Happy Birthday -Oops

 Man is a social animal. I am not saying this. It has been said by Aristotle the legendary Greek Philosopher.

Well, that is Greek to me literally and so it must be to you.

He did not mention Women, but I am sure he meant to include Women too. What about LGBQTs. They are social too. Animals are also social.

In the Garden of Eden grew the Forbidden Fruit and God commanded that this not be eaten. However, In the biblical narrative, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are exiled from Eden.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

The circle of birth-life-death and the procreation evidences the social existence of humanity.

Gatherings Social /Religious / Otherwise, Weddings/Nikah, Concerts, Sporting Events, Birthday Parties, Addas at street corners and pan walas. Pubs, Cinema Halls, Rites, and Rituals and even Janazas / Funerals indicate how social a human being is. Stick together in life till death do us part and then gather around the mortal body for the last time.

English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the interconnectedness of all people.

That is enough. Let us lose the philosophy for the time being and cut to the story.

The new normal for social? What is it? “Social Media”. Oh Yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, Viber, Hangout, Messenger, Snapchat, Linkedin. Tumbler, You Tube, Bumble, Tiktok, Pintrest, Zoom, Skype, Google Meets, Reddit and Whatsapp. Phew and there are many more. Millions and Zillions of people connected through all this. Is that Social enough?

This incident is about Whatsapp.

A great feature of Whatsapp is creation of groups for group chats. While some groups are very common like say “1988 Engineering Batch”, “Table Tennis Group”, “Housing Society Group”, “College Project Groups”, “ Family Groups”  and some bizarre groups like “ Frusto Group” of frustrated employees, “ lunch Munch Group “ of office employees having lunch together, ” Despo Group “, ” Tharki Group” , ” Assholes” , fun groups like “Awesome Marathis” of a group of Marathi friends, “ Cricket Lovers Group “, “Kitty Party Group” “ PNPC  Group ( Par Ninda Par Charcha )etc etc etc. The list can be endless.

Then there are certain formal office groups. Many a times often created by HR including all employees or a certain level of employees and so on and so forth.

In a Company called Promenade Corporation Limited a Multinational Company there was such a group called Team Promenade.

The group included around 495 and counting employees. This was largely a formal group created by the HR but to some extent was used a bit socially too as people posted jokes, trivia, anecdotes, interesting videos etc apart from HR Communications posted by HR. Not everyone in this group knew everyone but still most participated even with the unknowns in some form or other.

The post popular being wishing Happy Birthdays. Someone would know someone’s birthday in the group and post “ Happy Birthday” and as if like an electric current passing through various conductors everyone in the group would suddenly be jolted awake to wish happy birthday to this person whose birthday it was supposed to be as per the post. The Birthday Person would then keep posting things like “Thank You”, “ So Sweet of You”, “ Thanks for remembering “ and so on.

On a typical birthday the birthday messages and thank you  messages back from the recipient of the wishes would go on for the entire day depending on who tired out first. While each wished a birthday the poor wish recipient would generally wish a thank you  to each and everyone. I am sure by the end of the day the fellahs thumb would be sore enough for cutting a cake necessitating the requirement of a proxy.

It was a bright Sunday morning and Jamlu had just woken up. The first thing he usually did was look at his phone and check for Whatsapp Messages. As he unlocked his phone and went to his Whatsapp a message suddenly popped up in the office group:

“Happy Birthday Sachin”, This message came from Huzefa.

Jamlu also quickly typed, “ Many Happy Returns of the day Sachin” , checked other messages and went about his morning chores. It was 7.00 AM.

He returned to his Whatsapp again at around 9.30 AM. A lot of messages had come in the office group with members of the group wishing happy birthday to Sachin in varying hues, colours and language.

“ Takle, Janamdin Mubarak “

“Cake and Thumbs Up emojis and images.”

“Where is the party tonight” said another.

“How old are you now birthday boy” Someone was curious.

A gif of a glass and drinks bottle where the bottle would jump up and pour the heady concoction into the glass followed with CHEERS in bold.

Certain images of Bouquets, Flowers, Cadbury, Burgers, French Fries.

“Where is the cake, Sachin“said one more.

“How many candles” said another.

There were certain audio messages too saying Happy Birthday, Birthday Wishes, Mubarak and even a Happy Birthday Song.

One employee even got romantic and posted a you tube link to the song “Bachelor Boy “by Cliff Richards. To which some one wrote. “Hey, he is not a bachelor”.

This was followed by another link to another song “Bade Acche lagte hain ……”

Then someone wrote something in Tamil and most immediately replied saying “Please Translate”.

Taking a cue the Bengalis Posted something in Bengali and the Marathis Posted something in Marathi and the Kannadigas , Tulus, Biharis, Oriyas, Kashmiris, Assamese all followed suit. This made Sachin’s Birthday very multi-cultural and multilingual. Some understood and some did not but everybody knew that whatever be the language it was related to the birthday.

After some time perhaps the birthday was forgotten as messages and counter messages became more important and everyone joined the fun thus unfolding. So people in the group were now chatting with each other triggered by the birthday message of the morning.

Jamlu was thoroughly enjoying this.

However, he suddenly realized that in spite of so many wishes Sachin had not replied at all. There was not a single message from Sachin, not a single Thank you. Now, this was surprising.

“Hey Sachin, where are you”, typed Jamlu, “blowing the candles already”?

Everyone else in the group woke up immediately and messages enquiring of Sachin kept popping up.

“Sachin buddy speak up”, “ Abe Sachin kuch to bol”, “ lagta hai sala abhi tak so raha hai jaga usko”, “ Sir have we got the date wrong”? ““Are there more Sachins in the group?”. “ Kal raat ko jyada chada li shayd”.

“Sachin, Knock Knock”. Someone tried knocking hard.

“Aree don’t worry we won’t drop in mate”

The messages were now getting directed to Sachin but still there was no response.

It was around 2.30 PM now.

Suddenly a message from Girija stunned everyone to absolute silence.

“Friends, Sachin is not in this group at all “. Wrote Girija.

There was absolute silence, and nobody wrote for about a couple of hours.

Finally Pranav wrote “Bhai Log likhne se pehle dekh toh liya karo ki banda group mein hain bhi ya nahi bus uth ke Happy Birthday likh diya. Kal ko agar Mere Padosi ke bhen ke husband ke bhai ke bacche ke sasur ka janamdin ho to kya is group mein likhoge”

Ha Ha Ha.

From then Jamlu never wishes anybody Happy Birthday in Whatsapp Groups. He is many a times labelled Un-social for this, but he prefers to be so instead of wishing someone who is not even there to take the wishes.

But after all Man is a Social Animal.

Sorry Women and LGBTQs too.

MOU-Conditions Apply

Banku had fallen asleep. He was deep in slumberland.

The conditions were such. On a steamer, in the lower deck, traveling with tourists through the Sunderban Delta, mangroves all around, the melodious and rhythmic rocking of the boat, the cool breeze, the serenity, the empty bench on the lower deck, enough to stretch legs, lie down and travel to slumberland.

Suddenly a strange smell entered his nostrils. It was a known-unknown smell. He could not recall where he had felt that smell. The steamer was rocking slowly in rhythm to the waves of the delta and the slumber was great.

Where did this smell come from so suddenly?

Banku opened his eyes slowly like a newborn wary of facing the world.

 It seemed somebody was lying on the bench opposite. Banku quickly put on his spectacles which he had removed and placed on the bench before falling asleep.

He shuddered at what he saw. Lying on the other bench and staring at him nonchalantly and with utter disdain was a Royal Bengal Tiger. The Panthera tigris Tigris subspecies, native to the Indian subcontinent and the biggest among the wild cats alive today. The National animal of India and Bangladesh.

He could not have out-run the tiger, jumping out of the steamer would have landed him in water and made him vulnerable to more of the species. Therefore, with a pounding and panic-stricken heart Banku just continued to lie on his bench, largely frozen in panic.

Suddenly the Tiger looked at Banku, smiled, and said, “Good Morning”.

Without realizing what was happening Banku replied “Good Morning”. “It seems you not only can speak but also speak English,” said Banku to the tiger in a panic-stricken voice.

“I speak many languages,” said the tiger. “I need to” continued the Tiger “ since tourists from all over the world visit here it is good to understand their tongue”.

“How was your sleep”, asked the Tiger.

“Not bad, “said Banku.

“First time in the Sunderbans?” continued the tiger.

Banku nodded in the affirmative.

“Tell me how you would feel if we visited your houses,” asked the tiger. “What would you do?” “Would you welcome us in and serve us some fresh deer and allow us to see your house and make friends with your family”.

Banku was speechless.

“I know we are not welcome there,” said the tiger “why then do you visit our house and disturb us, that too in hundreds and thousands from all over the world”. “We are fed up”. “Why can’t you homo sapiens leave us in peace in our jungle”? The Tiger was visibly angry.

A tiger was enough and Banku now had an angry tiger.

“Well you see I have not disturbed you,” said Banku, “I have stayed put in the steamer and not gone ashore like the other tourists to disturb you and your family”.

“Forget it,” said the tiger. “Would you like to go to the toilet”?

“No,” said Banku. “Why should I go to the toilet”?

“Then I will eat now,” said the Tiger.

“What, whom, why?” stammered Banku.

“You of course,” said the Tiger.

“Nooooo, why?” Banku shot back in panic.

“Well, we have signed an MOU with the Forest Department you see,” said the Tiger licking its chops.

“What do you mean?, what MOU, “said Banku gathering some courage to sit upon the bench now.

“We have been promised, as per the MOU, ten tourists per month and in exchange we allow you to visit our jungle and we happily accept your visits without attacking anyone”. “As long as the MOU is honored we behave else we turn man-eaters”.

“How does it help you,” asked Banku.

“Have you not studied Marketing, are you, not an MBA?” retorted the tiger sarcastically. “Have you not done any projects in consumer behaviour, branding, market study and so on and so forth?”

