Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The native cunning

"The domestic life, character and the customs of the natives of India", written by James Kerr, Principal of the Hindoo College, Calcutta and published in 1865 contains this passage which provides evidence that ‘corruption’ is an inborn skill among natives of India and has been practised for ages.

A friend of mine, some ten years after his arrival in India, entered upon a new office. At the head of his establishment was a very able native clerk. At first, and for a considerable time, this clerk was most attentive, most obliging, most accommodating. Whatever went wrong was immediately put right by his intervention and assiduous attention. The books and accounts were all kept in the most exact and beautiful order. Every wheel moved with the utmost regularity.
For a good while not the slightest deviation could be detected from the strictest propriety. At length, when the saheb's mind was supposed to be lulled to sleep, a slight inaccuracy slipped into the accounts. A slight overcharge was made, but so slight as almost to elude detection. This went on in an increasing ratio, until it became necessary to check it. And what was the result of such interference? This able clerk, finding that his master kept a vigilant eye upon him, thought fit to change his tactics. He secretly threw impediments in the way. Things no longer went on so smoothly. Quarrels and misunderstandings were frequent among the servants and subordinates. Workmen could no longer be found so easily.

My friend perceived that all charges incurred on his own private account icreased enormously. Palankeen bearers, shoemakers, carpenters, masons and boatmen, one and all demanded higher wages. There could be no doubt that the native clerk had a hand in it. There was a clearly defined object to be gained. The whole scheme was devised with a view to open the saheb's eyes to the fact that he might diminish his private expenses considerably, that he might save himself a world of trouble, and live in peace and comfort, provided he allowed the native clerk to have a little more of his own will. His conduct, you will observe, was founded upon cool calculation. It was founded upon a comprehensive survey of the principles of human nature, and an enlightened appreciation of his own interests.

Circumstances have here developed a type of character of a very peculiar kind. The natives of India find their country occupied by a stronger arm and stronger will than their own. All political situations of direct influence are filled by strangers. What are they to do to win back the power they have lost? They have recourse to woman's art, to cunning. The peculiarity of their position sharpens their faculties, and they acquire a keenness of intellect, of which Europeans have but a faint idea.

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