Social etiquette often requires that we give small gifts to please friends, relatives, or business contacts. If people we are visiting have young children, we invariably take some sweets or chocolates for them. This is an easy way to make friends with them.

Children often share their lunch-boxes with their friends, or with those they want to make friends with. Even adults find that inviting a person to dinner is the easiest way to establish a good relationship with him.

Obliging someone encourages him to help you, or to agree with your viewpoint.

This verse from Bhartrihari’s Nitishatakam tells us about this tendency-

को न याति वशं लोके मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः l
मृदङ्गो मुखलेपेन करोति मधुरध्वनिम् ll

Is there anyone on this earth (लोके) who can not be won over (न याति वशं) after being fed (मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः)?

Even a Mridanga (मृदङ्गः – a type of musical instrument similar to a drum) produces (करोति ) melodious sounds (मधुरध्वनिम्) after a paste made from rice is applied to its mouth (मुखलेपेन).

[The literal meaning of मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः would be ‘whose mouth is filled with a ball of rice’]

[In Sanskrit the word Mridanga is masculine, hence मृदङ्गः, not मृदङ्गम् ]

Today, however, ‘feeding someone’ is being taken to an extreme level.

In government offices, it is necessary to keep on ‘feeding’ people at various levels of authority, to get anything done. A friend was telling me about a clerk lady in a government office, who kept a small statue of Ganesha on her desk. If anyone wanted their file to go from her desk to the officer’s for his signature, they had to make some offering (in an envelope) to the desk Ganesha first!

This habit of being fed and feeding, has reached epic proportions in government and bureaucratic circles. Ministers and government employees have become modern-day Bakaasuras devouring as much as they can get their hands on. People know that not a single file will move or a single signature made, without the government officals being ‘satisfied’ first.

The Economic Times says that ‘at least 30 per cent of 2,742 business executives surveyed across the world regard Indians among the most corrupt when doing business abroad to “speed things up”, according to a report by an NGO, Transparency International India (TII).

So we are even exporting this habit of ‘feeding’ people to get results! 

(Picture of Mridanga- courtesy Wikipedia commons)