“This will attract more tourists, we will make ourselves more visible and will get spotted easily”. “More revenue to the forest department and only then the forest department would be able to honor the MOU of giving us 10 tourists per month”. “Simple, attract the consumer and then fleece him”. “This is a strategic tie-up.”

Banku was under a panic attack now. “But, but my tour program did not mention this, meaning a tiger can eat me in the steamer itself”, replied he.

Banku could now recall the smell. He had got the smell at the Kolkata Zoological Garden when he was standing outside the cage of the Royal Bengal Tiger with his family members.

The tiger was looking amazed now as if trying to assess whether Banku was such a fool.

“You did not read the tour program properly” reverted the tiger with a wry grin.

“What the hell do you mean,” said Banku.” What was written”?

“Your tour program clearly mentioned in small fonts at the bottom “Conditions Apply” and it seems like most human beings you did not find this relevant and did not enquire about it”. Said the Tiger with an intelligent look on its face. “Had you asked about it they would have told you”, added the Tiger.

“You chose me,” said Banku crying. “Where is my family,” he asked.

“They have gone ashore with the tour guide into the jungle”, replied the tiger.

“Will some other tigers eat them too”?, asked Banku in tears.

“No”, said the tiger, “we follow the MOU”. “From one family only one tourist to be eaten is one of the conditions and all tigers strictly abide by this”. “We don’t look at loopholes in MOUs like you humans do”.

Banku realized that he did not have much of a choice. “Will you eat me now or do I have some time”, asked he.

“Well, you can take your time”. “We have an hour or so in our hands and you can mentally prepare yourself to be eaten and don’t try to run because I can easily pounce upon you and catch you and that will make my meal bloodier which can be avoided”.

“Should I hold you by the scruff f the neck and take you to the roof of the steamer”, questioned the tiger.

“Why the roof”?, Banku was unable to comprehend.

“It is nice and sunny on the roof during this winter and I can enjoy my meal bit by bit on the roof under the sun,” said the Tiger.

“You will kill me and eat me and that is enjoyable for you”?. “How cruel and stone-hearted are you?”. “I have a family”, Banku was now desperate.

“I am sure the fishes, birds, sheep, lamb, goat and all the living things that you eat would think the same about you, cruel and heartless”. “What do you say to that?” said the Tiger looking angrier than before.

“How is it that I am heartless, sadist, cruel, and what not but you are not”.  “This is grossly unfair”.” I could have moved the courts, but they delay matters”. “I cannot wait that long”. “In our jungle judgment is quick and fast”. “Also, you seem to have preserved your mind in the vinegar of false innocence”. “In any case the courts also are run by human beings like you”.

This tiger was well-educated thought Banku.

“Come let me take you by the scruff of your neck to the roof”. The tiger looked decided.

“I will die”, said Banku.

“Only the body dies, don’t you know,” said the tiger. “Read your Gita”. “The soul lives on so do not be so attached to the body”.

“Let me now approach you and take you by the scruff of the neck “, said the tiger advancing towards Banku.

Banku is looking at the tiger approaching him. The seat is getting wet and he can feel it, but he is not able to stop. Suddenly the Tiger’s face looks like Pramila his wife.

“Hello Hello wake up “Pramila is yelling at Banku, “ you have again wetted the bed, go to the toilet quickly, God I do not know how to manage this”. “We will go to the Doctor again today”.

Pramila’s voice floats in the air as Banku prepares to get up from his bed and go to the toilet. The strange smell continues to linger in his nostrils.

Dog Chain

Bang Opposite Karawe Gaon ( Village ), at a stone’s throw from the Don Bosco School and within 300 meters of D Mart sprung up a 14 storied residential housing complex – “Tricity Promenade”.

Tricity Promenade - Seawoods | Find New Residential Projects & Shops
Tricity Promenade

The location was good, the railway station was nearby, and the Grand Central Mall was within striking range.

Many apartments in the complex facing the Karawe Gaon had Sea View too. Slightly distant but not too bad. You could see the sea, watch the sun setting on the horizon spreading its golden hue in the simmering water of the sea, seagulls chasing the waves and feel like you are out to the sea.

People looking to buy apartments started purchasing here and the apartments of this 14 storied building started getting sold to various people from various walks of life. The apartment complex has 60 apartments and an amenities floor which promises a swimming pool, gymnasium, kids’ playroom, banquet hall, a gazebo, and a few more amenities.

While bookings would have started much earlier residents started moving in from sometime around January/February 2020.

New owners in their new apartments with obvious glow and pride on their countenance.

The completion work was in progress, but occupancy had begun. For example, the amenities floor was not ready, the backup inverter was not yet upgraded to full capacity, the lift was behaving erratic, the security men and housekeeping staff was temporary, the overhead water tank would tend to overflow and something of this and something of that.

The management of the complex was still with the builder and the “Housing Society” formation had not yet taken place.

Then the lockdown happened and by the end of March, everything came to a standstill. Few families had shifted but many could not. In the meantime, as the residents got confined to their homes and their residential complexes, they got to know each other, made friends, and eventually formed a Whatsapp Group.

The group started growing and residents started exchanging notes and views in the group. With the partial lifting of lockdown, more families shifted, and people started meeting outside the group too. Social interactions had started growing and maturing.

Gradually the group started feeling the necessity of taking up various pending matters for action with the builder.

To quote a few:

  1. Vibrations in the lift and erratic behavior of the lift in the event of power failure.
  2. The capacity of the inverter to back up in the event of a power failure.
  3. Completion of second-floor amenities.
  4. Car parking issues and allotment.
  5. Broken and missing floor tiles.
  6. Finishing of bathrooms at staircase landings.
  7. Fire Fighting equipment usage and demonstration.
  8. Managing stray dogs entering the premises and littering the place.

Gradually the group started focusing on issues to be taken up with the builder and champions emerged. Someone knew about inverters, someone knew insurance requirements, someone could analyze the modality and functioning of the CCTVs, and so on.

Through various iterations, back and forth emails to the builder it was finally agreed with the builder that a final list of issues and pending work should be shared with the builder.

The group had started meeting very frequently and as a sequel to various such frequent and in-frequent meetings, a final list of issues/requirements/pending work started getting crystallized.

A final list of 22 issues was posted in the group with the request that if anybody felt that there was any other issue that needed to be added one could do so.

A few people did add few more issues like internet fiber cable line, intercom for the guards at the main gate, thorough and deep cleaning of the drainage systems, etc. However, there was one issue that got posted with a bang and caught everyone’s instant attention.

It said “Dog Chain”. This was posted by Hedait Bhai and generated immense curiosity.

It transpired like this (which we all got to know only later) that when everybody in the group saw the post none knew what it meant but everybody thought that the others knew and thus everybody felt embarrassed to ask about it.

Some left it at it as is, some made their interpretation of what it was supposed to mean but the more curious amongst the group called a few others privately to learn more about it.

I was part of the group too and while I had been quite active in listing out issues this one confounded me.

I will now unravel what followed.

I first called Nihal and he was confused too. In the meantime, Nihal had got quite a few calls as well.

One person had called Nihal to say that he did not need a dog chain as he had no pet dogs and neither did he intend to own one. However, if a dog chain was given to him, he would be happy to give it to somebody who needed it. Aha, “A Good Samaritan” at least from the Dog’s point of view.

Anand and Sarfaraz who have a technical bent of mind felt that the society would be given few dog chains by the builder which could be kept at the entrance lobby and could be used to chain any stray dogs getting in to be eventually reported to the dog squad of the Municipal Corporation.

They had started preliminary calculations on the tensile strength of the chain, its length, number of links and had also gone out to identify a place in the parking lot where such dogs could be chained. They were last seen with highly technical and complicated drawings on the various designs of the chain.

Sachin the chief promoter not wanting to get caught with wrong interpretations consulted Saumyadeep and Mukesh and came up with various interpretations of Dog chain the most bizarre being replacing the entire main gait with chains strung from one end to the other.

However, they dismissed this as improbable as they were not able to figure out how residents would maneuver these chains to enter the building complex. The only thing which looked probable was to have residents crawling in from under the gate.

Bhaskaran Sir the matured and technical man in the group with a lot of power plant experience behind him felt that this was perhaps meant to indicate a chain and pulley system for stacking dog houses where pet dogs could reside. He found this a unique idea and had started contemplating buying a dog as well. This was not the time to bother about the sinusoidal wave form.

Mr. Bhagwat was very busy with a lot of woodwork and interior work going in his house and could not put much thought behind this requirement though the question kept coming back to him and disturbing him like the constant hammering away of the carpenter.

The graceful ladies Shraddha and Shazia thought a chain was not required as they did not believe in chaining dogs. They considered it against animal rights, and they raised a red flag and said, “No Dog Chain is required”.

I am sure the DA (Dogs’ Association) was very happy with this as that day I saw quite a few dogs barking away happily in front of our gate as if to announce look you humans we have friendlies amongst you. The security guard thought they were challenging us openly.

Samant being the quintessential finance man to the core was not worried about what this meant as he had confidence in the idea of Hedait Bhai. He only wanted to check the financial implications of this in the long run.

He had already started working on various spreadsheets. The spreadsheet was almost done except for one formula where he wanted to link the cost calculations to the weight of a dog.

Vikas Kadam and Vijay Babar were slightly confused too but Vikas thought Vijay knew and Vijay thought Vikas knew.

They happened to meet Nihal separately. While Vikas enquired about a cat chain Vijay wanted to know if he could use a leather belt instead of a chain.

Nihal was diplomatic and said that he would confirm with the builder.

One day while rushing to the office I met Sagar at the lift lobby and he said, “Sir get the dog chain done quickly”. I said “of course” and rushed off thinking that here was a man who was confident about what it meant. I admired his intelligence.

While Ranjit said he despised the thought of beating up a dog with a chain Bhavna decided to consult experts in the Middle East who told them that they would prefer to discuss camels rather than dogs. I am not sure if she will come back with the idea of a Camel Chain.

