This was bound to happen. Bad habits have a way of creeping up on you. You start small, making a few bucks by adding a bit of water to the milk. You work hard at the job, slowly learning the tricks of the trade. Before long, you are a champion milk-waterer.
Naturally you think it’s time to branch out, time to apply the wisdom you have gleaned in a different line of business. You look around and find the firecrackers business suits you fine. Dud firecrackers are common — for every dozen bombs that go off, one or two burn harmlessly without exploding. What better business from the adulterator’s point of view? So you get into the fireworks business and you prosper. Ah, life is sweet.
But it’s also dull. You look around and see roads crumbling, houses falling, people getting blinded by spurious hooch. At the Metro sites, bridges are collapsing and cranes tumbling. You look at the person they called an iron man and realise he’s actually made of tin. “Could I in all honesty say I’m contributing my fair share to the chaos?” is a question you frequently ask yourself. That is when you realise you have come to the tide in your affairs which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of your life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
So you decide to get into explosives. It is, after all, the next logical step from firecrackers. You find that nobody expects real explosives to explode with any degree of regularity either. “When fighter planes keep crashing and missiles miss their targets, what’s the big deal with explosives not exploding?” says the military friend who buys your supplies. And so you graduate to selling grenades. Within months, newspapers headlines scream, “One in three Indian grenades a dud,” and a quiet smile of satisfaction plays around your lips.
But even you could not have imagined your biggest opportunity. India wants to test a thermonuclear bomb and, as a reputed defence contractor, you are entitled to work on this prestigious project. It’s so simple — all you do is call upon your years of expertise in watering milk and deftly mix a bit of ditchwater with the heavy water you were supposed to supply for the nuclear reaction. Add to that a supply of urea disguised as uranium and hey presto, you have the makings of a very dud nuclear bomb. So naturally, instead of the blast they were all hoping for, all they had was not even a frizzle, but a fizzle. Which naturally frazzled them no end. But you cared not a jot, for had you not adulterated a nuclear bomb?
But, alas, scarcely a decade after you savoured your greatest triumph, the cup of joy has been dashed from your lips. For word has spread that the Chandrayaan mission died a premature death once its radio stopped transmitting. Inquiries revealed that one of the contractors had simply gone to the market and bought a Chinese radio for the satellite. Obviously, it lasted less than a month — the last one I bought lasted a mere fortnight. And thus an even greater adulterator than you has made his mark.
Never mind, a new opportunity is at hand. All you have to do is get yourself enrolled as a supplier for the Mars mission. Perhaps you could, with your immense expertise in these matters, persuade them to buy black-market kerosene as rocket propellant?
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.