Bribes - Changes over time
When I was still a little boy, Bribes were considered shameful. People who took bribes were talked about in my house in hushed tones. (we are taking lower middle class perceptions here).
Bribes were more commonplace in real life, movies. We used to talk about how friends and relatives who were known to take or give bribes werent being punished by god and seemed to be living more comfortably ! The taboo was slowly lifting.
Bribes were legalized thanks to terms like "capitation fee" for college admissions and "fast track" fee for jumping the line in telephone exchanges. We are talking about the sprouting of "self financing colleges" in the month or so of Janaki's Chief Ministership. These things were considered bad things at one time. But most of these colleges have developed over time and are now producing high quality engineering graduates who have taken the world by surprise. Today, the average Chennaivasi has a cell phone and those land line connections which required an 8000 rupee payment (instead of the 3000) for jumping the line are long forgotten. People get used to the concept that given the extra payment, we can get faster access to phones, education, bisleri water and Gods like Thiruppathi Balaji and Madurai Meenakshi.
Bribes are a common theme in tamil movies today (Vivek's comedy in general, Anniyan etc. are classic examples) and Tamil Serials (even today in some serial my wife was watching, a cop takes bribes collected by his subordinates and hands it back to an old man!) and not to mention, in real life. The derogatory connotation seems to be only in movies and teleserials. The average man has either accepted it or legitimized it. But reality is that, now you are forced to give the bribe and sugarcoat it in other terms. Lower middle class folks who were trying to balance their budgets are now doing the same thing but instead of bargaining with mango vendors and dress sellers, they are now trying to minimize the bribes they have to give !
Currently a lot of companies in India have a scheme of paying their employees a fixed income and a non fixed income (?!) which includes a bunch of allowances. Employees exploit this system where they claim medical expenses, petrol charges, haircuts and what not with the added advantage of not having to pay taxes on these amounts. This is a legitimate way to bribe employees. While these are not like stock options, they are the future of payscales in the country. Pretty soon, bribes as a term will not exist. It will be fully legitimized as "variable pay" and an auction type capitalistic system will evolve for the rich and a "fixed pay" system will be set up for the lowest common denominator. The people who cannot afford much will pay a minimum for the poorest form of any service (be it in terms of time, quality or quantity) and the people who can afford anything will bid for better quality service where quality is proportional to pay.
What is the downside ?
1. Honest people who delude themselves into thinking that bribes are bad get hurt : example is the honest priest in Pazhani (everyone has to get with the program !).
2. People like me who feel that gods should be bribe exempt, get hurt. My wifes ex-colleague from Bombay came to visit us when we were on vacation. He said "hi, why is it that we have different tickets for balaji temple and more money means faster access.. i havent seen that in any temple in the north or west!". My answer to him was that Balaji was a busy god and he has more demand than supply (only so many people can pass by his shrine in any given day and so his stock price is up!.
3. People who cross the borderline between bribery and thievery like the winch operator who makes you sit on the side if you dont pay extra or a temple employee who yells at people in a temple line but lets you bypass the line if you pass him a fiver hurt people.
There is no downside till everyone gets on the same page, but until then...