Das was busy with Mahanagar Gas Connections so he missed the Dog Chain matter and was shaken into conscious cognizance of the matter as various residents started whispering about it. He decided to let dogs lie low and concentrate on the gas connection. Good that he was not deterred by the dog chain else the gas flow into our kitchens would have got further delayed.

Alok my neighbor, a seasoned shipper, chimed my doorbell one day. When I opened the door, he had a strange look on his face very much akin to the Captain of a ship fearing imminent rough weather. 

 “I have seen many chains in a ship but not a dog chain,” said he.

Well, the inside of a ship is as Greek to me as the surface of the moon, so I diverted the topic by asking him whether dogs were allowed in his ship.

He said a yes and then a no and then said he would check the shipping Manual for exact rules and regulations on dogs. I have not heard from him since.

I think I heard him one day reading aloud “The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner”.

Nihal who by now had become the secretary of the Provisional Committee had to take numerous questions on the dog chain. One day I found him tucked in a corner on the terrace reading a book and making notes. I asked him what he was reading, and he displayed the book to me. The book was called “Chaining your dog” written by a Veterinarian. I am sure by now he would have read enough to double up as a Vet.

Philomina had been busy writing and decided not to bother about the dog chain thereby reposing, sub-consciously, faith in the committee.

Some of us thought of consulting Gadekar uncle but normally Gadekar uncle could be engaged only in early mornings during his morning walks on the terrace. Five AM for most was a tough hour to negotiate and engage Gadekar uncle in a dawn discussion on Dog Chains. The idea was considered inconvenient and dropped.

When the matter had gone round and round and got entangled enough suddenly Samumyadeep posted in the group in Capitals “WHAT IS THE DOG CHAIN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT”. 

The lines descended on the screen of everyone’s mobiles and everyone waited with bated breath for an answer from someone else in the group.

20 mins down and now one had replied. Now it dawned upon everyone that each one was confused. The apple had fallen on Newton’s head.

Finally, Sarfraz broke the print pause and wrote “let us discuss with Hedait Bhai”. Everyone left his/her apartment in their individual capacity to knock at Hedait Bhai’s door. While everyone left individually it was a collective gang that eventually landed up at Hedait Bhai’s door.

Hedait Bhai opened the door and burst out laughing. He said he had been enjoying the fun for the last five days.

We urged him to explain which he did.

Hedait Bhai had struck upon an idea of preventing stray dogs from entering the premises so he had thought of chains attached to the lower end of the main gate. He took out a paper and drew and explained. This is what he had meant by “Dog Chain” little realizing then that this would confuse scientists, engineers, accounts, Doctors, businessmen, and everyone else alike.

The students were enlightened, eventually.

The dog chains are installed now, and this is how they look. I must say I have not seen stray dogs inside after that. The committee has now been designated to check the working of the chain through a live demo.

A Close Up View Of the Dog Chains

It has been decided to bring five dogs of various sizes and breeds and station them on the other side of the main gate and close the gates. These dogs would then be tempted to try and pass through the main gate by placing dog bones on the other side of the gate and the committee would observe if the dog chain blocked them from crossing over.

The demo is scheduled for the coming Sunday. We are planning to make it a big event and trying to see which celebrity can be called to grace the occasion.

All are welcome and can bring their pet dogs too.

Let us see who has the last laugh Hedait Bhai or the rest.

Well as they say “Every dog has his day”

On Public Demand this event would be streamed live on You Tube too. Link will soon follow.

P.S: Breaking News:

Tamanna the “Go To Lady” with the builder and our one point contact at the Builder’s Side has agreed to support the demo by providing dogs from their side. These dogs shall be delivered soon and kept under the custody of Nath.Tamanna is also organizing a dog trainer for the event.

The committee has now decided to rope in other housing societies as well and we shall soon be looking at a “Dog Premier League”

Bye for now as we need to scout for sponsors.

Swim,Wrap & Scoot

This Engineering college hostel was unique. In today’s age, it would have been called the USP of the hostel.

Unique Selling Proposition. Huh.

For us, it was a privilege not available to the other hostels or rather not available in most hostels across the country in those times – The 1980s. We not only bragged about it but often misused it as well

The hostel had a swimming pool attached to it. Let us understand the layout plan a bit as that would be a good reference for understanding and appreciating the incident.

A rough layout of the hostel, Swimming Pool, Faculty Residence and The College

There were strict rules laid out for the usage of the swimming pool and the specified time of use was one of them. These rules had evolved over the years as the swimming pool had been a witness to many incidents like drunk students rampaging the pool, midnight water polo, slips and falls, Daru parties beside the pool, converting the entire pool into a coloured water tank during holi, running in the pool naked and so on.

The knowledge gained through experience of several engineering batches and their pattern of use of the swimming pool had been the genesis for the many stringent rules applicable for use of the swimming pool during our times. Interestingly students kept finding ingenious methods of breaching the rules thereby regularly necessitating updating of the rules.

There were many rules but for the story let us look at a few rules relevant to the story

  1. Swimming was allowed from 6.00 AM to 9.00 AM and from 7.00 PM to 9.00 PM only.
  2. Drinking was strictly prohibited in and around the pool area.
  3. Breach of these rules meant suspension from the college.

This swimming pool was fiercely guarded by the hostel warden Srivastava. 

A shortish rotund man known for his penchant for adherence to rules and for his no mercy towards punishment on breach of these rules. He personally ensured that all rules were followed and personally locked both the entrances to the swimming pool from the hostel side and the side of the faculty quarters.

Now in engineering college hostels, the one thing that is obvious and common across the world is the uncanny ability of students to bypass, bend, ingeniously deviate and/or blatantly disregard rules and codes. This is about once such incident.

It was a lazy Saturday evening, and a party was going on in the hostel room 409 of Jatin on the 4th floor. There was some beer which was flowing and there were singing and dancing. Sometime later in the evening someone mixed some whiskey with the beer and delivered the concoction to everyone. The concoction true to its reputation had the desired effect and the party reached a new philosophical level. It was around 10.00 PM in the night when someone suggested a swim at the swimming pool. All the eight in the room cheered and with courage stimulated in their inebriated state passed the proposal unanimously and the group of eight sauntered down to the swimming pool a little after having finished their drinks and changed into their shorts and having picked up a towel each from their respective rooms.

The band of eight in their shorts and towels in hand began their march down the stairs from the 4th floor and towards the swimming pool which looked like the ultimate objective of the night.

It was around 11.00 PM

Mind you it was outside of usage hours so all the eight had to scale the wall and drop down on the other side. The scaling of the wall was not too difficult, and the stimulation derived from the drinks helped the cause. Once on the other side everyone laid out their towels on the bench, stood up and did a huddle with Jatin clearly stating few rules:

  1. No lights to be switched on except the one light inside the pool.
  2. No loud conversation.
  3. No splashing and making noise.
  4. Wrap up in half an hour max.

With this, the party descended into the swimming pool and started swimming. After about ten mins Ajay broke the rule first as he jumped out of the pool, looked at the sky and shouted at the top of his voice “Wow I am loving it”. The seven other bodies in the pool suddenly froze and looked up at him. Ajay having realized his mistake slithered back into the pool and stood inside like a statue. We all looked around trying to fathom how far the sound had travelled. We stood there frozen for about 5 mins observing and trying to gauge any movement at the teachers/warden’s block or decipher any light coming on in one of the apartments.

After about five minutes we were convinced that nobody had heard us, and we began swimming again. I can tell you the feel of the water with the stars twinkling above you and your mind in the clouds, thanks to the alcohol, is a great feeling.

 Gradually the group got a bit fearless and there was some shouting, some jeering, some splashing. Dutch Courage was clearly taking over.

After some time Jatin called time out and one by one we all scampered up, towelled our selves dry, removed our shorts which were placed in a small handbag carried by Prakash, wrapped the respective towels around our waist and prepared to leave.

Suddenly like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat Prakash pulled out three beer bottles from his bag, brandished them in the air like trophies and suggested a drink. Now in the middle of the night with the cool breeze cutting across this was a difficult to resist proposal and everybody squatted down in a circle on the floor. Prakash said cheers and the group echoed it and the beer bottles were being passed around as we sipped from them one by one oblivious of the fact that the sound waves had now pierced the silence of the night and travelled to the ears of the Warden Srivastava.

Srivastava a man who believed in early to bed and early to rise had gone to bed around 10.00 PM. By 10.15 he was fast asleep and snoring away happily. His slumber was broken at around 11.15 PM. He lay on his bed with eyes wide open. Did he hear a human sound? 

He lay there quietly with alert ears but there was no sound that he could hear. Eventually, after about five mins he dismissed this to some dream and fell asleep again.

Around 11.40 PM Srivastava was awake again. This time he surely had heard a sound. He sat upon his bed and eventually went to the window. It was dark outside, but his ears were alert. He could hear some faint human voices and an intermittent splashing sound. His sensory perceptions could deduce the source of sound to be emanating from the swimming poolside. He was fully awake now. He put on his trousers and t-shirt and decided to check out. He got out of his apartment and started walking towards the swimming pool. He reached the swimming pool gate, unlocked it and went inside.

He got the shock of his life. Sitting on the floor across the pool where 8 human forms indiscernible and unrecognizable in the very dim light.

Meanwhile, the gang of 8 had heard the clanging of the key against the lock of the swimming pool gate on the other side and were alert. The gate opened and in the darkness, they could clearly see the silhouette of Srivastava.

On seeing him they all got up in unison and stood bewildered for about 5 seconds. Then someone suddenly shouted wrap the towel around your face and run. This was like a military command at the war front. We all spontaneously unwrapped our towels from our waist, wrapped it around our face and ran towards the compound wall. It was quite a sight, I guess. 8 naked boys with towels wrapped around their face running towards the wall. Srivastava was now shouting. “Who is there, stop”. We started scaling the wall as Srivastava started zeroing in towards us. Srivastava, as I had said earlier mentioned, was a rotund man and not a fast mover and by the time he could reach close to the wall, the eight naked boys had scaled it and jumped to the other side. His only way to chase them was to go to the gate between the swimming pool and the hostel compound, unlock it and chase the fleeing naked forms.

