyam Benegal) and “Corporate” (2009, Madhur Bhandarkar). Even though such efforts have been few and far between, the honesty with which these movies have got made speaks highly of the directors, producers and the script writers. The underbelly of over-reaching greed, unbridled ambition and business rivalry – all have been brought home very candidly in both these works.Duplicity

Duplicity” (2009, Director: Tony Gilroy), starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was an interesting take on corporate espionage. “Pyaar Impossible” (2011, Director: Jugal Hansraj) touched upon the issue of software piracy, though the basic theme was romantic in nature.

Team Work

When it comes to team work and bonding, who can forget the Jai and Veeru duo of “Sholay” fame? Personality-wise, both are poles apart. Jai, played by Amitabh, is sober, quiet and meditative. Veeru, played by Dharmendra, is loud and outspoken. The ways in which they go about wooing their sweethearts in the village are as different as, say, chalk and cheese. But when it comes to confronting Gabbar, they work in perfect unison, displaying a unique understanding and respect for each other. (1975, Director: Ramesh Sippy).

MOVIES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE ?!

In the scam-ridden exciting times that Indian managers operate in these days, new social developments are taking place. Thanks to a byte-hungry media, we have a torrent of CAG reports, court cases, corporate misadventures, information tumbling out of closets courtesy the RTI Act, sting operations and confidential conversations getting recorded and leaked at regular intervals.

One has no doubt that our movie makers can be relied upon to soon start churning out movies with scripts which highlight management and governance issues with a sharper focus.  Hopefully, these would capture the business world in a more balanced fashion – depicting not only the seamier and manipulative side but also the philanthropic and CSR side, besides depicting initiatives in the realm of social entrepreneurship!

(PS: You may also like to look up https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/management-lessons-from-movies-2-0)

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Oh, what a relief it is…to be able to leave a body behind, and to wait for a new one! Freedom from bondage, at last!

I just finished a rather fulfilling life. I write this to convey my deep gratitude to the Divine for giving me this opportunity. Now, I aspire to be allotted a brand new body, so I may fulfil the rest of my desires as well.

In the past 48 years or so, I had my destined quota of joys and sorrows. I relished a wide variety of sweets and savouries. Right from the famous pedas of Mathura to sandes of Bengal and from kulfi of Amritsar to payasam of Tamil Nadu, I have relished them all. Delhi’s famous kulche-chhole were always a favourite, and so were Indore’s pohe-jalebi and maava-baati. Mumbai’s vada-pav and Agra’s aloo-ki-tikki are not easily forgotten either.

The body which I tried to assist for so many years is now inching close to 60 years of age. I vaguely remember having made my appearance when it was just about 12 years of age. I had an exciting youth, when I bit and cut into all kinds of foods the body was partaking then. For the first 35 years, I enjoyed biting into sumptuous vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. Subsequently, with a focus on purely vegetarian fare, life became easier; the body gave up treating its stomach as a burial ground for all kinds of dead life forms.

I was one of the lower front teeth in the body. A dentist would typically refer to me as an ‘incisor’ tooth. The problem was that the upper front teeth did not like me at all. They kept hitting at me at all times. First, the jaw alignment was not right. Second, the person had an ‘A’ type personality. With a high level of anxiety in the system, he was often gnashing his teeth. Not surprisingly, he was diabetic and hypertensive. To add insult to injury, there was a strong addiction to tea.

Well, the result was that I lost my precious enamel and lustre pretty soon. My roots started getting exposed by the time the body was 55 years of age. Serious attempt was made to protect me by wearing various kinds of contraptions. However, time took its toll and finally I got so loose as to cause lot of discomfort to the body. Chewing became a difficult exercise. This resulted in digestive disorders. Through all this, I kept up a brave face and supported the body as long as I could.

Blissfully, my end came two weeks back, at a moment when the body was enjoying a delicious swiss chocolate, that too in the shadow of the Alps. I ensured that my parting with this body was sweet, harmonious and peaceful.

Much has been said about the painful experience of reclining in a dentist’s chair. However, I was lucky. Eventually, I had found a very compassionate and caring dentist. I shall be missing my visits to her clinic, which always had soft music playing in the background.

I know that my colleagues would be missing me by now. Even before I could come loose, another traumatized colleague of mine had gone underground; it still remains embedded in the gums. So, only 30 of them are now left behind. The front ones are already shaking in their foundations. I guess the body will get used to this new experience pretty soon, depending on the canines, pre-molars and molars to make the food digestible.

My gratitude is also due to the body assigned to me. It looked after my nourishment and hygienic needs rather well. I wish it well for as long as it lasts. If only it were to learn to smile more often, it would be happy to see its resemblance to the Bollywood legend, Dev Anand, who also had a front tooth missing!

Howsoever painful, it is not easy to let go of even a diseased part. I know how difficult it is for people to let go of their old habits, their fragile egos or their worldly possessions. Alas, a mere tooth like me is easily dispensable!

Just like me, there are diseased teeth in my country and in my society as well. There are rotten practices, evil thoughts and unpatriotic designs. There is inequality, corruption and mismanagement of resources. These are holding back my countrymen from enjoying prosperity and happiness.

On the upcoming occasion of India’s 65th Independence Day, I wish there are caring dentists who can either cure these ills or simply ‘extract’ the diseased aspects of our living.

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