Nobody gave any hafta, therefore nobody received any hafta, and the goat screamed the loudest before being slaughtered. Luckily for all, Telgi died without what he said being taken seriously, and whatever he said was simply forgotten. He did name somebody in the news these days but why bother. And if you choose to drive East from Goa towards and then beyond Khanapur, then you know that the jungle keeps its secrets very well, and what was done to the Portugese currency and financial economy before Liberation was the training ground for many who followed – whether in stamp paper or in currency.
Stamp paper scams are now a matter of the past, though older issues still keep popping up, and the temptation to try and fiddle with official payments for matters like registrations and immoveable property transfers is still alive and doing well. Which is where the real game happens. When a piece of real estate is almost totally illegal or encroached in the first case, then where is the need to pay stamp duty and registration in the first and last and all in-between cases anyways? In a city where hotels with rooms and presumably food, beverage and laundry services can emerge on top of a bridge, then hafta, daily and hourly rates may also surely apply.
But these are all immovable properties, subject to the selective hammers and bulldozers, as those in Bollywood learn if they don’t fall in line with the main bijnus of the ancient seaport of Bombay. The prime mover of the economy from my homeport always was the funny stuff that Alice smoked to be happy or confused, take your pick, and still is the pillar on what the term financial capital emerges from, and if you still believe that the Mughals and Colonials landed up in India to buy spices and give railways, then that haze around your head can only define the dopamines in the air which emerge from the shiploads of opium that sailed out mostly towards China. What’s Bollywood got to do with it, then, you ask? Everything. Who else makes narcotics an aspirational and provides the laundry, ask yourself. nobody does it better, nobody did it better than James Bond, but now Bollywood has a bigger audience.
But change is in the air, the world over what was illegal yesterday, is legal today. In the era when I started working, carrying a bottle of Scotch or even 1 dollar more than 8 or subsequently 20 in your pocket was like a huge crime, and therefore outside every seaport were small shops which would pay good money even for empty bottles, better price if the carton or crate was also available. And now hemp, from which emerged manila rope that sailors like me who abhor the nylon ropes not just for the burns but the way they pollute our oceans and rivers, are arriving back in the market. Just imagine what that will do to the hafta bijnus if hemp goes legal?
Hafta emerges from laws that are not in larger public interest. Many of these hafta generating laws are throwbacks to a colonial age. Many are, conversely, brand new in an effort to keep the methods of the colonial days alive. The native doing his small bijnus is a target – she should not be permitted to grow past a particular point is the resolution that much of our lives are still designed around in India, by lawmakers and enforces, elected and selected alike. How did this happen, why are we still not free, read this book. It was banned by the Government of ChaCha and friends in 1959, and it still is.
“The Congress Party are the heirs of the British. They sit in the seats the British vacated, wearing Gandhi caps and oozing piety…. A government clerk won’t look at a poor man’s application unless it has a 5 rupee bribe attached to it. The Gandhi cap now signifies that its wearer is open to the highest bid. Congress Party politicians pose as sniveling saints while they plunder the peasants.”
If you want to really see how the Brits never left India, go no further than Ballard Estate, and take a walk around looking at the names on the buildings there. And figure out how those names got there. And also read this essay by Bibek Debroy. Hafta means that the Ruler has to be paid every week in a country where the Slaves are on salaries which are are, maybe, paid next month.
Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.
A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago.