This is just a story, a completely imaginary one--let me make it clear from the beginning. In my wildest imagination I'd not justify anybody beating the other even in reprisal. There's law to take care. If we can do anything at all, let's increase the number of law-abiding people in the country. I'm reminded of a minister in the recent past asking people to beat the officers they did not like, and advised further to dispatch a telegram to him[the minister] before doing that. Funny, isn't it? There were so many telegrams. Then the minister had to change his advice, instructing his followers not to actually beat the officer but to dispatch a telegram to him whenever they felt like beating any particular officer. Still the flood of telegrams did not stop. Even people sent telegrams to the minister saying that they felt like beating him!
that it was essential to scold the junior officials, and that was the only way to maintain
his own dignity as the senior officer of the establishment. Spare the rod
and spoil the child—he knew it only too well. And he knew it too: A slight
relaxation of this golden principle would mean emboldening the subordinates to pay
no attention to the sanctity of hierarchy. So, with this unshakable belief ever
tickling him from within, he used to start his day reprimanding the peon and then
the rest of the staff of the office by turns. Not for nothing, he was taking
them to task: there used to be some failure, some mistake on their parts,
always ready to be noticed and to earn them plenty of admonitions. Quite
mysteriously, the senior officer was ever successful in finding out the fault
of the subordinates whenever and wherever he felt like doing so. There was not
a day he had to keep quiet for the reason that on that day none had committed
Yes, coming back
to his daily routine, he used to shift the venue of his activity as soon as he
was done with his in-house reprimand sessions. Then outdoor monitoring used to
engage his attention. And as a part of that, he used to get glued to the
telephone so that he could do the reconnaissance and locate the remote
violators. This was more crucial than the opening session, for he had to take
the officials deployed at distant locations to task. He was to put the fear of
god into them.
all these excesses, there was one relief for the suffering souls. And that was,
on a particular day the senior officer would choose only one victim, not the
entire group. So the official at the receiving end used to remain assured that after
the current spell of agony was over, he would not be hackled, if not for ever, at
least for some days. In this manner everybody was under constant fear, and
their mornings started with ‘Who knows it’s not going to be my turn today?’
From the very
beginning he was personally averse to working in his own department. He used to
think that the place was for the employees of ordinary talent only and, as such,
people working there with such low abilities should be allowed to rot there for
eternity. As for him, he used to arrange a place for himself in other
organisations—be it other department or a different ministry, in any case away
from his own area of work. There lay his comfort, nay his contentment.
This is a world
of horrifying challenges. And it is an unending phenomenon. If, at every step, one
does not fight for his or her own rights, others will just ignore him and move
on. Our senior officer, the hero of this story had immense capability to
institute fight. Not necessarily he was successful in all his battles—sometimes
he used to face his debacles too—but then again, that had never changed his
resolve to fight and flourish. After a defeat, he used to start preparation of
another battle and with renewed vigour. In this way, he was ever anxious how to
remain ahead of all his competitors in the race of shrewdness and success…and
by hook or crook.
One day it
dawned on him that bureaucracy was not a field to adequately reward his talent.
If one was interested in accomplishing something spectacular, he or she should
get the post of a minister. But there was one problem: To become a minister,
one should quit one’s job to start with. Oh no, let the service remain intact:
it was immaterial if it did not promise the highest reward. Government service
was not to be thrown away just like that. Is it not the saying of the wise,
‘Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater’?
As a compromise
between his impossible ministerial ambition and irremediable reality, he ultimately
chose a place for himself: now he was to become the private secretary to a
minister. But then, he felt a bit weird as to the name of the post he was asked
to occupy. “Private Secretary”—it was just a very lowly position in the
parlance of bureaucracy. Yet it was at least something…oh yes, it was in
consonance with the prevailing bureaucratic preference of ambitious babus. Like
in the past people used to get converted to Vaishnavism to get rid of the
stigma of caste inferiority, nowadays bureaucrats preferred to go over to the
minister’s office for a sudden upward hierarchical mobility. Was there any
other place to go? None, perhaps. Now the immediate job before the hero of our
story was to change the nomenclature of the post he had begun to adorn. With this
objective in view, he arranged to get recommendations from people who mattered.
It was not impossible for a go-getter like him. And overnight he got a
promotion from the humble post of private secretary to OSD or the
officer-on-special-duty. In other words, he became an officer to do only those
items of work that he considered special.
He was not
happy with only that much. After all, what was so important being an officer
under a minister who wielded such an unimportant portfolio? Rural Development—what
was there in it, huh? Working under the minister in charge of Urban Development
was rather much better. How might he manage such a post? For that one should be
an IAS officer. ‘Alas! Being an IAS is not possible in this life. So let me
wait for my turn—maybe in my next birth,’ he tried to console himself.
A minister and a
sentry have this thing in common: their jobs are so very insecure. Today one may
be here, but for tomorrow? Can there be any guarantee? Oh no, nothing is certain.
In time, the
senior officer had to return to his old department. It was like the proverbial
rat race—the winner still remains a rat only, its resounding victory
notwithstanding. Now, back in his old department, he was quite uncomfortable to
find himself quite unfit as he had, in the meanwhile, forgotten all his skills.
And how to restart? And more importantly, restart with what? He had before him
a task to reread everything, the old papers, and the dog-eared files. Oh, what a mockery! Oh, what a misfortune! Better,
he could have managed a post for him in the secretariat where there was a big
crowd to take care of his drudgery and a small cubicle waiting for him. At least he would get some chance to
But he was helpless.
He must spend some time in his own department before something else could be
managed for him outside. Officers on deputation must come back to their own department
quite off and on and the purpose was to give them a chance to refresh their
skill. That was called the cooling-off period in the weird parlance of
bureaucracy. Strangely, no IAS officer ever needed to cool himself or herself.
It was possible that they were the coolest chaps on earth; and they would
remain so all the while.
The senior officer got his promotions and all that happened on the dot. It was
still a wonder for many as to why the department granted everything to this particular
officer despite the fact that he had not an iota of liking for it. Well, this
could be attributed to luck, his favourable stars.
the senior officer got a post to adorn that was yet more senior. Now the
subordinate officials shivered out of fear. They were morbidly reminded of the
good old proverb: When a stork finds its beak elongated, it spells danger for
the fishes. How true!
the situation awhile: Now the department got an officer who was senior to all
the seniors yet knew practically very little about the work performed there, a
person who was busy all the while to keep his own ignorance hidden from the
notice of his subordinates. What would happen under such a situation? Well, it
would throw up a possibility where the senior officer would sit inside a cosy
chamber and start censuring his subordinates by turns. Nothing less than that. And
here it exactly happened so. Otherwise, this gentleman, the senior to all the senior
officers, the hero of our story was a past master of censures. Now who would
stop him? All the politicians of the day, all the officers of different
ministries and all the VVIP in the limelight—every one of them knew this senior
officer, nay the senior to all the senior officers of the department. Was this
list of contacts not enough to trample his critics? After all, what was the
combined capability of all the subordinates?
Some began to
say that the senior officer was only interested in admonishing his subordinates
and that was the maximum extent he could go. He was definitely not interested
in inflicting harm on anybody. But who were those chaps that said such things
about him? Aha! They were the fellows that possessed thick skin and they were
only interested in somehow allowing the bad time to pass them by. And they made
their own calculations, too, as to when they would be the senior officers
themselves. That would afford them the opportunity which had so far eluded
them. Then they would dress down their subordinates for the sake of avenging
their own torture in the hand of the present senior; or more precisely, they
would enjoy the pleasure of inflicting pain on others.
everybody without exception pined for respite from the torture and prayed god
day in, day out, none had actually any clue how to achieve that. Who would bell
the cat? It was a problem as terrifying as that.
deliverer appeared. And he did such a thing that brought peace to all the
suffering souls there.
stated, the senior officer was to get a cattle bell around his neck soon. But
how? Hold it a second and you’ll see for yourself.
He was on tour
those days. And it was one of such rare occasions that he was out of his office
after months. And it was really unavoidable. In fact, a very influential
political personality was to visit a place that came in the jurisdiction of the
senior officer. And it was the dictate of the political heavyweight that all the
officers of that area should remain present there. So that was the compulsion.
