Many decades ago when I was growing up (in a simpler era when crooked people were called cheats, not “ethically challenged”; when a “face lift” was generally given to a building, not a visage ravaged by time; when “silicone valley” was understood to refer to Pamela Anderson’s cleavage and not to a techie wonderland) it was easy to have trust in people or things. The only objects that were universally not trusted were politicians, bureaucrats and shop-keepers (something, by the way, which still holds good today). Other than that, however, having trust was more the norm than the exception. Not any more, or (as the Raven in Maupassant’s poem would have said: No More). We live today in a miasma of deficits.
We have the usual suspects, of course: Current Account Deficit, on which careers of Finance Ministers and Secretaries have been made and broken; Food Deficit/ Nutrition Deficit , which sustains many more careers in the FAO and WHO; Monsoon Deficit which plays out like an Agatha Christie novel every year since it is revealed only at the end; Dialogue Deficit, a delicious term coined by Kailash Satyarthi, which is an insidious hint at Narendra Modi’s stoic silence; Budget Deficit, which refers to the amount siphoned off from the state’s coffers by well connected carpet baggers; Neurological Deficit, a term used by doctors when they don’t have a clue about the patient’s condition, which is most of the time.
But in modern India, which by some is considered to be the Neo-Vedic India but is actually an India of smart phones and stupid people, a new type of Deficit has emerged – the Trust Deficit, an entomological coinage for which the nerd responsible should, in my view, be awarded at least the Sahara Shri if not the Padma Shri. The Trust Deficit is today all-pervasive: one simply cannot accept anything or anyone at face value.
Take, for instance, the professions. The Doctor you are consulting (at Rs. 1200/ per visit) may not be one at all: he may have been recruited by Vyapam, one of more than 4000 we are told, who never sat for the entrance test or even the MBBS examination. There are very good chances that he cannot tell the difference between a testimonial and a testicle, or between a heart by-pass and the Hapur by-pass, or between an esophagus and a sarcophagus. No wonder, then that there are more people taking out life insurance policies than health insurance ones !
Consider lawyers next. Ever since the ex Law Minister of Delhi, Mr. Tomar, rendered exemplary public service by spilling the beans, we now learn that a large percentage of lawyers in Delhi’s courts may have bogus law degrees. This has been admitted by the Bar Council of India itself which has now asked all Bar Associations to verify the degrees. How can we repose any trust in such lawyers who probably think that beggary and buggery are the same thing, whereas one is an offence while the other is a social condition? No wonder so many cases are being prosecuted under Sec. 377 of the IPC: I have a feeling most of the accused must be beggars, poor buggers! No wonder too that there are more than 400,000 poor sods in jail – their lawyers probably think that that “Guilty” is a short sentence because it has only one word !
Consider next our Professors, ostensibly men of learning weighed down by the Phd’s they have acquired over the years. It now turns out that not all these Phd’s have been obtained by burning the midnight oil: quite a few have been acquired by substituting grease in place of the oil. There are reported to be institutes in Ghaziabad and elsewhere which churn out the degrees on an assembly line basis: fool’s cap paper is inserted at one end and fool-proof Phd degrees emerge at the other ! And these Professors are entrusted with the task of leading our youth into the light. No wonder then that CII finds that 80% of these youngsters are unemployable. No wonder also that my son is convinced that Newton discovered gravity, not under an apple tree, but on a toilet seat: the revelation was indeed inspired by a round falling object but that object was not an apple but something that rhymes with the word “chit.”
The same trust deficit has blighted my view of women. Time was, when you saw a beautiful woman you knew that she was created by a God who had an eye for good things. No more (the Raven again.). This manufacturing has now been outsourced – chances are that a plastic surgeon has much more to do with her looks than a God. It now takes years to shape an hourglass figure, and those stunning curves and angelic face that took your breath away faster than the Diwali smog probably belong to a cyborg. The firm provocative bust line is probably the result of a procedure called Exilis; those suicidal curves would be sculpted by Coolscupt and Skin Needling; that taut, wrinkle-free skin owes much more to Ultherapy and Thermage than aerobics; that teenager face has probably been pulled into place by a Vampire Facelift; the sunset glow on the face is probably the work of Mesotherapy and Vitamin Drips, that perfect derriere a paean to Liposuction. How times have changed ! In our time, insofar as women are concerned, what you saw was what you got; today what you see is what she paid for! No longer does beauty lie in the eye of the beholder, it lies in the scalpel of the plastic surgeon.
In the same vein, eating out nowadays is filled with suspicion and distrust. I am mostly a vegetarian and in the old days simply looked for a “Vaishneo” or ” Pure vegetarian” restaurant. But I can no longer trust these appellations, thanks to fanatic nutritionists and dieticians. I now have to further check whether they are Flexitarian (mostly vegetarian but occasionally serving meat), Pescatarian (no meat, only fish), Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (eggs and dairy products permissible), Lacto-vegetarian (no meat or eggs but serving other dairy products), or hard core Vegan (no animal products of any type, period). By the time I’ve figured this out (without the aid of my smart phone) and whether Regan was so named because he was a born-again vegan, I usually settle for papri chhat.
The trust factor is even more invidious if you are a non-vegetarian, a more recent phenomenon. A non-veg guy can no longer trust what meat he’s eating. Earlier the doubt was whether it was chicken or crow, mutton or dog; now its whether it is mutton or beef. And if it IS beef, then is it cow, calf, bull, bullock or buffalo? Once you’ve sorted that out (and not been beaten to a keema by the Gau Suraksha Samiti or Sanatan Sanstha or Bajrang Dal) you still have to figure out whether its legal to eat it in your particular state/city. Most states do not allow cow/calf slaughter but its permissible in the NE states and in West Bengal. Most states allow bull/ox/bullock slaughter but at least seven don’t. Ditto for the buffalo. At least six states don’t allow the slaughter of any species of this bovine genus. And even where the slaughter is permitted the animals have to be more than 10-15 years of age. Try and make sense of all this. And, needless to state, you can’t trust the police on this- they’ll arrest you first and ask you to produce the birth certificate ( the animals’, not yours) later, while they sample the seized food itself. Their constantly expanding bellies is testament to how busy they have been in this area of law enforcement of late.
So you now have a sense, I hope, of the trust deficit we all have to live with these days – nothing can be taken at face value. Things have come to such a pass that I don’t even trust myself now. Why, just the other day I was at this party and my eyes happened to rest on this beautiful, elegant woman with a charming, glowing face. On a sudden impulse I went over and kissed her. I was informed by my friends later that she was my wife.
See what I mean?
|The author retired from the IAS in December 2010. A keen environmentalist and trekker he has published a book on high altitude trekking in the Himachal Himalayas: THE TRAILS LESS TRAVELLED.
His second book- SPECTRE OF CHOOR DHAR is a collection of short stories based in Himachal and was published in July 2019. His third book was released in August 2020: POLYTICKS, DEMOCKRAZY AND MUMBO JUMBO is a compilation of satirical and humorous articles on the state of our nation. His fourth book was published on 6th July 2021. Titled INDIA: THE WASTED YEARS , the book is a chronicle of missed opportunities in the last nine years. Shukla’s fifth book – THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER’S DOG AND OTHER COLLEAGUES- was released on 12th September 2023. It portrays the lighter side of life in the IAS and in Himachal.
He writes for various publications and websites on the environment, governance and social issues. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla.
He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/