In the national bathroom

Old Moosa Bhai had been worried lately. His income tax case had been pending before the lady I.T.O. and he needed it to be decided in his favor since the next date of filing returns was only a couple of weeks away. He had paid money under the table to everyone in her department, yet his case was still undecided. “You’ll have to speak to madam yourself,” said the lady officer’s assistant. Moosa Bhai knew what this meant. “Why don’t you take the bribe money from me and give it to her?” he asked the assistant. “No way,” was the reply. “She’s the niece of a VVIP, and if she’s offended, she’ll have me transferred to a place like Chichawatni where there’d be no chance of earning more than my measly salary, which isn’t enough to buy petrol for my car,” said the assistant.

The old man wished there was some other way to persuade the powerful lady, but when he saw there was no other alternative, he sent in his card and was invited into her office. He said, “My file’s been lying on your table for two months now, yet my case hasn’t been decided.” She opened the file, looked inside and said, “This will take some more time.” Old Moosa Bhai cleared his throat, ran his fingers through his luxuriant white beard and said, “I understand. So I’ll pay you what I gave the officer who was in your seat last year”. She pretended to be shocked. “You think I want a bribe from you?” she yelled. “Here, I’m deciding your case right now in your favor. And don’t ever offer me money to do something for which I’m paid by the government.” The old man knew it couldn’t be that easy. “When will I get the signed order?” he asked. “You’ll get it in a couple of days,” she said.

Three days later a man arrived with the signed order. “How much?” asked the old man. “Five thousand for me, fifty thousand for her,” he said. “That’s too much!” exclaimed Moosa Bhai. “In the national bathroom, everyone is naked,” the man said with a smile.

6 thoughts on “In the national bathroom”

  1. @ James: “in the national bathroom, everyone is naked” is an Urdu expression. Suppose I told someone that I’m a 100% honest man, that I’d never take a bribe if I were a government official, the response would be “in the national…….”. It apparently means that all men in Pakistan (or India, where Urdu is widely spoken) are greedy and no one is honest.

  2. Shakir, I don’t understand the punchline: “In the national bathroom, everyone is naked.” How does that justify cumshaw and baksheesh? Would you please trouble yourself to clarify that?

    Official business isn’t done that way here in the US; public officials are well paid by the governments, and under-the-table cash transfers to officials to promulgate the client’s business are crimes, called “bribery” if the client offers cash, or “extortion” if the official demands cash. I have seen that it is regular practice in many countries, where officials have to purchase their positions rather than qualify for them, but not here at street-level. (Public elected officials’ “paybacks” to campaign donors are another story entirely.)


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