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   Chapter 4 Elegant but eccentric personalities

Aberration By Sundaram Characters: 10938

Updated: 2020-12-29 05:55

Another officer whom I met in my service was really an honest and nice gentleman. In officialdom, the subordinates are usually addressed in the singular. This officer never called or addressed anyone in singular irrespective of his/her cadre and that alone kept him in the high esteem of officers and subordinates. His mode was perfection in everything. He chose generally a young and smart subordinate to get petty things done. Let him not be mistaken for forcing unofficial activity. Yes, you've guessed right. He used to call me. "Sundar are you free now?' "Well Sir, I'm.""Take my car and here is the money. Top up the petrol tank, pay the bill and get me the cash receipt; and don't forget to check the air pressure of the tyres and the stepney." "Okay Sir, " I said and took the money from him. "Driver, please go with the engineer and get the car ready. We're moving away this evening to the next subdivision.""Yes Sir, " the driver moved and I followed him. In the next half an hour the car was ready. The officer asked for the bill and I gave him along with the balance of Rs.10/- He looked at the bill and the balance and said, "Sundar have they reduced the cost of petrol?""No Sir." "Then why'd you give me Rs.10/- instead of Rs.5/-""Sir, you're the only officer in the department who pays for the camp expenses and petrol. We're embarrassed Sir. Five rupees is a meager sum. So I returned ten rupees.""Why'd you be embarrassed? I'm entitled to travelling and daily allowances. Will it not look arrogant if I take the money from subordinates when I'm paid by the government? Take this tenner and give my legitimate fiver. And one more thing, try to save for the future."I silently handed the fiver and he duly returned the tenner. This officer was really eccentric for his ways were different. When everyone else is imperfect, an honest officer gets branded eccentric only! But such eccentricity is essential to deal with people who take things for granted and command others for the pleasure of it. In government service, they impose protocol for so many activities let alone meeting a district collector. It's the British who made the district collector the overall controlling officer for district administration. But the privilege is misused by district collectors. They take other department officials for their subordinates. There've been occasions the collectors continue to elude meeting the engineers and they derive pleasure to keep others hanging about them. But those collectors were taken for a ride by our eccentric officer. Once he had to discuss a major project with a district collector. He set three of us in different ranks and asked us to be at the collectorate. One of our officials was posted at the entrance to the collector's chamber and another one at the personal clerk's desk. The third officer was to accompany the eccentric officer. I happened to be with our officer and we two started off to meet the district collector. Before I joined our officer he had asked me to make a call to the collector's office and learn the availability of the collector so that we could go and meet him. I called the telephone exchange at the collectorate. "Could I speak to the collector's PC please?""Sir, you're talking to the PC already. What can I do for you?""Good morning. Sir, Our Superintending Engineer from the Highways department wants to discuss a road project to be implemented in Coimbatore. He wants to have a personal meeting with the collector. Where'd he meet the collector? Will he be in the office or in camp this afternoon? I'm his subordinate engineer. He has authorized me to get the information.""Sir Good morning. The collector is attending office in the forenoon and he has an engagement in the afternoon. Ask your engineer to meet the collector at 11 0'clock in the morning."Then I gave the PC the name of our engineer and the project title and requested him to put a note to the collector. I looked at the time. It's already thirty minutes past 10 0' clock. I informed the engineer, the availability of the collector and we started in another five minutes. As we reached the collector's chamber the PC was in the front room. We took seats in the front room. The officer we posted at the entrance to the collector's chamber and the one at the PC's desk both were in the front room. They pointed to us and said: "Sir, the engineer of whom we told you, is very much here.""Shall we go and talk to the collector?" I said to the PC. The PC said: "Sir, someone called over the phone just now to verify the availability of the collector. Is it the same officer who's here?" And pointing to the two engineers we posted there, the PC said further with an irksome look on his face, "There're already two of your officials present here who've been telling me the same news. I told the collector twice that a group of engineers is waiting to see him. Now you can right away go in and talk to the collector. If I don't clear you, I'm afraid there may come another engineer from your side."I chuckled and thought to myself, "The superintending engineer has caused enough distraction to the PC!" Upon the PC's information, the superintending engineer went inside and had a discussion with the collector. After the discussion which lasted for an hour both the collector and the superintending engineer emerged outside and we returned back to our office. Then the superintending engineer proceeded on the next leg