In the meantime, the eight of us had jumped to the other side and had started running towards the hostel with our towels wrapped around our face and our dinglings hanging out. We reached the stairs and started running up. Sunil suddenly shouted that we all go to Mayanks room on the fourth floor but in the process also run across the length of each floor so that water dripping from our bodies created a confusing trail and did not lead to any specific room.  

Finally huffing and panting we all landed up inside Mayanks room and once the lights were switched on for some time the naked truth dawned upon us and everyone immediately removed their towels from their face and wrapped them around their waist again. The lights were then quickly switched off and all sat in the room without making the faintest sound.

After about 45 mins nothing happened, and it was clear that Srivastava had given up and gone back to his quarters which was true.

Srivastava on the other hand on opening the gate and having entered the hostel compound was faced with 8 naked bums and backs running into the hostel about 75 meters away from him. He knew he would not be able to catch them and decided to give up the chase and retreat.

Finally, after an hour lights were switched on in Mayanks room and the question in everybody’s mind was had Srivastava seen us and could he recognize any of us. Most agreed that since we had our towels wrapped around our face and the light was too dim recognition was unlikely. There was one issue though as Sunil suggested that Srivastava could parade each hosteler naked and try and identify the eight through the manhood of each which he would have definitely seen.

However, this form of identification was considered impractical and it was impossible to parade around 100 students naked and then try and identify them from the memory of their naked form. Someone suggested that such identification was not legally tenable as well.

Eventually, there was a general strong warning given to the students, few students were pulled aside to check if they knew who these eight were. 

Well, in an Engineering College Hostel, there is the “Freedom Fighters Rule” which means no one gives away the names of perpetrators.

The eight of us survived to pass out of the college and carry the incident in our individual and collective memories and there have been many a joke about each other’s naked form and till date when there is an argument among any of the eight one of us surely calls out ..

”Hey boy, remember I have seen you naked”

Dronacharaya Cannot Lose

Sitansu was a brilliant student, rather a genius.

He was the blue-eyed boy of every teacher, gem of the school and both an envy and pride for us friends and classmates.

While most of us would study to clear the exams, he would study to build concepts, something we felt was a foolish thing to do during those days -the 80s of the 20th century. We would often mock him and pull his leg by saying things like he would probably be the next Einstien, Volt or Ampere.

 He dismissed these remarks with a cheerful gleam in his eyes and a sweet smile on his lips.

While we tried to be successful, he kept nurturing himself and pushing his boundaries to be capable, the importance of which we all realize now.

We were in the 12th Standard and in those days each subject also carried an internal marking by the college to the extent of 10 marks which got added to the marks you obtained at the board examinations.

Needless to mention these 10 marks were very important. These 10 marks were nuggets of Gold.

This scoring was done through a Viva-Voce by each subject professor.

The college professors were generally generous about it either through liberal marking or through easy questions which allowed students to earn the maximum marks. However, there was one exception, Professor Parimal.

Under his barrage of questions, most would score a 4 or 5 and it was a matter of folklore that even the best minds to have faced the Viva-Voce of this man had not been able to cross the barrier of 8 which stood as a record of sorts for the past 12 years.

To bring forth the essence of this to the fore let me tell all of you that in the other subjects most of the students would generally score a 9 or a 10 upon 10.

With this scenario in front of us, we eagerly waited for the day when our great Sitansu would face the Viva-Voce barrage of Professor Piramal. Let me further mention that this was normally conducted in a hall where a student was questioned by the subject professor individually while all of us could sit and watch and await our turn.

The day arrived, we were all seated in the hall and Professor Parimal was conducting his Viva. At the end of the question-answer session Professor Parimal would generally announce the marks he was giving to the candidate and we could all mostly hear threes and fours.

Suddenly my name was called out and I walked up to the Professor quite gingerly. I sat on the chair in front of him and he asked me “How much do you think you will score”. Well, I was not very confident of myself that too against Professor Parimal so I said, “Sir 2”. “Let’s see,” said the Professor and started his volley of questions. I lasted 10 questions, mostly gave wrong answers at which point of time I could read on the Professor’s face that he considered me useless. He finally stopped and declared a 2.5 and dismissed me. This being higher than my expectations I was fine with it and eager to run away from the clutches of the Professor. So when it ended, I was very happy and almost ran back to my seat. I generally thought getting a Zero was far better than facing the professor.

While I was scampering back to my seat, I heard the name of Sitansu being called. This was the moment, and I could see all my classmates shifting in their chairs and getting attentive to watch the duel.

Sitansu walked up and sat in front of Professor Piramal.

“So Sitansu you are the brilliant student of the class is it not,” said the Professor. “Not really Sir,” said Sitansu. “How much do you expect to score” asked the Professor. “10 Sir said Sitansu”. The Professor almost fell off his chair, looked at us and said: “Boys Sitansu says he will score a 10”. Someone among us quipped “Sir he will score a 15 out of 10”. “Who said that” thundered the Professor.

We sat there blank-faced and obviously no one owned up.

“So Sitansu” continued the Professor “ your friends think highly of you, let us see and for the records let me tell you Sitansu that in the last 12 years nobody has even crossed 8 so let us see how good you are”.

With this, the session started.

The Professor started shooting out questions and Sitansu kept answering. After every right answer from Sitansu the Professor would say correct and move on to the next question. After some time, the questions started getting tougher and tougher. The topic of the questions varied from Light to sound to electricity to dynamics to inertia and so on but Sitansu kept replying. The session reached a fever pitch and even after 50 questions Sitansu was going strong. The session was reaching a crescendo and we were all upright and taut in our chairs fully absorbed in this epic duel. 45 Mins and Sitansu was carrying on. The Professor had reached quite a level of physics now which was beyond our comprehension. The questions seemed totally alien to us but Sitansu kept replying.

The Professor was looking for his first wrong answer which was not forthcoming. The atmosphere was charged. You could hear the pin drop except for the question and the answer.

Suddenly we were shaken by the question which came next.

“Tell me about the Ampere’s Swimming rule Sitansu” said the Professor. Now that was a very easy question and even, I knew it. Sitansu too was suddenly taken aback because this question was too easy and a sudden fall from a very high level of questioning. Sitansu looked at Professor Parimal not able to understand the reason for this very simple question. There was a pause in the air as the teacher and the student looked at each other.

Ampere’s Swimming Rule

Dronacharya and Arjun were locked in visual contact. For all of us who remember this moment it was a defining moment which lasted for about 40 seconds and is captured in the memory of all of us. A memory which will perhaps never get erased.

“Sitansu don’t you know the Ampere’s Swimming rule”? The Professor’s voice pierced through the silence and broke our reverie.

A question is a question is a question and had to be answered. “Yes, Sir,” said Sitansu and rattled out the answer.

“Correct,” said the Professor. “Now tell me who taught swimming to Ampere”. That was a stunner and we all almost got up from our chairs too dazed to believe what was happening. Sitansu looked up at the professor with a bewildered and blank expression. “The answer Sitansu” said the professor.

Now how would Sitansu know who taught swimming to the French Physicist Andre Marie Ampere the founder of Electrodynamics who had also developed the concept of the swimming rule to explain that If a man swims along the wire carrying current such that his face is always towards the magnetic needle with current entering his feet and leaving his head, then the north pole of the magnetic needle is always deflected towards his left hand.”

“9.5 and dismissed,” said the professor and Sitansu got up to return to his seat. We all spontaneously got up to and started clapping. We saw the professor smiling and clapping too with pride and happiness writ over his face which he was trying to hide.

The perfect ten was not reached technically.

As long as Professor Parimal continued as the Professor of Physics till his retirement the record stood at 9.5 in the name of Sitansu with no one else in all these years even having crossed an 8. We all knew this 9.5 had meant 10 and we are sure Professor Parimal knew that too.

Sitansu and Professor Parimal were in touch as Sitansu ensured that he always remained in touch with the Professor about whom he always spoke highly as someone who pushed the barrier for students and allowed them to break the glass ceiling.

 The Professor had a great admiration for Sitansu and would always talk about him to all his future students. “I am looking for a Sitansu” he would tell all his future batches.

While respect was mutual how could Dronacharya lose?

P.S:

Dronacharaya:

In the epic Mahabharata, Droṇa (Sanskrit: द्रोण, Droṇa) or Droṇāchārya or Guru Droṇa or Rajaguru Devadroṇa was royal preceptor to the Kauravas and Pandava. He was Arjun’s coach.

Arjuna:

 one of the five Pandava brothers, who were the heroes of the Indian epic the Mahabharata. Arjuna, son of the god Indra, was famous for his archery (he could shoot with either hand) and for the magical weapons that he won from the God Shiva

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Great. Thanks. Sweet of you

The Mindful Homemaker by Divya

‘The Sunshine Blogger Award’ is given to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity while spreading sunshine in the blogging community. My dear friend Sunita has nominated me for this award. Thank you so much re for nominating me.

Here is the link to Sunita’s blog. https://sonibindaas571181659.wordpress.com She writes excellent lifestyle blogposts, ocassionally you can see her arts and also poems. Do follow and read her posts.

The Sunshine Blogger Award Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
Nominate 11 people, notify them, & ask 11 new questions.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award photo in your post.

1) Do you like to travel? What was the place you last visited?

2) Do you spend time looking at the sky? Or you find it boring?

3) Your favourite childhood…

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Now You See Me , Now You Dont

The Residential College, Narendrapur is an esteemed college in the Indian state of West Bengal.

During our days the college had a strict Zero Tolerance Policy when it came to discipline.

However, there are many Stories of escapades, delinquency, breaking of codes of conduct by students who had just crossed from school life into college life and were in a continuous quest for the elixir of life.

This is a boys only Residential College.

