Finesse with Fines

It was one of those warm autumn afternoons of March. I was preparing for my trip to Kolkata to conduct a program for one of my clients. I received a call from a reliable source to inform me that my case under scrutiny with the IT department will not be resolved easily in spite of the documents I had provided to them. I was also given to understand that the case can be concluded by paying a sum of Rs. 25K to the officer who was dealing in this matter.

Incidentally, I was undergoing a lingering turmoil within my mind over the last couple of months about an issue concerning a dilemma that had made me quite restless. This article is based on these two factors viz. the case and the dilemma and an important decision which I am about to take as a conclusion thereof. To discuss the matter further, first I need to briefly inform my readers a few important aspects relating my profession and financial status.

I work as a freelance trainer. My principal subject being ‘human attitudes’, I have to conspicuously deal with ethical values, principles and moral codes. I have passionately chosen this profession at a fairly matured stage of my life when I had voluntarily relinquished a coveted job and made a number of formidable sacrifices only because of the outstanding quality and value that was intrinsic in my new role and it matched with my temperament. My training quality have since been widely appreciated and accepted by most of my clients and I have never regretted the price and sacrifice that I paid and made in attaining this pedestal of a significant trainer, speaker and motivator.

On the flipside, I have not made money or acquired even reasonable wealth for myself over the last 15 years through which I have consistently and uninterruptedly worked as a trainer. It is strange that large numbers of my students count on my suggestions and advice for their own success and prosperity; but I have personally failed to attain the so-called financial success. I hear myself being referred as a strict trainer and a person who is unwilling to make compromises. There are many individuals who have left my association complaining of my similar attitudes. Many of them had also declared that mine was not the way for making money and getting name and fame. It is not that I had never wanted to make money. Somehow, I never succeeded making money. It is also true that I never found myself willing to devote my time and energy for anything beyond improving my training skills, which is why, I perhaps did not learn to change myself to a money-making-kind.
I do a business worth 10-12 lacs a year. Most of the amount I earn is spent for clearing my loans as well as business outstanding dues of the past. I have limited staffs; they earn very reasonable salaries. In 1997 I had a severe business loss in Mumbai. It was then, when I took those loans and built up a heavy sum as outstanding dues to my advertising agency. The total payable has been about 20 lacs, of which I have paid up nearly 17 lacs over the last ten years. At home, I only have my 78 years old mother to look after. I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. I do require good dress for my training, some of which I buy; the rest, I receive as loving gifts from my friends. In a nutshell, a maximum sum of 4 lacs per annum is required for my sustenance. I don’t own a house. I own a property worth 1.43 lacs in a village near Shantiniketan, West Bengal, where I intend to stay. I have no bank balance and saving for my future. I have recently given my car to one of my close friends to pay off my loan worth 2.25 lacs, which I had taken from her. The formal transfer is pending. It is true that I have never maintained my accounts well. For this, the auditors, who look after my returns, always brush me up.

Now the dilemma. There is an obvious disparity between my status and profession. On one hand, my role as a professional speaker, trainer and consultant demands that I carry a high profile image in the society. However, this image does not at all match with my real life position for here I maintain and a mediocre life style. I am sure, if any of my clients visits my small and orthodox two-roomed rented flat with very ordinary amenities, they, most certainly, will be confused. Some of them will surely rate me among the thriftiest folks. As I am aware of this potential anomaly, I avoid inviting my friends and associates to my residence. Personally, I hate parties and pseudo socializations. Many of friends even do not know that I do travel by auto-rickshaws, metro rails in Delhi and even by local buses and suburban trains in Kolkata. There was a time when I used to feel a little uncomfortable, nervous and embarrassed due this and even used to avoid public eyes. But, thankfully, I have learnt to rise over this complex and have now accepted my situation without allowing my self-esteem to be affected.

I think, this disparity can be resolved by taking one of the two steps. One is by raising my living style to match my business image; the other is by changing my business status from a corporate trainer to a social speaker. I found myself inadequately motivated to take the first step. Raising my income through image marketing and publicity or making financial investments through partnership or more borrowings don’t excite me. Rather, I have been seriously contemplating over my intention to absolve myself from my profession and benefiting the common mass through my expertise. It was at that juncture that the IT scrutiny case struck me.

I was initially so aggrieved and upset that I told the concerned gentleman; I should rather pay the official fines or be put to jail than bribing the concerned ITO. My friend informed me; they will make sure that the official fine becomes enough heavy on me and will target me next year again. More over, as my accounts books are not flawless, it would not be very easy for my auditors to bring me out clean without any demurrage. I also realised the fact that as a client, my volume of business and payment limitations would be unattractive for my auditors to labour unusually hard to support me. I know I am guilty for not maintaining my books of accounts in the best possible manner and that the law is blind to any sentimental claims. But, the rules and norms for collecting taxes are as incompetent to force many otherwise affluent tax evaders to pay taxes, as they are to protect the otherwise innocent citizens like me. This incident has brought me to a very interesting turn around in my life. I am now determined to take the much-awaited decision to resolve the dilemma, which had preoccupied me.

Between the two alternatives that I had mentioned earlier, there is only one, which will help me to ensure that I am not put to this undue pressure of corruption once again. There is only one way by which I can live a respectful and honourable life. This is the only way; I could stand before the mirror and see a worthier self. This only step will most certainly entitle me to assure people with a roaring authority that they can most certainly live a righteous life. I know such a decision will not affect the particular IT officer and many of his colleagues who are ornamenting the pedestal of the Indian bureaucracy and earning revenue for creating a better India. My friend who advised me the best solution in my interest will also take it with a pinch of salt considering me a perfect misfit to the modern society. However, I am indeed happy; for now I shall have all the disparities permanently removed and be able to respect myself and face God.

You may fool the whole world
Down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But the end result will be heart ache and tears
If you have cheated the guy in the glass