New age manners
2. Why I hate research
have all the nice girls gone
Channelled into Stressful Pressure
Confessions of a Reformed MBA
Hyderabadi Biryani anyone
It's an Ad Mad World
Jidar Dekho Udhar-Hyderabadi Bhais
No Win for DD
13. Of Moody Telephones And Cranky Clerks
14. Street Smart Hydetabadi
15. The Great Traffic Scam
The Low Down on Light Marna-Hyderabadi Style
Woes of a Cricket Fan
The Tax man
Once upon a time when life was full of games and books
and the worst that could happen to me was homework,
exams and cabbage, I must admit that I did not know
that people paid taxes. One fine day I met the tax
man. The property tax man.
He came riding a moped and had a greasy smile and
a little rexine bag. 'It's very hot, ' he informed
me, 'can I have some water?'. Normally I was pretty
rude to guys with greasy faces who came in like he
did, but this guy had something about him that held
me back. He held the rexine bag rather carefully and
I quickly decided that it might not be such a bad
idea to give him his water. I returned with a jug
of cool H2O only to see him walking familiarly into
the doorway. He was opening his little rexine bag.
My worst fears were coming true. That bag was bad
news, I thought. He drank water with a grateful look
on his greasy face and extricated an old tattered
book from deep within his bag. The book opened, and
revealed millions of tiny figures in it. Little numbers
and small careful lines crawled all over the pages
completely devoured any sign of emptiness. He located
my bit of bad news shortly. ' Aha,' said he accusingly,
'you did not pay your taxes last year did you?'
I was pretty frightened by then. What's he talking
'What tax,' I managed bravely.
'Property tax! Whose house is this? What's the built
up area? Did you get your plans approved? Is there
someone staying here on rent? Who are you? Where is
the owner?'. It sounded similar to interrogations
that secret police resorted to with hardened jail
birds and it sure did break me up into a cold sweat.
I answered all questions dutifully and to the best
of my knowledge, which was little above zilch.
He looked into the book and started calculating on
a tiny calculator. I reached for the water and simultaneously
blamed my father in my mind! He was the culprit!!
I always had the impression that he was a nice law
abiding citizen. Now I knew that he was nothing of
that sort. He was a tax evader!! I felt thoroughly
betrayed. He had no right to malign my fair name.
I stood quaking in my sandals waiting to be arrested
for my father's crimes. Would I be allowed one phone
call at least?
The nice property tax man smiled. 'I will come back
tomorrow. What time will your Dad be in?'
I was terribly relieved.
'After six. I will tell him to be in,' I assured the
nice tax man. I would personally make sure that he
would be there. Next day the tax man came back. Dad
saw him off at the gate too; an honour that very few
For some years I forgot about the property tax man.
One day the tax man came again. A different one this
time. Dad was not around then but Mom was managing
pretty well by herself. He had that same greasy smile
though and that patent little rexine bag. I could
make out the outline of the little book and mentally
saw little figures creeping all over the book. He
smiled at me and said 'Can I have some water? It's
I felt an old fear gripping me. 'Yes,' I croaked and
'Mom,' I whispered 'he has come.'
'Who?' she whispered back. She was a great one for
'The tax man.'
My Mom immediately rustled up the necessary files
while I fed the taxman on an exclusive diet of pot
cooled water. Mom came hurrying up just when he had
reached the little figures and the way his eyes lit
up I knew that there was more bad news.
'Namaste amma,' he said cheerfully. 'Your tax has
not been paid. How much is the built up area? Is there
rented portions? Are you the owner of the house? Who
is this boy? Is he a tenant? When did you last pay
'How much need I pay?' asked Mom.
The little calculator came out and calculations were
done at express speed. Finally the great man looked
up and reeled off a figure. Mom was ready. She got
out a bunch of old tax receipts and then started reducing
the figure little by little with every receipt she
produced. A final figure was hammered out soon and
the taxman wrote carefully on a piece of white paper.
'Ah, three hundred rupees. Too much. I cannot afford
it,' said she.
Tax man smiled and said, 'It will be very expensive
for you otherwise. The tax rates are going up.'
Another receipt was made out but I noticed that two
hundred and fifty rupees was added to the receipt
figure. The greasy man got really cheerful. He told
us that if there was any problem he would be available
at the office.
'..he will increase our tax otherwise,' she told me.
I was very happy that Mom and our neighbours had figured
out a way to tackle the tax man. Surely Dad must have
done the same thing too. I was quite happy with the
result and was quite happy keeping the taxman happy
for a long time after that. It never struck me to
ask him what the tax rates were, why they collect
tax on properties and on what basis, how much would
I have to pay if he increased my tax rate and so on.
I merrily went along with all our neighbours to pay
the thirsty taxman his dues.
One fine day, some twenty years after my first meeting
with the tax man, I happened to see something related
to the tax man in the newspaper. Huge commercial complexes,
said the paper angrily, had not paid a single paise
tax for two decades. I could imagine the tax man of
that area; rexine bag and all. A few days later there
was another news item, which featured honest officials
of the property tax department lamenting on the lack
of honesty among the citizens that they are serving.
There was a touch of sacrifice in their tone. Much
would have been achieved if people paid their taxes
on time they felt, if they had been honest. In the
same breath they said that the tax men were rather
corrupt else the position would not have been so bad.
With corrupt tax men things were going to get out
of hand. Well now, there was another revelation. Since
the tax men were corrupt and since the corporation
accepted the fact now, the only ones to save the corporation
were honest people who needed to up their honesty
and get more realistic and more reasonable.
You see, it is rather reasonable.
I had a funny feeling as I read the article. I wondered
why I paid the tax. I wondered why I paid tax at all.
More news came out. Nobody was paying tax in most
areas. Most huge complexes were not. The poshest houses
were not paying taxes. Some neighbourhoods were paying
more and some less. It all seemed to boil down to
the honesty factor. There were some noise from the
officials that the corporation was not very happy
with so much dishonesty in the citizens and the tax
A few days later the corporation asked the honest
and conscientious citizens to voluntarily disclose
their property details and pay - like honest citizens
that they are. My mom and her gang of neighbours got
together feeling a bit like criminals. We have been
paying too low taxes said they guiltily and discussed
the various options that the good corporation had
thought up. Everyone took the method they liked and
arrived at honest figures. One month's rent they said
which is so much better than the mandatory three months
they said. They fell over each other trying to balance
the whole thing. You see the corporation had even
given a deadline for honesty. 'Citizens pay up honestly'
said the guidelines and declare the details. No arrears
need be paid. I saw our taxman explaining the reasonable
rates to our people and exhorting them to be honest,
with a straight face and a rexine bag under his armpit.
I saw one commercial complex owner walk past caring
two hoots for honesty. The deadline may expire warned
the tax man and the act may catch up with us threatened
he. The rates may go up.
At least he was consistent.
I believe that the chaps with unauthorised constructions
at the end of the colony almost beat our tax man up
when he went there to ask them to pay up one month's
honest rent. Meanwhile my neighbours worried 'No extension
of deadlines,' they whispered 'else we have to write
reasons and seek extension of time. We might get penalised
even…there times. The Act probably has penalties
My Mom returned from one of her clandestine meetings
where they discussed tax in whispery voices. 'It's
a Catch 22 situation,' she whispered. 'If you pay
the honest rate it surely means that you are dishonest
because the honesty rates are too high. Since we cannot
afford honesty let's be honest about our dishonesty.
Let's declare reasonable honesty.'
We did, feeling guilty as hell. That evening Mom asked
me rather hesitantly 'Tell me something son, who are
these people who have been collecting honesty taxes
from us all these years and why? What do they do with
I really did not have an answer. Honest!
The tax men you see, they work in mysterious ways.