When you're married to the mob, s0 t0 speak, you get to see society in a way that ordinary mortals don't get to see.
You and I, in our innocence and naivete, believe in such quaint notions as the supremacy of the rule of law. And we are wracked by guilt when we are compelled to deviate, ever so slightly, from the straight and narrow path, even if only under duress. If we so much as jump a traffic light, some of us feel we have to atone for it by performing ritual ablutions in 'holy' rivers.
But the rules work differently for the mob. On the highway of life, the mob doesn't stop for traffic lights. It instead bends the arc of the rule of law to work to its advantage. And if a member of the mob has been "blooded" into the family, he can zip along unhindered by such mundane matters as traffic rules. Hell, even red lights can turn green if you're sufficiently high up in the hierarchy.
Which is why Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra speaks with authority when he speaks of India as a "banana republic". More than any of us, he ought to know: he lives in that "banana republic" world, and makes it work to his advantage - and, as has been established, to enhance his business fortune.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that a man who starts off with Rs 50 lakh capital (and an undistinguished record of running a middling family business) can, in just three short years, build a Rs 300 crore business empire - without any semblance of business activity, as declared in his companies' filings.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that the path to that empire will be paved by interest-free, unsecured loans (masquerading as 'advances') from a corporate entity that, we are told, was acting on the goodness of its heart.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that when allegations of possible impropriety in the deals are made, and an independent investigation sought (given the high-profile nature of the beneficiary and the unnatural growth in his business), the demand will be dismissed out of hand, as if it isn't important for people in positions of power and those close to them to be seen to be abiding by notions of propriety.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that the onus of establishing proof of criminality (in deals where, by their very nature, the transactions will be lost in a maze of opacity) will be placed on the lowliest person who has no investigative authority, rather than allowing investigative agencies to at least conduct a transparent, preliminary probe.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that the entire government machinery, from the Law Minister to the Finance Minister to assorted underlings and retainers of the First Family, will come swinging in defence of a 'private individual' - in the way that Robert Vadra has been characterised.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that the Finance Minister will imperiously issue a clean chit to the "individual concerned" (as he delicately put it), without the faintest effort at establishing the facts of the case.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that even Constitutional authorities - like Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj - will improperly inject themselves into the matter, merely to be seen to be defending the First Family of Indian politics, to whom they are eternally beholden.
It is only in a 'banana republic' that a son-in-law of the First Family will openly talk of a line of natural succession that will see, first, Rahul Gandhi, followed by Priyanka Gandhi, followed by other members of the family - evidently meaning Robert Vadra himself - rise to the top of the political heap.
Robert Vadra knows that 'banana republic' world well - because he lives it every minute of every day. It's the world where doors open automatically for members of the First Family, red carpets are rolled out, the brass band is lined up - and concessional loans are offered and real estate sold on the cheap, merely as a way for established businesses to make the necessary investment in 'political capital'.
It's a world where a business empire built primarily on such concessions, which were secured solely on the strength of proximity to power (with all the possibilities of influence-peddling that such proximity comes with), can be passed off as the exertions of a business wizard.
You and I, we don't get to see that world. Which is why, in our naivete, we mocked Robert Vadra when he spoke glibly about "mango people in a banana republic" - and hounded him enough to force him to delete his Facebook profile.
But Robert Vadra knows the 'banana republic' world from the inside. The business empire that he built in double-quick time is living testimony that that world does exist - and thrives. And that we are, in fact, mango people in a rotting banana republic.