Mohammed Haneef spent 25 days of detention in Australia. He was suspected of being complicit in terrorism. He had lent his SIM card to a terrorist who was his cousin. Evidence was insufficient. The Australian police released him. Haneef reportedly gave an exclusive TV interview for handsome payment. The Indian government offered him a job. Had he been convicted, the rewards might have been bigger!
Individuals who suffer and go to jail are often compensated with rewards from society. Recall O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering his wife. His court case made him a world celebrity. He was acquitted for lack of evidence. He increased his fortune from a book he wrote about how he would have murdered his wife if he had done so.
Remember Monica Lewinsky who had a naughty dalliance with President Bill Clinton? That scandal made her a world celebrity. After the scandal blew over, she became a TV celebrity, wrote a book for a fat fee, and studied in a prestigious British university. In India, Abdul Karim Telgi is jailed for the country’s biggest scam. He has sold the film rights of his life story. He has signed a contract for writing his memoirs. He will now make an honest fortune from his suffering.
Monica Bedi was jailed in a passport case. She was the sidekick of mafia don Abu Salem. After acquittal, she too signed a contract for writing a book. She will return to Bollywood for more roles.
There are many other similar cases. Suffering wrongdoers earn fame, celebrity status and wealth. They are then rewarded for having suffered. Makes one wonder: is suffering good business? What is the fascination people have for the wrong side of the law? With bated breath, the media chronicles their troubles. They write books and inspire films. And invariably for a fat fee.
How often are books written and films inspired by suffering heroes and suffering innocents? For a future film or book about the Nithari murders, for instance, who would sign the contract? The killer or a victim’s parent? Who would get the film contract for the inside story of a big terrorist attack—the terrorist or the cop? It is always said, crime doesn’t pay. Wrong. Book publishers and film producers ensure that crime pays.
(Puri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)