A bad worksman blames his tools. We are trained from a tender age to find scapegoats that may be animate, lifeless and even non-existent forces for passing the buck, for our own errors, blunders or mishaps. When a child, in the midst and thick of its innocent plays and pranks, hits a door-frame on its own and starts crying inconsolably, the mother rushes towards it, lifts the child and to pacify the infant, would bang and thrash the door frame conveying in the process to the wailing little one that the wrong doer is punished for harming it. The child's shrills gradually subside and it smiles at last as though justice is meted out.

A lesson is imparted here and it is steadily ingrained in the child that the culprit is someone else. When it grows up into a boy and hurts himself during a game, the mother looks for alibis and victims to fix the blame on for the injury caused. If such a scapegoat happens to be a neighbour's child, battle lines would be drawn to wage a war with the ward's parents. Every sort of verbal exchange, almost bordering and sometimes actually culminating in even physical indulgence would ensue. Meanwhile, the children, descendants of the warring factions in these created scenes, ironically brush off the incident and resume play only to come back at leisure later to fuel the burning embers, reminding us of our infamous cricket diplomacy — where there would be talk of imminent war on the border between the generals — the cricketers from both nations would exchange pleasantries, friendly, festival and fierce matches and what not.

Uncle Sam was hurt beyond words when the Twin Towers were reduced to rubble. His super intelligent men identified the scapegoats. There was a war cry. It was declared that world nations were either on the side of terror or against it. The allies sung in chorus. Iraq was nailed and mauled critically as it was rumoured to have harboured the evil doers. Its premier was hounded out and hung up. In an anti-climax, they found out that there were no demonised weapons of mass destruction nor was the nation responsible for the crime. The poor country was badly bruised and battered beyond repair and redemption, in the meanwhile.

Uncle Sam withdrew from the scene since, leaving the festering and bleeding wounds wide open. It dawned upon the world that the brutalised and sinned premier was administering things better than the unwelcome big brother, prior to the latter's arrival and ill-adventure. No questions were asked nor the (ulterior) motives pinpointed; neither was the culprit crucified for the colossal blunder. The blame game, however, continues unabated still.

The scene then shifted to Libya, one more Iraq in ruins now, and the ire is now cruising towards Iran. As a species, we rejoice finding scapegoats to fix the blame for our ills. In our country, it is more pronounced. The opposition blames the ruling party for all ills and woes of the country. The ruling dispensation points to the legacy inherited from its previous regime. All deem themselves holy cows and their actions sacrosanct.

Some people blame distant stars and planets, courtesy astrologers, for their self-inflicted ills. Students blame teachers for poor performance. Parents blame schools for poor results. Every element in the universe, animate or otherwise, other than us, is found fault with. Political parties blame the Election Commission for their debacles. Farmers blame it on rains, excess or lack of it. Doctors blame it on patients and vice versa. Husbands point a finger at wives and vice versa. Mothers-in-law blame daughters-in-law. People blame governments. Everyone is more righteous than the other.

A father hit his head absent-mindedly against a lowered threshold in his house and stared infinitely at the door frame, demonstrating the common mindset. Had he the power of the sages of yore, the poor thing would have been reduced to ashes instantly. Our proverbial office bosses blame it on lower ranks for every other ill of the trade. Our cricketers blame pitches. Australian cricketers and their fans slanderously blame those playing against them right on the field (fashionably and permissibly called “sledging.”) to the point of frustrating and causing the batsman to leave the crease by hook or by crook.

As a banker, I have amusing instances to remember of this blame game. We financed a dairy unit. Even after the permitted gestation period lapsed, the loan repayment did not commence. When the borrower was visited at his farm, he coolly blamed it on the milch animals that did not conceive and hence there was no milk yield and obviously no income. (It is a different matter, of course, when my boss, hurriedly, unmindfully and rather innocently remarked, “Not conceiving? Don't worry. We will send our field officer.” Till date, he did not know why all the villagers assembled there laughed uncontrollably).

Normally borrowers have very valid reasons to blame it upon umpteen outside forces, seen and unseen and tangible or otherwise, for not repaying loans though they have ample money for all their personal requirements, be it house-building, marriage and other social and family ceremonies.

Once I received a call from my boss at our Regional Office. He fumed and thundered, “What is happening in your branch?” Even before I could collect my wits and poise, he rained, “The branch nameboard is dusty and rusted, the front-yard is stinkingly cluttered and your main banking hall is agog with litter strewn all around. You know, as manager, you are responsible for things in your branch?” In all my humility, I explained that the woman sweeper was in advanced stage of attaining motherhood. Even before I could finish my submission, he poured out harshly, “So what? You are responsible for the situation” and banged the phone. (Thank God, my wife or the sweeper's husband were not there to overhear the unintentional gush of words! “Blame it on managers,” is very liberally practised in banks.)

A very good client and friend of mine narrated the extremes of this blame game, precisely 32 years ago. His friend had a loyal and honest worker at home for several years and he got him married and settled him in life comfortably, all at his own expense. He took every care of the worker's needs. To supplement the servant's post-marriage income, he shifted him to his shop and employed his wife as the domestic servant. One day, to pay the electricity bill, he took out a hundred rupee note. At that time, the maid servant came into the room to sweep the floor. The owner made way for her leaving the money in the room. After finishing the work, the servant left but the owner could not find the money kept there. He summoned her husband and complained about the lady's conduct. She was taken to task by her husband and the poor lady swore she never saw the money. Not in a position to bear the shame/blame inflicted upon her for no crime of hers, she ended her life.

A month later, when my friend's friend happened to retrieve the electricity bill, the hundred rupee note fell off it. He realised the terrible wrong done to the maidservant due to his forgetfulness. From that day onwards, he suffered daily death due to remorse till he breathed his last. That happened very soon, his being unable to bear the torture by his conscience.

Blame game has to end. Passing the buck has to stop. We should learn to admit our mistakes and be responsible for our actions. One who errs should own it. Passing the blame and rolling over the buck may prove costly sometimes. A society or a nation progresses when people, more so in high places, who falter, are honest enough to admit their mistake rather than scouting and scurrying for sacrificial goats. It is not said for nothing that “denial of a fault makes it double.”

(The writer's email ID is pushpasaran@yahoo.co.in)

Keywords: human interest

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