Friday, November 14, 2008


Whoever said we dream in black and white was not right. I can say that with a great degree of certainty because last night I had a dream in several mega-pixels per inch (Oldtimers who are not computer-savvy may replace the last four words with ‘Technicolour’.0 It was special not just because of the variety of hues. It was like ‘The Bible’ by Cecil de Mellow: notable because of the number of characters who appeared in it. Like a mega-serial, it went on and on and on.

I dreamt that I had died. I was transported to a place that was neither awash with luxury nor miserable. It was neither heaven (Plush furniture, euphonious music, good wine, sumptuous repast, white sands, long legs) nor hell (Fire, boiling oil, sharp spears with red-hot business ends). It was a no-man’s land where people of my kind who were neither saints not sinners were consigned to, I presumed.

While I was wondering why none of our thinkers had mentioned only about heaven and hell and not about this area, the Supreme Judge appeared. After quickly completing what I suppose are the usual formalities, He pronounced my verdict: Hell.

To say that I was disappointed about the verdict would be a gross understatement, but I found several familiar faces there.

M was first one I met. He was a General Manager of the Bank I used to work for.

My boss G made some adverse remarks in his annual Confidential Report (CR) on me. I must concede that he was considerate (which, as you will learn later, is not a virtue that those who claim to be great men possess) to convey those comments in writing to me. Aggrieved that these comments were unfair and apprehensive that they may impede my career, I put in a request to the General Manager under ‘grievance redressal procedure’. The letter was drafted using facts and figures to demolish the observations of the boss in the CR.

Deafening silence is the only response for months. I send a reminder. Followed by another. Suddenly, I get a call from the Head Office: The General Manager wants to ‘interact’ with me in his office regarding my submission. I reach the venue on the appointed date. I am summoned in.

M surveys me from tip to toe and toe to tip. He remarks, ‘Just as I thought! A young officer with aspirations to rise in life threatened by a wily boss who is out to mar his career just because he has a pen in his hand. I see your point. I understand your predicament because I have faced such situations myself.

‘Mr Rajagopalan, I have gone through every line of your letter. Personally, I appreciate the way you have argued your case. You have marshalled incontrovertible evidence to support you. And arguing the case logically, you have put across your request. I must compliment you on your drafting skills.

‘I see that you have been hurt, and hurt deeply. And with good reason. I will ensure that justice is done. I will see that the CR is corrected and the damage is controlled.’

All I can do is to mumble a ‘Thank you, Sir!’

M then resumes, ‘Whatever I said so far was on a personal plane. You must remember that I am the General Manager of the Bank and am responsible for official propriety. I observe that certain words that you have used smack of insubordination. I cannot ignore your intemperate tone. There is enough in that letter to proceed against you for insubordination. Notwithstanding that, I want to get you out of this mess because you are an officer with a spark within.

‘I have thought a way out. I will address a letter to you pointing out the offending words and asking you why action should not be taken against you. You can send me a reply that you did so because you were worked up emotionally and request me to view the facts presented, ignoring the offending words for the use of which you may apologise. On receipt of your reply, I will neutralise the remarks. It’s a deal,’ he said reassuringly.

‘Fair enough,’ I tell myself. ‘Okay, Sir, I will do that’, I thank him for the intervention and leeve.

True to his word, I receive a letter the following week on the lines indicated. I shoot off a reply on the indicated lines and wait for the letter informing me that the adverse remarks in the CR had been neutralised and justice done.

A letter does arrive in a fortnight. It reads: ‘Though there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against you for insubordination, in view of the apology tendered by you and having regard to the fact that you are in the early years of your career, we are inclined to take a lenient view and you drop the matter.’

Not a word about the CR or the adverse remarks, not to mention correcting the injustice.

I deliver a hard punch on M’s belly and walk ahead.

1 comment:

Suvro Chatterjee said...

India has always been a country where the (relatively-) young get a raw deal. Their elders/seniors, suffering from bloated and fragile egos, get their kicks from rubbing their noses in the dirt, generally in the name of discipline, the need to enforce good manners and such other crap. Genuine good manners, of course, can never flourish in an atmosphere of contempt, fear and hatred: what passes for good manners is servility, sycophancy and a desire to 'get one's own back' the coward's way: by rubbing one's own juniors' noses in the dirt when one's opportunity comes in the fullness of time. It's not just about office bosses; it's the same between parents and children, teachers and pupils, dominant and submissive spouses, seniors and freshmen in college, netas and chamchas... that is precisely why this is a sick country!

It is only the rare exceptions who keep us going, otherwise we'd all have suffocated a long time ago. I think that much more than the lure of lucre and comfort, it is the prospect of living in far greater freedom from sick authority that so many bright young people have migrated to the USA over the last half century. There, more than anywhere else on earth, they don't claim the right to be both wrong and rude merely because someone is older than /senior to you.