While arrests happen, while bails are denied, while ministers brief the press, and while Anti Corruption Commission clears suspects, regular people like us simply sit and wonder if we are actually being subjected to hypnosis or if a bad spell of black magic has been cast on us. Just sharing, I have never believed in hypnosis. Yet I have always believed in black magic. Tanvir Mahmud, the Hallmark MD, had recited his own ‘loot mantra’, had stirred the evil potions in his bowl and had fooled many. While the administration has been busy trying to assuage the dent in people’s psyche.
Ten years from today, Tanvir Mahmud will walk free and become a hero. And he will not be an exception in any form or manner. Hallmarks have happened in our history for the last 30 years and Hallmarks will continue. The strangest thing is that with time, we the people tend to forget the past. The only thing we remember is what had directly affected us. If our own houses had once been burnt, we remember; if our own children had been abused, we remember; if our own lockers had ever been looted, we remember. Public memory is most effective when it comes to individual experiences. Most of the time, we tend to forget what happens to others. As a nation, we have stopped subscribing to emotional generality. And that is why pseudo entrepreneurs like Tanvir have slipped through the occasional lapses in our surveillance system and have become active players in the field.
Tanvir has amassed more than three thousand and five hundred crore taka, has built factories without any product running through his lines, has employed over 300 security personnel to protect him, yet has exported only a little over Tk 50 million in total over the last three years. I spoke to a New York based young importer the other day who had approached Hallmark with an order of 100000 pieces of T-shirts. The young man is known for his frugality and he usually squeezes his vendors for every cent worth of orders he places with them. Surprisingly, Tanvir Mahmud’s representatives had told him that price wasn’t an issue and that he just needed to give them the LC at any unit price he wished to pay. The young man was taken aback and was shocked at the novel approach. Much to Hallmark’s surprise, he did not place the order. I was happy with the incident. As much as the young Sikh businessman had learnt not to strangle the vendors, Hallmark too had lost yet another opportunity of swindling yet another victim.
Now, what will it take for Tanvir to rise to fame in less than ten years? Simple. Besides spending a few hundred crore taka on a few corrupt politicians and a few corrupt bank officials, he will have to resort to another new bend on the road. Tanvir this time will have to venture an extra couple of miles. Perhaps ten crore to a charity, another ten for music, a couple of crore more for sponsoring literary or cultural event and Voila! Tanvir will be all set. Oh I forgot, a foundation too would help a lot. Tanvir will also have to set up an art foundation to enrich his profile.
As I firmly believe on market morals of the society having changed for good, I sense that many of us get away with a messy slate packed with chalky traces just because of money and time. With time, we are able to cover our shame. It is like wearing a hijab to bury the bruises.
In reality, the political, social scandals and the financial scams are nothing beyond a 9 o’clock headliner for us with a polite print reminder the next morning. We work our frenzy up to a point where we follow the news developments up in news sites, in print and in talk shows. We become overnight analysts. Yet, when the news gradually dies with time, after a few years, we sit and dine with the same protagonists on the same table, forgetting what had happened a few winters ago. With time, the villain washes the poison down with power. And we all fall prey to that cleansing.
Let’s talk about land grabbing. A friend of mine took me down to a scenic place just the other day. I stood right by the water and looked at a surreal picture — a beautifully designed, colonial structure stood guarded by high walls. Upon enquiring, I was informed that it was the “club”. I wondered about who the members were and how their families looked like. With time, that particular group has acquired land beyond common imagination and today exercises adequate influence over the administration.
But how many of us have shunned their company, their newspapers, their channels and their products? Barely any. In no time, members of their families will rise to power, and buy their ticket to the parliament. Before we know it, we will be attributing new titles to them and will speak of them with the fullest possible respect.
The peculiarity of our psyche lies in our ability to forgive. A common sentence is: “He must have done some good in his life to have risen to such heights. Don’t you see how much he donates, how good he is towards his employees, how humble he is?” Morons like us fall for their small gestures where they are heavily covered in honourable fund raising campaigns or are sponsoring a noble cause. Little do we realize that it takes almost nothing for these corrupt businessmen, land-grabbers to spend a few hundred crores on the project called: “Public Eye Wash.” The worst is the media is often chosen as a partner. The same media, which had once run exposes on these corrupt entities, carries the Public Eye Washing stories with equal spirit. After all, there are always beneficial exchanges that take place behind the public curtain or morality…
Rubana Huq is a poet, researcher and an entrepreneur.