It was to be the perfect farewell.
I had the best heading in my mind for how I would write about it;
The Seven Year Bitch
It was going to be catchy, it was going to be poignant. And it would be killing two birds with one stone. I was getting out of a job that I knew was killing me, day by day, minute by minute. And I was getting out of it via the love of my life, writing.
And then I hesitated.
And another year passed.
The Eight Year eye-sore?
I didn’t quite feel the same pull. Let’s give it some more time, it’ll come to me.
And another year passed.
The Nine Year niggle?
When did the job go from becoming a bitch to just a niggle?! At which point had I finally given in to the inevitability of my fate? Was it when I ordered the second plate of oily samosa chat and wiped the stain off of the file which my senior had sent back with some minor (read: hair-tearing) corrections? Or was it the day I found myself finishing a sentence with the words, ‘For your kind approval, please?’ at home?
Whatever it was one thing had become certain, my mind had grown tired of dillydallying and decided on my behalf that I wasn’t going anywhere and so had thrown away its jeans and designer shirts and instead had let the gut hang out in the sarkari baboo suit. I was now institutionalized. No question about it
I am no longer the twenty year old who had the world at his feet. I have responsibilities now that prevent me from taking spur-of-the-moment decisions. And the cold hard facts are that after almost a decade in government service I am still not sure as to what additional capacities I have which would appear promising to a potential employer. The bureaucracy is a glorified post office and the best officers, the ‘shining stars’ are those who are able to ‘network’, move the letter quickly along. And that’s pretty much it, from what I have seen so far. But I could be wrong. I want to be wrong. That is perhaps the only reason why something holds me back. Maybe I am being myopic in my skepticism.
This too shall pass. And maybe I just have to ‘pay my dues’ until one day it will all come together. I can always quit, nobody’s holding a gun to my head.
And so another year passes.
The Ten Year Trauma?
It all starts from the shoes.
It has to.
They have been run ragged, scampering from floor to floor..pressed under the burden of massive, rotting, fly-stained files. Each time the wearer presents a new case to his superior with ‘submitted for kind perusal, please’ , the soles cave in on themselves a little more.
The socks are lucky that they do not need to be presentable or seen for it is too late for them. They have long ago lost the war to the big toe and have no identity or shape of their own anymore.
Next come the trousers. Legend has it that they were once a part of a suit. Maybe they still are together, maybe not. The rigors of working in the government have driven clefts between the staunchest of relationships. The trousers have seen better days. Now they just look slept in because they usually are. It is no longer advisable to look for the crease because their isn’t one to be found. They have long since crossed over the partition between trousers and shalwar. In fact, they are now categorized as ‘Shalwousers’. Of special mention are the knees which show more wear owing to decades spent smooching the floor, bent over.
The belt comes with the area, and disposition of the wearer. For those unlucky souls, still floundering in the choppy waters of the bureaucracy, the belt has lost its efficacy due to the countless times they have been futile in rescuing the trousers from being pulled down to knees in meetings by irate seniors –figuratively speaking ofcourse.
The shirt is irrelevant and comes into the equation not because of its texture or quality. Rather it is due to the monstrosity that it tries to encompass..the gut. Their ability or failure to ‘hold it all in’ is in fact the actual ACR of the officer if there ever was a need for one.
The gut is the end-all-be-all of the government officer. You can tell a lot about the government officer by the acreage of his/her pastureland (don’t kid yourselves ladies..you’re in it too, although in case of females the gut readings are not as conclusive or accurate owing to difficulties in terms of norms and ethic involved in observation. Therefore, anthropologists have reverted to other tried and tested variables such as quantity of war paint and accompanying paraphernalia.)
If the buttons are down to their last threads, hanging on for dear life cliffhanger-style, you can tell the wearer has been classically conditioned in the art of seminar/workshop/meeting attendance. The gutsize of an officer is directly proportional to the number of meetings attended which is in turn, a dead give-away to the level of involvement in day-day government affairs. Because, lets face it; not much happens in all committee meetings involving done-to-death powerpoint presentations that does not involve tea, biscuits, sandwiches, patties, working lunch ..*starts to drool*
One of the first thing a government officer learns is to never..NEVER pass on a chance to feed the gut. There may not be any free lunches in life, but if you play your cards well and are willing to take minutes of meetings, you can assure yourself a pre-retirement era of free luncheons.
There are two things that define a government officer; a tie and cufflinks. After a few years in the service, an officer can easily quit his job and open up a tie and cufflink shop. No matter what the weather; come hail, snow or fire the government officer will be sporting a tie that will have seen better days. Cufflinks will mostly be sported by officers whose hands are in full view most of the time. Be it holding the millions of files as they scamper after their boss or the food plate while heading out for refills on state-sponsored buffets. Nothing says ‘made it’ like a gleaming pair of cufflinks-one of many presented to the wearer on prior such ‘meetings’. And that my friends is what we call ‘the circle of life’.
The coat has spent more days hanging on the shoulders of the chair than on those of the owner. It thus, performs two important functions; on the chair it is a constant reminder to snooping seniors who are liable to burst in on any day that the wearer is present and on premises, even though he isn’t. On the occasions when the coat has been spotted in the company of a live person, it is easy to mistake it for a shawl, kurta or even a jacket..depending upon the mileage the apparel has accrued.
Sitting on top of this amalgam is the owner; the government officer. A quivering double chin that has heard more ‘no’s’ than ‘yes’s’, fed on years and years of office tea and samosas leads up to a pair of lips that have been frozen into a scowl that strives to resemble a smile. Spectacles are mere decorations, eyesight has long since been considered obsolete along with other mental faculties. The officer performs purely on muscle and gut memory.
The crowning glory of the specimen is a clear and shiny helipad that has been created over the course of days, weeks and years pulling out hair, one follicle at a time.
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Your beloved government officer.
Disclaimer: Resemblance to any uncle, father, aunty, brother, sister is purely coincidental.
Corollary: (i) It must be noted that the size of the gut is irrespective and in most cases, in contrast to the overall health of the officer.
(ii) Government officers are rarely spotted in isolation. They travel in packs and feed off of each other’s company.
(iii) There are further sub-species within, known as ‘service groups’ which may differ slightly.