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October 17, 2013

Book Review - 136 : I refused to Bribe

Author : Gireesh Sharma
Publisher : General Press

Jitesh, a senior bank clerk, rejects a business loan to an influential industrialist, Satish. The latter seeks intervention from a senior bank officer named Arora who conspires to get Jitesh removed. A few days later at the bank, Jitesh helps an unknown customer, who claims to be illiterate, to fill his withdrawal form. The customer is later identified as a conman who fraudulently withdraws money from someone else’s account. Arora manipulates the situation and on charges of abetting a crime, Jitesh is named in the chargsheet.

Jitesh is suspended and faces a judicial inquiry which lasts for 14 long and painful years. At every step he gets the opportunity to pay a bribe and get reprieve, but he adamantly refuses to give a bribe. His plea for innocence falls on deaf ears of vigilance officers, bank officials, CID officers, court clerks and even the judge. Does Jitesh succeed to overcome adversity and his adversaries or does he succumb to all kinds of pressures?

Author makes a brave effort in portraying corruption across generations starting from 1950. Sharma nicely builds up the characters including Jitesh's parents, his wife and children. He provides a back up human story to even the wrong ones - namely Arora and Satish. Even though it fails to portray bribery in today's world as the story ends in early 90s, it does ring a bell how tough it can be for an honest man to survive the clutches of dishonest men all around him?

The biggest problem of the book is its daunting length of 300 odd pages which is way too much for paper thin material like this. The narrative is ultimately saved by author's attention to detail. From the banks hierarchy to the changing social norms across decades to the changing economic preferences of children, author makes a valiant effort to showcase the pain of the central protagonist.

I am going with 3/5 for Gireesh Sharma's 'I refuse to bribe'. It has sincere intentions and a competent writing style. I wish it was much shorter to make a better impact on the readers. In its current form, it's a one time read for any one who feels strongly about bribery and corruption in India.

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