Boys who had just stepped out of school life into college life with the assumption that college life was fun, provided greater freedom, allowed some sort of a license to indulge in certain activities which were taboo in school and were looking forward to adventure and fun were in for a major surprise.

Within the confines of the hostels of the college, the free spirit of the students blossomed and bloomed and it was in these hostel rooms, war rooms if you like that many a daring plot were hatched.

Those of us who have studied there know but for the benefit of those who have not, it is important to state that the codes of conduct, rules, regulations and discipline at this Institute were stringent and the smallest of breach could lead to the student being expelled from the college and thereby from the hostel.

The expulsion was made out to be a very simple affair almost akin to a surgical strike.

No planning was necessary because the process was simple and defined and the then principal, who went by the nickname Panchi, was an expert in the execution of the process.

The student would be called and Panchi would just look at him and say “ Baari Chali Ja” ( which literally translated means Go Home ). After the sentence was thus pronounced, a jeep would be sent to the hostel and Panchi’s warriors would then go to the room of the student thus sentenced, wrap up his bedding, pack his clothes and load them and the student on to the jeep. The jeep would then drop off the student to his home with a small envelope carrying the expulsion letter signed by the great Panchi himself.

Phew, what a farewell…….

The size and extent of the sin or the breach were irrelevant because for every sin the penalty was capital punishment as described above.

Imagine being expelled for good, mid-year, from a premier institute during your 10 + 2 days.

The one thing, among various other things, that was strictly prohibited was going out of the college and hostel campus without permission. However, this was one oft broken rule. The students followed the simple rule that unless caught you were not the thief.

However, the risk of getting caught and thereafter being expelled from the college always loomed largely. Talk of the Damoicles’ Sword. There it was.

There were certain points along the perimeter wall of the campus which were considered safe points for such an escape to adventure and freedom. These points in the walls were typically called 3.5 ( Sade Teen), 4.5 (sade chaar) and 7 (Sath).

There were many situations you could get caught.

Found missing from the hostel, found missing from the prayer room, discovered by a teacher/professor outside the campus, seen sceptically walking towards the wall, worst you could get caught red-handed or red feet, if you may say so, atop the wall perched like the foolish monkey about to eat a stolen banana or about to jump off the wall.

Remember if caught you were debarred. The jeep, the baadi chali ja…

One Sunday morning Rajat had planned a rendezvous with his girlfriend. Rajat had planned to leave the hostel after the morning prayers, scale 3.5, walk down to the main road, take the bus and meet his girlfriend in front of Flury’s at Park Street, Calcutta.

After the prayers, Rajat took a bath, changed into what he thought was his best dress – a navy blue trouser and a sky blue shirt, looked at the mirror, felt satisfied with his appearance and walked down to the 3.5 wall to scale.

No one noticed him and he jumped to the other side of the wall easily. He walked down the small winding road on the other side and reached the main road, crossed the road, and waited for the bus at the bus stop.

This bus stop was two stops behind the bus stop of the college main gate. That is, counting from where he intended to board the bus the college bus stop was the second stop.

He was on cloud nine, he was meeting his girlfriend after long. He got onto the bus with a spring in his step. The bus was reasonably crowded with only one seat vacant and he managed to grab it. At the next stop lot, many people boarded the bus and now many people were standing as well.

Rajat was humming a tune to himself and thinking of the restaurant he would take his girlfriend for lunch. The American Choupsey was her favourite.

The bus again screeched to a halt and Rajat looked out. This was the bust stop in front of the college. Suddenly he saw a flicker of white dhoti and saw a white dhoti and kurta clad person boarding the bus. The all-white dress caught his eye. Normally the Brahmacharis (professors, teachers, hostel wardens ) of the college and the mission wore all white as opposed to saffron which the maharajas wore. He peered through the crowd in the bus and his heart skipped a beat. This was Tarun Brahmachari boarding the bus. Tarun da  was not only the chemistry professor but also the warden of his hostel.

God ,if Tarun da saw him he would be caught red-handed and expelled. He shifted slightly uneasily in his seat to hide behind the crowd in the bus and decided to look the other way to hide from view.

After some time, he stealthily looked around from the corner of his eye and discovered Tarun da planted not far from him. His hands holding the roof handle of the bus and he staring at Rajat. Rajat quickly looked away. He was worried. After some time, he looked back again to see Tarun da still looking at him. Tarun da had also inched closer to him. This time Rajat’s gaze met Tarun Da’s and Tarun da smiled. Rajat looked blankly at Tarun da with a frown and question on his face but did not smile back. Tarun da started pushing the crowd and inching closer towards Rajat and this time Tarun da waved at Rajat. Rajat stared blankly again with no- recognition writ large on his face. In fact, he looked sideways to pretend that he was trying to check whom Tarun da was waving at.

Tarun da was puzzled too and he inched forward gradually till he was standing in front of Rajat. “Rajat where are you going? What are you doing here?” asked Tarun da. Rajat looked at Tarun da with a puzzled expression on his face. “Rajat I am talking to you,” said Tarun da touching him on the shoulders as he said so.

Rajat looked up at Tarun da with an expression of bewilderment and said: “Are you addressing me”. “I am not Rajat”. “Hope you are not mistaking me for someone else”. Tarun da got a bit confused but held his own and said: “Rajat don’t act smart”. “We will get down at the next stop, we will go back to the college and we will have a little chat”. “Sir”, said Rajat “You are mistaking me for someone else and harassing me. I am not Rajat and in any case, I have to get down at the next stop as that is where I live”. “Also, what college are you talking about”. Having said this Rajat got up and started walking to the front door of the bus. He walked to the door fast pushing the crowd and yelling “give me room I need to get down at the next stop”. He reached the door of the bus and without even once looking back got down at the bus stop leaving Tarun da totally bewildered and flabbergasted in the bus.

The place where he got down was the blind boys’ academy stop of the college around two stops ahead of the main gate of the college. He crossed the road and reached the outer boundary wall, scaled it and dropped himself in.

Now the school, the blind boy’s academy, the college were all internally connected. Once inside the campus he started running towards the college. He ran for full 20 mins at full steam till he reached his hostel. He immediately got into his room changed his dress and wore a dhoti and a kurta, opened his chemistry book, and laid it on the table. He then took his navy-blue trouser and the sky blue shirt to another hostel room of his batchmate and told him to hide these dresses in his cupboard.

He Ran and Ran and Ran

 He then returned to his desk in his room and sat down to read the chapter of organic chemistry.

After about 35 mins there was a sharp knock at the door. Rajat took the book in his hand as if reading and went to the room door and opened it.

Tarun da was standing outside.

“Good Morning,” Tarun da said Rajat. “Good Morning Rajat how are you” replied Tarun da. “I see you are studying “continued Tarun da. “yes, said Rajat, “This chapter of chemistry on Organic compounds is something I have been trying to understand but it is a bit tough for me”. Now Tarun das was also the chemistry professor and he said “Rajat can I help you”. “Yes, Tarun da,” said Rajat. Tarun da then came into the room and for the next 15 minutes, he explained to Rajat the chapter on Organic chemistry.

When Tarun da prepared to leave Rajat walked up to the room door with him thanking him profusely for helping him out with his chemistry lesson.

At the door, Tarun da suddenly turned around.

“You know what Rajat,” he said and Rajat skipped a beat and stared blankly at Tarun da.

“What Tarun da,” said he as soon he returned to his senses.

“Well I saw a boy on the bus and he looked so similar to you that I mistook him for you and tried to talk to him but of course he was taken aback”. “I felt you were probably going out without permission and I wanted to confront you, but the boy was totally confused and said he was not Rajat”.

“ I then got out of the bus after a few stops and took back the return bus and came to your room to check on you and lo and behold you are here in your room studying chemistry”.

“What a fool I have been”. It’s a miracle of God that people who look so alike do exist”.

“Yes Tarun da”, “Definitely Miracle of God” exclaimed Rajat.

When the summer vacations came Rajat carried his Navy Blue trouser and the Sky Blue Shirt to his hometown never to bring them again to the hostel.

It is told that his girlfriend had waited for him for 4 hours before giving up ( remember there were no mobile phones those days ) and they almost broke up till she saw reason when the story was told to her and the batch mate who had preserved the trouser and the shirt swore upon God and provided testimony.

Note: The names of characters are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.

Mouse Through The Drain

The Boss was a scrawny man of medium height.

However, his aura and personality made him towering.

He walked with a distinct and discerning gait, generally spoke with a high pitch, hardly ever smiled without good reason and evoked terror not only amongst his subordinates but also amongst his peers and superiors.

It was felt that keeping distance with this man was a good choice unless circumstances presented you with the Hobson’s choice.

To boot, he was a bachelor and having managed to celebrate 55 years of bachelor-hood with equanimity and distinction he firmly believed that the institution of marriage was largely meant to produce kids who added to an already teeming population of India and only achieved the dubious objective of bringing the GDP of the country down.

Marriage to him was thus a deprecatory ceremony in the overall scheme of things for the country.

He lived life frugally, travelled to the office mainly by public transport, avoided buying a car which he considered to be more of a liability and ate a very lean lunch at the workplace.

The general rumour was that his dinner consisted of at least three pegs of dark rum with some bread or puffed rice thrown in as accompaniment.

Of his various claims to fame, his demeanour was not one while mannerisms being one, stood out.

He was considered whimsical, moody, of acerbic tongue and off his rockers. He carried all these epithets with ease and stubborn nonchalance.

Despite all this, he did command a lot of respect and admiration for his in-depth knowledge of the subject, his sharp mental faculties and his constant eagerness to keep challenging the vast ocean of knowledge. He was an encyclopedia, a library, and a storehouse of knowledge.

His English speaking and writing skills were exemplary and got him encomiums.

Any officer in front of him was a lame duck and was generally shot down in no uncertain terms for reasons of poor understanding of the subject matter and writing skills. You generally needed to be attired with double bulletproof jackets to enter his cabin and face him but no matter how well you prepared on the subject he would manage to find a flaw, elaborate upon it and prove to you that this was the most basic thing that should have been known to you. QED.

 You thus left his chamber with your head hanging low and your spirits hanging lower into the tide of various eager beavers waiting outside to have a crack at your expense over your fate and count the number of bullet marks on your jacket. It was another matter that everybody had been riddled with the Bosses’ bullets at some time or the other.

During those times the Insurance Companies had standard and conventional products and there were many situations where an existing product could not respond to the requirement. To tide over this situation, most insurance companies issued what was called a “Special Contingency Policy”.

The idea of such an Insurance Policy was to provide insurance cover for situations not available under the standard products and not specifically excluded under the standard products. In other words, if there was a novel requirement the requirement would be assessed and analyzed and a Special Contingency Policy would be issued to cover the situation. Such policies were custom drafted.

For example, if there was a milk powder manufacturing company which stored its product in warehouses and faced a situation where rodents were damaging and contaminating the product leading to a loss and damage to the product such a situation would get covered by issuance of a special contingency policy.

The authority for accepting and approving such proposals was vested with the Boss at Head Office. The idea was to ensure that such products be discussed and approved at the highest level and not issued indiscriminately and wantonly.

I was handling this portfolio then and my call for duty almost daily brought me to the line of fire as I had to analyze such proposals being received from the various offices of the country, prepare a detailed note around them and present them to the Boss for approval, rejection or discussion. The various offices who sent such requests would urge me to get the proposal approved by the Boss as the proposal was important to them and would help them make greater inroads into the client and so on and so forth.

I have been lucky to have survived those years on the battlefield.

Most of the time the Boss would find innumerable technical flaws in those proposals and most of the time rightly so and would thus either shoot them down or call for further details.

 His process of filtration was straight forward. If the Company itself could not manage their storage from rodents let not an Insurance Company pay for their mismanagement. He had a good nose for smelling out the real requirements which did qualify for a customized solution through a special contingency policy.

Into this line of fire once walked in Jonathan.

Jonathan was a thorough gentleman and an erudite. He had spent long years at the Head Office and had worked extensively with the Boss. The boss had been largely appreciative of Jonathan’s knowledge and style of working and the boss considered him as a nice and bright officer in a crowd of crooks. There was a bit of uncanny camaraderie between the two.

Eventually, Jonathan was transferred out of the Head office and took charge of a Division as the Divisional Manager. Now, once you become a Divisional Manager your primary focus moves to business development and for the sake of practicality, you learn to sacrifice or bypass certain technical considerations here and there for the sake of picking up business.

For this very reason, the Boss, therefore, considered most Divisional Managers as useless. For him, they were perfect ambassadors of doom for the Company as most of them hardly understood the subject and those who understood sacrificed most of it on the altar of business development. An action he deeply regretted and spewed venom on the matter whenever he got the opportunity.

One fine day Jonathan referred to me a requirement of a special contingency policy. A large Electric Distribution Company wanted a cover for electric thefts. Therefore, distribution losses through thefts would be quantified in monetary terms and the insurance coverage would pay for such losses.

 Jonathan had prepared a detailed proposal right from the stage of electric generation to delivery, excluded normal transmission losses calculated through past averages and even further excluded a certain percentage towards unknown and unexplainable losses. After this, the difference between the generation and the final delivery converted to monetary value would constitute a payable claim under the policy being attributable to transmission theft.

Jonathan was a good soul and while I was not entirely convinced about the proposal because of the various technical fall outs that I could envisage I decided to give it a shot to try and convince the boss. Also, Jonathan badly wanted to do this business as he thought this could create a mark for him with the client and give him the much-needed opening to get into their main insurance program which was big and that is where the meat was.

Although Unconvinced about the proposal I made a recommendation note and sent it to the boss. As I had anticipated I was summoned by the Boss after a couple of hours and completely taken down due to lack of understanding of the matter.

  1. How can such electricity thefts be controlled in India?
  2. What was the Corporate themselves doing to curb these thefts?
  3. What could be other distribution and transmission losses?
  4. How will transmission losses be calculated?
  5. How will illegal hooking be controlled?
  6. How robust is the metering system?
  7. What sort of outage has been factored in?
  8. Are there scheduled downtimes?
  9. Bla
  10. Bla
  11. Bla

Were some questions which were thrown at me. There were many more and they all seemed relevant.

I had no answers.

I was told in quite uncertain terms not to play ball with Divisional Managers and with Corporates who in Insurance only tried to find an ally to pass on their crimes and losses without doing much about it themselves.

However, as the Boss knew Jonathan he asked me to call in Jonathan the next day for a discussion.

Jonathan reached Head Office at the appointed time and I ushered him to the boss following him, albeit, sheepishly having once being smitten and with the feeling of at least twice being shy.

After the usual pleasantries, and the boss never spent more than a nanosecond on them the topic was placed on the anvil. The Boss attacked Jonathan with his volley of questions and soon Jonathan was knocked out flat with no answers and no good reason to do this proposal as it was not making technical and insurance sense.

Jonathan then made a final attempt. He looked at the boss and said: “ Boss this business is important as it would allow me a foothold into this big Corporate and this is my chance”.

The Boss heard Jonathan out, looked at Jonathan in the eye and without batting an eyelid stood up. I could see his eyes twitching, his hands shaking just a bit, his countenance turning graver, his gaze becoming more piercing and his stance aggressive.

Here was a bull ready for the attack

I quickly scampered to the corner of the room.

It was then that the Boss made is now famous dialogue.

“Jonathan you were a bright young lad but now for the sake of business you have forgotten your moorings and your technical knowledge”.

“It seems Jonathan with you now there is nothing technical it is all testicle”.

He paused and I could see Jonathan uncomfortably shifting his gaze.

“Jonathan”, the boss continued,” you do not have the requisite courage and the ability to enter the corporate through the front door armed with your competence and skill and convince them to give you their main business”

“Instead you want to enter the house through the drain like a dirty mouse carrying a special contingency policy in your mouth and assuming that you would be invited to the dinner table”.

“Grow Up Jonathan and do not waste our time”. “ The mouse which goes in through the drain generally lands up in the mousetrap”.

With that the Boss, without flinching an eyelid walked out of the room banging the door behind us and making sure that the last nail in the coffin was hammered in.

We were still in the cabin and from the corner of the room I looked at Jonathan and Jonathan looked at me and no words were necessary.

It is my Kingdom and I am the King: Trilogy

Mr Soni Sigh worked with a reputed Insurance Company in a Division at Delhi.

He was an Assistant Manager and reported to the Senior Divisional Manager.

He aspired to Head a Division one day. The position carried many perks, a nice big office chamber, quite a bit of authority including financial authority, number of subordinates to do the work, a bell to summon the peon, nameplate on the swinging door, a big chair with a nice white towel across the backrest, a stenographer to dictate to and quite a few branch offices with Branch Managers reporting into the Divisional Manager.

There was one hurdle though. The post carried a lot of responsibility and work pressure. This was not something Soni Singh liked. He came from the school of thought “Why take the pressure of work in a public sector”.

 However, over a period of time, he had realized that if he could head the division in a smaller town he would carry a lot more weight, get respect and could even throw his weight around.

He would have quite a few Branch Managers running errands for him at his beck and call

That was not possible in Delhi. Delhi was a big city with 23 Divisional Managers and he would just be one in the crowd. He wanted the DM(District Magistrate) feel as Divisional Manager and that was possible only if he headed the Division in a smaller town.

In a year Lady Luck smiled upon him and he was posted as the Divisional Manager of Gwalior.

Encantada- He was enchanted. As the notification and the circular came out the entire Insurance Cpmpany came to know about it but hardly did anyone notice the name Soni Singh moving to Gwalior as Divisional Manager heading the Gwalior Division. Few who knew him congratulated him. While it was a routine office order it was a dream come true for Soni.

He was proven right when three people called him, introduced themselves, welcomed him and said that they were looking forward to his joining. These three were the Branch Managers under the Gwalior Division.

He was over the moon already. He imagined himself like a King sitting on his grand throne.

Soni thus stood vindicated in his own light.

On the appointed day he reached Gwalior to a grand reception by the three Branches and employees of the Gwalior Division. He was garlanded as he alighted from the Shatabdi Express at Gwalior and was whisked away in a car with a motorcade behind him to the Company flat.

 A party was hosted in his honour in the evening with the choicest of drinks and lavish food.

 He was the hero, he was the king and he braced himself up for a long haul.

Gradually he settled down at Gwalior, came to be known as Manager Saheb, carried quite some powers to his liking and kept on managing the show without taking much of responsibility and hardly ever signing on any paper.

After joining he had made an elaborate research regarding his signing authorities and financial authorities and also discovered that more often than not he could get the officers under him to sign to get the job done. In certain cases where he had no option but to sign he had mastered the art of getting sufficient signatures above his signature with adequate justification from them as regards the matter on hand on which the note had been made.

He always remembered the Motto.”Lesser you sign the lesser you would be in trouble”.

Let us now explore three incidents considered a master class in the Soni art and art form of avoidance in which he would get famous

The Elusive Chargesheet:

Sharad Kelkar was a Branch Manager under Soni Singh.

He was in his late twenties, recently married and had small material aspirations in life. He had discovered that in order to meet up with these small aspirations he needed a little more money. He found a simple way that of exaggerating conveyance and taxi bills, producing, once a while, fake lunch bills, fake small buys for the branch, like stationery, mineral water bottles and the like. This gave him a bit of extra income and allowed him the material buys he liked like sunglasses, visit fine dine restaurants with his wife, the branded Raymonds blazer. A bit of Peter Scot and such things.

Unfortunately, as we say smaller thefts have bigger consequences and in an audit, a snacks bill of INR 100/- got investigated and was found to be fake. Remember we are talking of 1991 when Hundred Rupees was not as paltry as it is today.

