There was a knock at the door. Who could be there at this dead of night? I became all the more nervous and anxious. The door opened slowly meanwhile with a creaking sound, and a tall human-like figure emerged, as if from nowhere. I was terrified, and sprang up with a shudder. Is it a ghost story unfolding in real life? I wondered. My lips were dry and my body were trembling like a dry leaf. I was at a loss to know what was happening around me that was so weird.
I was agape with wonder but gathered courage, enough to react. With mixed feelings of fear and hatred, I shot back: "You boastful scoundrel! You do not have a right to be in a civil society. Don't you have any shame left to pose respectable like this?" My voice was loud, and wavering with intense rage.
The man was seemingly undisturbed. "Who said, I am not respectable? Are you blind to the reality?" He said with some hurt feelings.
"Yes, yes, you have no takers ...” I stammered.
Mr Corruption could notice my discomfort. He gave an atrocious laugh: "Young man, I pity your make-belief world. I am so well known, so deeply entrenched in your so called ‘civil society' that none can deny my existence."
I was vocal now: "The story is a distasteful one. I do admit, there are a few who are not totally honest. But can you really generalise? One who generalises generally lies. Our people in general detest corruption and want to lead a clean transparent life. What do you have to say on that?"
The man in the black cloak roared, "Look, I have sheer contempt for what you call ‘transparency'. How many of you guys really care for transparency?"
I shot back: "Mr Corruption, you’re indeed ill-informed. The NGOs have now vowed to root you out of the society in no time. Just wait and watch. You will not survive for long.
Mr Corruption was in no mood to accept defeat: "1 admit, there are a few with traditional outlook who look down upon me with contempt. But am I not becoming more acceptable of late? The other day, I was concerned, and seriously worried, as one of my patrons got trapped-and was caught red handed accepting his justifiable 'speed-money'. I thought, I would be out.
But I was thrilled when I discovered that the man got scot-free after having bribed his way out of the trouble. Those who trapped him got their price. Fantastic! Don't you think, I have a very bright future?"
He continued: "Some people while talking of honesty do not know what they are talking about. Take the incidence of the other day. The girl got down with her friend from the overcrowded bus, and screamed: 'I have to pay my bus fare. I need to..... I have to pay that': On being told to forget it, she was emphatic: 'My father told me that honesty always pays.' Her companion scolded her and said 'Why waste your time here? Nobody really cares for your two-rupee coin.' She however was insistent, and made the bus halt.
Passengers had to get down for making room for the girl to call the conductor. In a couple of minutes, the girl was back, triumphant, declaring: 'Look, didn't I tell you that honesty pays. I gave the conductor a five-rupee note; he gave me the ticket, and returned me eight rupees, taking mine to be a ten-rupee note, Honesty does pay!"
As a parting shot, he concluded:"Don't you think, I stand a fair chance to prosper? And prosper will I be by eating into the conscience of those who still have some."
"No, no, you cannot paint all the people with the same brush. Evil cannot triumph over the good. We have an overwhelming majority of honest people..... those who can differentiate the Good from the Bad. And I can tell you, we are going to wipe you off your existence, if the corrupt few, that are still there, are dealt with sternly." I cried.
Mr Corruption did not respond. He smiled indulgently, as if considering my argument too weak to respond. That made my blood boil. I cried with anger: "You evil scoundrel, Get out, out from my room .... out. .. out ... "
"What's happened? Why are you shrieking? Are you OK?"
It was a different voice, the familiar one of my wife. I opened my eyes with a jolt, and found myself perspiring on the bed, out from the dream-land. Yes, it was a dream, a horrible one. The words “eating into the conscience of those, who still have some" were still echoing within me more as a challenge to those who are righteous and transparent. I murmured, "Oh Corruption, the great evil, your challenge has got to be accepted collectively, firmly and decisively".