of his tour. Why so much display? One may ask, but that's required to accomplish certain obligation lest it should go unheeded. It may be worthwhile to mention a particular case. A few months earlier, one of the senior officers of the same department sought a review with the district collector on a railway project. The officer went to meet the collector after ascertaining that the collector was in office. But the officer was turned down by the collector on the plea that the latter was preoccupied with other activities. The collector may be important in his sphere but the engineer is equally important. In his anguish, the engineer totally scrapped the railway project in respect of the collector concerned while clearing other such jobs elsewhere in other districts. The collector was enraged over the act of the engineer. The collector wrote to the government to clear the job in respect of his district. Correspondence followed and the collector was informed that the inspecting authority had observed that the site in question was not suitable to implement the job. The aberration assumed by some may lead to something unwarranted. Especially people like the district administrator have the responsibility to coordinate with the other officers of the district. Only then the district will have all round improvement in all spheres of administration. There's another anecdote I remember during my tenure with the eccentric engineer of whom I mentioned in the current chapter. Once the engineer called me while on camp in our headquarters. "Sundar are you free now?" "Yes Sir.""Please go to Nirmala College. Check if my daughter is due for paying any college/hostel fees. In case anything is due please pay up and bring the cash receipt to me. Here take the money and the slip. I've given the details of my daughter's name, course, year, and her hostel room number. Take my car and try to be back as early as possible so that I'd start on my return tour."In the next fifteen minutes, I entered the ladies' college in the city. The watchman allowed entry on seeing the pass signed and given to me by the engineer. I went directly to the college office. I learnt that the girl was due for paying her hostel bill. I attempted to pay up but they wanted me to mention the admission number. The engineer didn't give her daughter's admission number. Probably he thought the mention of her name would be sufficient. This was because the cashier was on leave and the lady in charge didn't have details of the girls in the mathematics group of the bachelor's course. I fidgeted as the time was running out and I made an attempt to trace the girl. The girl had just then left for the hostel as her last hour class in the forenoon was cancelled. The hostel was within the college campus. I spared no time. I went straight to the hostel and the watchman at the gate was away. But there were girls coming out and going inside. I spoke to a girl exiting the gate. I mentioned the girl's name to her. Luckily she knew our girl. "Sir you can walk straight and turn right to a row of rooms. She's in the first room.""But can I walk into the hostel premises? Everywhere there're girls and girls only. Moreover the watchman is not to be seen."Sensing my dilemma the girl giggled. "Sir you're in ladies' college. If not girls what else you expect to see? After all you came into the college. You can attempt to move inside the hostel and trace your girl."I controlled my anger and this wasn't time to deal with the girl who made fun of a male's entry into their premises. "Look my friend you've been kind enough to give the details of the girl I'm looking for. Why don't you please go and bring her? I'll be very grateful to you.""I can do that but I'm sorry I'm already late for the last hour of class."Then the next minute she vanished. I decided to go inside whatever may be the consequences. On entry to the first row of rooms I spotted girls in different attire, some in nighties, some in sarees, and some in trousers and jackets. They also caught me unawares and someone called in louder tone: "Watchman"No watchman came but there came a couple of sisters in black gowns with white tops. But their white hood was missing. Instead, they sported luscious tresses tied in a bunch. I saw the sisters with a good growth of locks of hair on their heads defying my idea there'd be a cleanly shaven head under the white hood of the sisters. The sisters were young and beautiful. Why did they choose nunnery? Their shrill voice brought me back to my senses. "Whoever you may be, but how'd you step into the premises of a ladies hostel?""Sorry sisters. I'm in search of Rani in the second year Maths group.""Ok. Please go out and wait at the gates. I'll ask her to meet you."The sisters' voice was stern and harsh. In a few minutes, Rani came out. She looked about and said:"Sir, are you looking for me? I'm Rani.""Well yes, " I said in a bewildered tone. I recognized her after she mentioned her father's name. In the next ten minutes, the girl helped me clear her hostel bill and get the receipt. I was almost about to run out of the college in view of the one hour I wasted in accomplishing a simple obligation. As I started, the girl apologized: "I'm quite sorry Sir. My dad's a nice man but he has certain aberrations." "It's ok Rani. He's only anxious about your study. Otherwise, he's a gem of a man."Even as the girl was beaming I started and was gone.

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