 The reimbursement claim was linked to Sharad and an audit recommendation of charge-sheet was put forward. The matter was brought to the notice of Soni as he was the Divisional Manager and as a matter of protocol reported to the Personnel Department of the Head Office of the Insurance Company. The issued landed upon the table of the then General Manager, Personnel who being an employee-friendly person thought it fit to first speak to Soni Singh about it.

The GM was humane and would generally avoid serious steps unless the matter unequivocally so justified.

He learnt from Soni Singh that generally Sharad was a decent fellow, ran the branch well and was extremely hard working and dedicated. It was thus settled that the Head Office would only issue a warning letter and call for an explanation from Sharad instead of issuing a charge sheet. As discussed and agreed a warning cum explanation letter was issued and sent across to Soni who was to hand-deliver the same to Sharad and also collect a receipt and a written explanation from him.

It is here that Soni formulated his master plan so as to ensure that Sharad remained loyal to him and indebted to him forever. He was now in a War Room.

He summoned Sharad to his office, closed the doors to his chamber and in a grave and concerning voice told Sharad that he was in big trouble and a charge sheet, suspension and inquiry was likely. He thus let the sword of Damocles’ hanging over Sharad’s head.

Sharad was devastated and almost fell to the feet of Soni. The ignominy of suspension would be too much for him and the finding of the inquiry was a forgone conclusion as he knew he had committed this fraud.

Sharad had a family to support and a reputation to protect.

While Sharad cried and wept Soni absorbed and observed him  like a dog falling for the bone.

At the final yelp of “ Please help me out of this Sir” Soni got up to put his arms around Sharad and told him that he would try his best but in any case, the charge sheet would be delivered to Sharad and he would first have to reply to the charge sheet following which Soni would try and bail him out.

Thus partly reassured Sharad left the room and left Soni licking his chops.

Soni Singh knew there was no charge sheet forthcoming. What was coming was only a simple warning letter but he had ensnared his prey with the intent of making him loyal for life.

One fine morning the Regional Office Dak delivered the warning letter to be issued to Sharad on Soni’s desk. Soni opened it, read it, placed it in his upper drawer and locked it. He was now waiting for the prey to wreathe and wriggle.

He decided to hold the letter for quite some time.

After his meeting with Soni Singh, Sharad had been impatient, sleepless and tense and he had been daily calling Soni to find out whether the charge sheet had arrived only to be told Not yet. This added to his agony.

When Soni finally realized that enough was now enough he eventually beckoned Sharad to his office  inter-alia telling him that the charge sheet had arrived.

Such memos always had two copies. One original which was to be delivered and one copy which was to be duly receipted by the receiver under signature to form part of the office file thus creating the evidence that the original letter had been delivered to the intended recipient.

When Sharad arrived Soni Singh again called him inside his chamber which he locked from inside. The atmosphere was still and tense and Soni was looking pensive and anxious too. Soni stealthily opened his drawer and brought out the office copy ( not the original ). He turned the letter around towards Sharad who was sitting across him and covered the contents of the letter with a file with the lower end of the letter protruding out towards Sharad.

He was like a magician conjuring up a trick and Sharad the audience in total hypnosis.

He told Sharad “ Write received and sign it”. Sharad had no option. He wrote received, signed the letter and put the date and time. Soni then quickly pulled back the office copy opened his drawer put the letter inside and locked it again.

Sharad sat there looking at Soni. Soni just looked back and said, “ Ok, you can go now”. Sharad was clueless and blank. “ Sir the original letter Sir, if you could give me so that I can draft a reply”. “ We shall discuss that later,” said Soni. “ Now just leave before others get to know about all this”. Sharad got up and left.

He called Soni Singh at night asking if he could come over to Soni’s house to collect the letter. Soni Singh said, “ What’s the hurry? You know what you have done you can draft a reply”. “ But Sir I should see the charges in the letter so that I can reply aptly Sir, I need your help, Sir”.

“ Think properly Sharad”. said Soni Singh, “and be calm and composed” he retorted and hung the phone.

Soni’s beer that night tasted better.

From that night onwards Sharad would daily ask Soni Singh for the original letter and Soni would simply say “ Sharad draft your reply, ensure that you have covered all the charges made against you in the letter and stay calm and composed”

It is told that Sharad could never lay his hands on the original letter in spite of trying everything from taking Soni Singh out for dinner, giving him gifts, taking him out for drinks and so on and so forth.

Till the time Soni Singh was transferred Sharad remained his faithful dog and the day he was moving out he quietly told Sharad that he would invite Sharad to his house for dinner when he would give Sharad the original letter.

The dinner invitation never came and the so-called charge sheet remained undelivered for eternity.

The Water Purifier:

One morning Soni decided to visit his various branches in the city of Gwalior. He thus made a tour to the various branches finally landing up at Sharad’s branch.

Sharad went out of his way to welcome Soni Singh ( remember he had not yet got the letter ). He organised an elaborate high tea in the evening, showed Soni around at the branch giving him high importance and praising him in front of his branch employees.

At the end of the day, Soni Singh told Sharad “ Sharad your office needs a nice water purifier”. “ All of you should have good and purified drinking water. “We should buy one for your office you know” he said.

Like a faithful lapdog Sharad barked, “ Yes Sir, I think so Sir”. “Let us go and buy it now, “ said Soni and the two left for the market.

They bought a nice water cooler which Sharad paid from office money as it was an official buy. The bill being in Soni’s authority he immediately signed it. Sharad then suggested dinner to which Soni readily agreed. They went to a lovely restaurant and had a lavish drink and meal after which Soni Singh was dropped to his house. Once they reached the porch Soni Singh told Sharad to bring out the water cooler and leave it in his house and Sharad could collect it tomorrow for the branch.

Sharad, always loyal, did as was told.

While Sharad was leaving Soni said goodnight and waved back at Sharad adding “ Sharad remember the reply to your charge sheet. I can’t buy time for you forever”

The very next day Soni Singh called the water purifier shop, asked for the mechanic and got the water purifier installed at his own house and Sharad could never ask for it to be given back to the branch office.

Once a while Soni Singh would talk about the importance of purified water to Sharad rubbing salt into his wounds and Sharad always felt that in doing so Soni Singh perhaps enjoyed the taste of the water more.

Why should a Divisional Manager work:

Soni Singh truly believed that at his level he was not supposed to work and was supposed to get work done. More so in a Public Sector job where he was the Ringmaster who only cracked his whip while others worked.

However, his method got into a bit of a hiccup due to a certain situation.

Certain agents started writing letters directly to him over various matters. Now in a PSU a written letter is a serious thing and Soni Singh felt if a letter was addressed directly to him he would have to take some actions and decisions which he did not want to.

He thought and thought and come out with a solution. He drafted out a circular to be sent out to all employees and agents working with and attached to his Divisional Office.

The basic content of the letter was as under:

……………………………………………………….“ Everyone is hereby requested to take note that in order to increase the efficiency of the office and to ensure senior management involvement in all crucial matters the following process shall be followed hereon:

  1. Everyone has to maintain strict compliance to work ethics and be responsive to both internal and external customers.
  2. Each letter received is to be replied promptly and in no case later than 24 hours.
  3. All letters should be addressed to the Division through me”…………………………..

This created an interesting paradox that if a letter was sent directly to the Division it could not be through Soni and if it was sent directly to Soni then it violated the office circular.

Soni thus created a Catch 22 situation and managed to create affirmation and contradiction at the same time.

P.S: All names of characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person/place/ thing living or otherwise is purely co incidental.

The Cart Before The Horse

Those who have been fortunate enough to work in a Public Sector Undertaking commonly referred to as PSU would have many stories and anecdotes to narrate.

If all these people could start penning down just one interesting story out of their myriad experiences it would create copious and interesting literature.

We would have a great compilation of short stories and who knows a very interesting novel too.

This is one from my memory manuscript during my days with a PSU.

Rewind to 1990.

I was posted at Indore, the financial capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, as a greenhorn Assistant Administrative Officer. Being an engineer I would have to travel extensively within the state to visit and carry out Risk Inspection of various Industries and factories both in the large and MSME Sector.

The visits to the MSMEs were interesting as that took me to the interiors of the state and often to remote and Godforsaken places to visit small solitary units standing in the middle of nowhere. It was tough too as sometimes I had to stay at run-down motels, pillion ride on someone’s two-wheeler on muddy village trucks, eat at roadside dhabas, sometimes walk miles and so on.

However, in the process, I visited many interesting places and met many interesting people.

Khargone was one such place and Mr Jain was one such man.

Khargone is a district in Madhya Pradesh and the District Headquarter was in the town of Khargone named after the district.

 The district lies in the Nimar region.

In the ancient period, the Haihayas of Mahishmati (present-day MaheshwarDoes that remind us of the Film Bahubali ) ruled this region. Later the area was under the Paramaras of Malwa and Ahirs of Asirgarh. The area was under Malwa Sultanate of Mandu. In 1531, Gujarat sultan Bahadur Shah brought this area under his control.

Later it passed on to the Mughal Rule as Akbar annexed the territory and later the territory passed through the Peshwas to the Holkars of Indore, Sindhias of Gwalior and Ponwars of Dhar.

Post-independence and merger of the Princely states with Union of India in 1948, this territory became West Nimar district of Madhya Bharat.

Khargone district had been part of the Nerbudda (Narmada) Division of the Central Provinces and Berar, which became the state of Madhya Bharat (later Madhya Pradesh) after India’s independence in 1947. On 1 November 1956, this district became part of the newly formed state of Madhya Pradesh.

Jain was a simpleton. He was posted at the Khargone Branch as the Branch Manager. He was thus a Senior Government Officer in a small town and carried this post of his with a badge of honour. In and around he was known as “Manager Sahib” and he quite enjoyed the adulation and the respect and why not as this was quite a big deal for a man from very humble and meagre origins.

He was the Branch Manager of a large PSU and he was proud of this.

The area is largely a rural area and his business was confined to insurance of two-wheelers, crops and few cotton ginning and pressing factories. He reported to the Divisional Office at a different location which in turn reported to the Regional Office at the state capital which in turn reported to the Head Office at a Metro City and for business purposes he often toured the various villages that came under his territory.

