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      Volume 11 |Issue 30| July 27, 2012 |


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For What?

Aasha Mehreen Amin


One of the hardest lessons in life is the realisation that you are not always right, that once in a while, no matter how unbelievable it may seem, it is possible that you have made a mistake. If you have crossed the mountain of admitting it to yourself, which one may add, is quite a struggle in itself, the pricklier task is to admit it to others, specifically to people who have been wronged by your stupidity and false pride.

While it is tough enough for ordinary folk to feel remorse and then go about saying they are sorry, for individuals whose egos have been massaged like Kobe cows, it is near to impossible. Politicians and government officials, particularly, are completely blind to their faults or have an amazing ability to pretend they don't have any. Even in the wake of blatant evidence, say when a footbridge crumbles to dust because of substandard materials used during construction, the official in charge will try to say that it was because of too many people trying to cross over (not in the otherworldly sense, just the other side of the road).

Corrupt and inefficient government bodies tend to blame each other when some embarrassing situation arises that evokes public rage. When city dwellers scream in desperation about the derelict state of their city, the city corporation will talk of budget constraints, lack of manpower, equipment, mosquito repellent and so on. The ministry concerned will say they are giving enough money to the city corporation and the government will say they are 'looking into the matter very seriously' if it is election time or simply declare that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion by media exaggeration. Meanwhile, the garbage piles up and reaches different levels of purification, the pot-holes get deadlier and mosquitoes mutate into intrepid insecticide-resistant blood suckers.

Apologising, for errant public officials, is like cutting off a piece of one's body and feeding it to the dogs. It is painful, humiliating and may actually cost a very important job, say a seat in parliament or a coveted mayor-ship. This is how the word 'cover up' was born. Even toddlers have been found hiding broken vases in the freezer in an attempt to avoid parental meltdown, not realising that at some point somebody of authority will need a few ice-cubes. Similarly, many an official has tried to conceal their - ahem - 'irregularities', through false documents, forged signatures and blatant lying to the media only to be embarrassed by reports that their cows (so that their children can have fresh milk) have been discovered by some obdurate reporter, feasting on grass near Dhanmondi Lake. Usually flat denial is the common practice, even if the cows in question have the official's name branded on them in order to separate them from cattle belonging to other officials, unofficially of course. Anyone could be by that name, says he, the fool of a cowherd was under the influence and was speaking nonsense, a malicious rival candidate in the upcoming elections is behind it.

In such desperate cases, saying they were sorry to the public, would no doubt, be committing political suicide and attaining permanent Dunce-hood in society. Sure it would have unburdened a little bit of that guilt that forms a lump in the throat while gulping those iftar delicacies. But what's a bit of esophageal obstruction, a few sleepless nights and regular anxiety attacks regarding the possibility of a long jail term, when one can enjoy the hidden opportunities that fate has provided through one's position – the apartment complexes in one's name, the phenomenal bank balances, the trips abroad and gold jarwa sets for the wife? Apology? You must be joking.


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