A meeting was
to be held under the chairmanship of the visiting political boss. Everybody
reached the venue of the meeting much before it was time to commence. When the
proceeding began, the political boss spoke about many things, both relevant and
quasi-relevant, and all those present there listened to the him attentively. They
clapped and endorsed every word of the speech delivered. The various important
functionaries of the locality as well as the political managers, too, got their
respective turns to deliver speech, except the senior officer, the hero of this
story. This was a dangerous slip not to be ignored and the senior officer began
to smart under such a neglect—a wanton neglect. He rather brooded over it,
‘Look, what sort of protocol is this? A small fry called IAS officer was
invited to talk but I was a bona fide senior officer, or rather the senior to
all senior officers present here in bone and flesh, and none cared to ask me to
say a few words!’
concluded. All in the audience as well as on the dais dispersed. But the senior
officer had to wait there for the vehicle to come as the driver had difficulty
in getting the vehicle through the crowd. At that moment the vehicle of the IAS
officer went past the senior officer. The IAS officer who was in a hurry could
not ask the senior officer if he would fancy a lift. And that was where the
senior officer felt really slighted.
went wrong. When the driver actually brought the car near the senior officer, a
junior officer detailed to escort the visiting senior officer was found sitting
on the front seat beside the driver. Finding the senior officer very upset, the
escort officer hurriedly got down the car and opened the rear door to allow him
in. Quickly the senior officer, upset and fuming, piled into the car and
occupied the seat. Then the junior officer went back to his seat in the front
and sat. He apprehended a catastrophe to visit him any moment and the rate of
his heartbeat went up. The car revved its engine and moved on.
senior officer asked in a voice that was rumbling, ‘Why did you delay so much?’
‘Sir, there was
a bit of crowd,’ the junior escort officer replied very politely.
With this the
senior officer got flared up. ‘You…you call yourself an officer. You’re nothing
more than a worm in the stinking gutter. Your entire clan is not fit to be a
peon even. Get down and out you go. And this instant.’ The senior officer kept
shouting. And the car was moving ahead slowly picking up its speed.
the unsavoury remarks of the senior officer, the junior officer on escort duty
went dumbfounded. For quite some time he had no idea how to react. Really, he
was intimidated beyond he could endure and out of fear had even urinated inside
his pants. He requested the driver to stop the car just for a while so that he
could pass the remaining urine properly. No sooner had the vehicle stopped than
the junior officer rushed towards the roadside. He was literally crying when he
was peeing and came back to his seat in his sodden pants.
Even before the
junior officer could return to the car, the senior officer ordered the driver
in a loud voice, ‘Start the car and speed up. We’ll leave this worm of the
stinking gutter here. Let him follow us. Let him walk all the way. Let him realise that he was not
fit to become an officer.’
The car was
hired for the day. The driver thought if he did not take the junior officer
with him, who would pay his fare. So he chose to behave carefully.
take the junior officer with us. Or else who will pay me my fare?’ the driver
worm in the stinking gutter, I say. Your entire clan is a swarm of refugee.
You’re all bandits.’ The senior officer hurled a set of his choicest verbal abuses.
By now he had
crossed all limits. With every word being uttered by the senior officer, the
driver felt his blood curdling inside out of blind rage. He suddenly left his
seat and came near the senior officer. Everything happened just within a fraction
of a second. The fellow had taken exception to the insult that his was a clan
of refugees, a swarm of bandits. Then he held the senior officer by his collars
and dragged him out of the car.
The driver went on thrashing the senior officer. He aimed at his face and gave
him a few boxes on the ears too. The latter had not imagined in wildest of his
dreams that such a reaction was possible on the part of an ignoble driver. The
thrashing caused loss of his teeth and made his face
swell out of pain. And to add to that, there was the feeling of humiliation.
officer reached in the nick of time to stop the infuriated driver to go on
further. That saved the hero of this story, the senior to all senior officers
of the department.
It did not take
any long for the news to spread all around. That there happened a small
accident en route was believable. Accidents do happen. That the senior officer
was admitted to the hospital with no loss of time was nothing imaginary. That
was okay; a senior officer of his rank deserved immediate medical attention. His
statement was also recorded. But what for? And what did he say about the episode?
Everything was kept secret.
people who knew something, yet it so happened that none could muster courage to
tell the truth.
people harboured a genuine doubt: What sort of accident was it where there was
not a dent anywhere on the body of the car nor did the other passenger
travelling in it get any scratch? Even the driver had no injury! The only affected
fellow was the senior officer. How on earth was that possible? Did it imply that
the senior officer was himself driving the cab when the driver was sitting on
the back seat?
A N Nanda