One day the Village Panchyat Pradhan told him that being the Manager he should have a car and that would add to his prestige and position.

Mr Jain knew that he was entitled to a car in his current position and he was also aware of the 80-20 car scheme. As per the car scheme the car would virtually be available to him without any extra cost and he only had to make an application to the Division Office . The application would then move up the bureaucratic ladder to the Regional Office – Head Office and would return approved via the same route. After that was done Mr Jain could buy the car and start claiming maintenance, fuel and other perks that came with it as per the scheme. Not to mention the pride of owning a car.

Mr Jain decided to act in right earnest. He immediately contacted the Divisional Manager who directed him to Mr Hamid who was responsible for admin and personnel and handled such matters.

A word or two about Mr Hamid. Mr Hamid was a colourful personality and an interesting character. He believed in living life to the fullest with a smile and he was great at pulling pranks on people without batting an eyelid.

Of course, Mr Jain did not know this.

Mr Hamid placed a call to Mr Jain, introduced himself, in a jiffy made friendship with him and called him over to the Division Office. A date was decided and the meeting was set up.

On the appointed day Mr Jain reached Khandwa with a surreal glow on his face awash with the thought of becoming the proud owner of a car. He was heartily welcomed and greeted by Mr Hamid and they immediately struck up a chord. In half an hour Mr Hamid knew a lot about Mr Jain,his upbringing, his family, his ambitions, his wishes, his dreams. Very soon Mr Hamid was hosting Mr Jain to lunch at a nice restaurant that boasted of sumptuous vegetarian food. He was hosting Mr Jain at Company’s cost of course.

During lunch, Mr Hamid came to the topic of the car.

“O.P so you want to apply for a car”, said Hamid.

“Oh yes”, replied Mr Jain.

“Are you aware of the Pros and cons of the scheme and do you realize that in your present posting as Branch Manager of s a small town it is not a good idea to go for a car”.

Mr Jain was just enjoying the Tomato Onion soup when he was taken aback and looked askance at Hamid.

“Look” Said Hamid, “ Car is something you can apply any time you want in your position as Branch Manager but it does not make sense when you are posted at the branch”. “The area you cover is largely rural and most of the villages are better accessed on foot or a two-wheeler and since you have a two-wheeler of your own already you can easily cover these areas on your two-wheeler. Most of the times in the bad roads of the area you would not be able to use the car and the problem will get compounded during the monsoons. The car will mainly lie idle, require maintenance and you would not be able to produce the required fuel bills as you would hardly be able to use it. Since the car would not be used much you will lose in terms of the maintenance allowances too as these are linked to the kilometre usage of the car”.

“ You need to think rationally Jain” continued Hamid”. “This car would only become a showpiece and would soon become a financial burden on you”. “The car is not lost upon you”. “As soon as you get transferred to some other place which is urban you can immediately apply for the car”. “Only then will the car make sense to you and I mean financially as well, what with all the allowances and fuel reimbursements and the like”. “But Now, not at all”.

Mr Jain was bewildered but what Hamid said was making some sense. “ “Well Hamid, I get your point,so you are saying I don’t buy the car now”. “ If so what next”. This was the Question in Mr Jains mind which he posed to Hamid,

“Aha there you go Jain”. 

“I knew you were an intelligent dude,” said Hamid. “Let us first order the main course”

The menu was decided. Paneer Tikka, Yellow Dal Tadka, Jeera Rice and a Mixed Veg. Items which Mr Jain liked. He was beginning to think that Hamid had something better in store for him.

Hamid was a Pure Non-Vegetarian and he hated this food but he knew O.P had taken the bait and that kicked him. In any case Salma, his wife was making Mutton for dinner.

“So Jain do you know that in such situations the Company has a special provision of providing a horse and only the CMD of the Company has the authority to sanction this”.

Mr Jain almost fell off his chair. “ A horse”… You mean, “ A Horse.” He blabbered almost knocking off the glass of water in front of him. With a bewildered expression writ large on his face he looked up at Hamid.

“That’s exactly what I mean”, said Hamid with a mysterious smile hanging from his lips.

But Hamid “ What will I do with a horse, Where will I Keep it, how does it help, I don’t know how to ride”. Mr Jain was feeling nervous as well as confused.

The Panner Tikka had arrived and Hamid urged that they start eating.

“ Look Jain”, continued Hamid. “A horse would mean huge financial gain to you”. “The company pays for maintenance and fodder and unlike the car, no bills are required for this as there are no Garages and workshops for horses”. “You can thus claim a monthly amount towards these expenses without any bills and this money is yours for keeps”. “This is a direct financial gain to you as there is no way one can check and verify these expenses”. “And, as for the horse, you can let it graze in the lovely green fields of the village”. “The horse grazes for free and you get paid for it”. “It’s the jackpot Jain”. “Very few people know about this scheme but you are a friend so I am telling you”.

“As far as riding it is concerned you need not ride it”. “You can just keep it with you tied outside your house, and we will get one of the village lads to look after the horse at a very nominal cost”. “I can reimburse you for this and you can present a handwritten self-declaration towards this expense”. “See this bill is in your hands and even if you claim slightly extra no one would question”.

“If you so wish you could start learning to ride too”. “You could soon be the next Texan on horseback you know”.

“Just one word of caution Jain”. “Tell no one about this as this is a very special sanction”.

“All in all you thus stand to gain financially to a great extent and this would not be possible with a car”. “The car you can always buy later as per the company scheme”. “See you are lucky that you are posted at a small rural place and you financially stand to gain by applying for a horse”.

Hamid sounded genuine and Mr Jain saw reason in what he said, he was starting to get convinced.

The main course had come and Hamid was enjoying this.

“ There you go Jain, “ said Hamid. “Now let me tell you how to make an application”. “You need to apply on plain paper mentioning your Name, Employee Number, Location, Designation and give brief details of the locality, which I will help you with”.

They were into the main course now and Mr Jain was happy with the prospect of getting a horse on Co’s money. He had realized that this was a bit of a money-spinner and who did not want money.

The dessert was the only thing that Hamid liked. Jalebis and Rabri.

After the lunch while they walked back to the office they discussed the process of applying for the horse and that Mr Jain should directly post the envelope to the CMD marking it as Personal and Confidential as this was supposed to be a special sanction resting only with the CMD. Superscribing the envelope as Personal and Confidential would ensure that no one else opened it.

Satisfied thus and thanking Hamid profusely Mr Jain went back to Khargone in the evening. The next few days went into secretive discussions with Hamid and preparing the application. As Hamid had said this was a very special sanction and no one should know about it.

Finally, the application was ready and under the advice of Hamid Mr Jain posted it through the local post office.

He had even calculated the amount of money he could gain monthly in terms of fodder, maintenance of the horse etc.

Almost every day Hamid and Mr Jain would speak to each other and discuss the prospects of the approval of the horse.

In the meantime, Hamid narrated the incident to quite a few people in the Company known to him.

By word of mouth, the news had spread and almost everyone knew that Mr Jain had applied for a horse. Everyone waited for the Head Office to respond. The rumour was circulating but Mr Jain was in a small office in a small town and the news could not penetrate his world of make-believe.

15 days after the posting of this letter to the CMD of National the landline phone of Mr Malhotra, the Regional Manager rang on a Saturday at 8.00 AM. A lazy weekend when Mr Malhotra enjoyed some extra sleep. He cursed and abused as dreary eyed he got up from bed, staggered and stumbled to the phone in his half slumber state, groped for the phone and picked it up.

“Malhotrar” the voice at the other end was stern and strong. Kakkar recognized the voice of the CMD and the slumber left him immediately. He was fully attentive now. “ Yes Sir”.

“ Are we giving horses to our Branch Managers, have you lost it”.

The Car Or The Horse

Malhotra was dumbstruck but in the next ten minutes, he was given to understand what had happened along with an earful from the CMD inter-alia warning him of posting such foolish people as Branch Managers. In the next half an hour he spoke to his Personnel and Admin Head who knew nothing about it, they contacted the Divisional Manager who knew nothing about it but whose gut feeling told him that Hamid might have been involved in this. Hamid was called on his landline and he admitted to this prank.

Both Hamid and Mr Jain were summoned in person to the Regional Office the next working day where they were admonished and hauled up and had to apologise and were let off with a warning.

Later the Regional Manager took Hamid aside and told him not to carry his pranks to a level that the CMD of the Company would get involved and they had a laugh around it.

Over the next few years, Mr Jain had a tough time facing people from the Company as they would laugh both in front of him and behind him. Some would directly ask him about the horse or tell him how foolish and gullible he had been and he had to carry the embarrassment with himself for long. He was also given various nicknames like Horsey, Colt, Ghoda Babu and so on.

Mr Jain did not speak to Hamid for about a month but finally called him up and vented out hurling abuses at Hamid for making a fool of him. Hamid had expected this and was up for this situation. He charged back saying “ Jain I trusted you but you let me down and I would not speak to you ever”.

“Oh Hello,” said Jain “who trusted whom”?

“Jain I had told you that this had to be a secret as these are special sanctions and I am sure you told somebody and that’s why this got messed up”. “ Come on Jain” continued Hamid “ I tried to help you but ended up apologizing and getting a warning”. ”This is not done”.

Hamid sounded agitated, angry, hurt and Mr Jain again fell for it. He thought and thought.

“ Oh Yes Hamid”, he said. “I had told this to my friend Pawan the Branch Manager of Datia but I had told him not to tell anyone”.

“ Now I know,” said Hamid “ As they say never do a good deed for anyone” and banged the phone down.

Afterwards, Mr Jain made up with Hamid feeling guilty about not keeping a secret but till his last day at the office, he was not sure whether Hamid did play a prank on him.

Had Jain Put his cart before the horse? The readers may decide.

P.S: All names of characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person/place/ thing living or otherwise is purely co-incidental.