Monday, July 26, 2010

Unseen, Unheard, Unknown

An arrow periodically blinked on the screen and flashed “He is SDO soandso, Mr. AS." The clipping showed only three shots; the nameplate of my house, my camp office and then me appearing on the screen, moving towards the camera and a camera lying on the floor.

Here I was on TV, the new-found villain of a news channel; and the Breaking story ran “Shameless Administration: SDO breaks the camera of press." An entire one hour program was dedicated to this and various intellectuals, politicians showered several imaginative phrases on me.

I do not know from where to tell the 'story.' This was my first encounter with yellow journalism; and truth being told, I was quite disturbed when it happened. But then, though on a smaller platform, I thought I too had the right to tell my side of story.

Soandso sub-division comprises of many tea gardens and living conditions there are far from satisfactory. There have been reports of Starvation deaths in some Tea Gardens, and after that government started many welfare projects there.

The recent story began when an overzealous news channel discovered that two people had died out of starvation in a particular Tea Garden. It came as a shock for us as such incidents; if any; were probable in only in closed tea gardens.

An inquiry was conducted and it appeared that news report was completely baseless. Both the persons were suffering from long term physical ailments, were financially sound and had died a natural death. While we were about to make this inquiry public, the Block Development Officer (BDO) went on two days leave.

The same news channel immediately ran the story "Impact of our reporting on Starvation deaths: BDO sent on compulsory leave by the government." My BDO got demoralized and I was furious. How could a news channel carry such a story without verification?

I talked to the channel concerned and their standard reply was that they got this news from a ‘confidential source’. After trying to show reason for some time, I realized its futility and refused to have any further communication with them. The person on the other side insisted on taking a bite from me as they believed in ‘balanced’ reporting but I politely refused.

Next day was holiday and early in the morning, two press reporters came to my house. I asked my staff to inform them that I was not interested in talking but they refused to leave without taking my bite. I got irritated and came out to ask them to leave. They had already recorded my house and without either introducing or taking my permission, they started recording me too. I asked them to stop immediately.

They refused blatantly and then it happened. I raised my hand to turn off the camera and in the commotion, some part of it got disconnected. After that they started screaming that I had broken their camera. Their bosses in the headquarter directed them to leave immediately and the 'breaking news' started. In a moment, I was turned into a camera breaking high handed monster who was enemy of press and hence that of mankind. A shot of camera lying on the ground was added to the clipping later on to further spice up the story.

The aftermath of this episode was not completely negative. All other channels/newspapers decided to support me and nobody else ran this story. Both my seniors and juniors in administration unequivocally told me that my credentials were known to all those who mattered. Numerous local people called me to say that they shall be with me come what may. Even people from press were sorry that I was being demonized by a particular news channel.

Every time I received such a phone call, there was a lump in my throat. Before this incident, I never knew people loved me so much and I was overwhelmed. My resolve to work for people became even more firm.

When I look back, I do not know how I should have reacted. How do you react to people who enter your house without your permission, refuse to leave and forcibly try to video graph you? Whatever be it, I regret things went as they did. A strange melancholic feeling persists in my heart.

I am still trying to understand how free, the free press should be!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Life is Beautiful

Suddenly there was a loud noise and then everything was calm. It must have been fraction of a second but I still remember everything; as if my mind had taken a snapshot of that moment. Front seat of my vehicle had tilted backwards and my legs were trapped. The glass on the back side was shattered and there was dust all around.

So there I was going to a block on a routine inspection. Newly built highway was inviting and soon our vehicle crossed the speed of the three digit mark. I was enjoying the scenery of Buxa Tiger Reserve talking to S who had come on training in my subdivision and it was just any other day; but then it turned out it was not.

From the last few days there were numerous articles in the newspapers showing violations of traffic norms in my area. Particularly irritating were buses having scores of passengers sitting on its top. Ideally these checks are conducted by police and Motor Vehicle departments but at times enthusiastic SDO’s also do these.

At a distance, we saw a bus coming towards us and it had persons sitting on its top. In a strange fit of enthusiasm I asked my driver to signal it to stop. The bus did not pay heed and crossed past us. That was when it all began.

I asked my driver to stop and was telling him to note down its number and suddenly there was a big jerk along with a deafening noise. My driver had stopped; but what he probably missed was that behind us there was another vehicle speeding on the highway; and it was not able to replicate our action.

There was dust all around and we were trying to reconcile with what had happened. Luckily none of us was hurt barring a few minor bruises. Scorpio is a sturdy vehicle and it had absorbed all the shock. S still maintains that we must have been cursed by the vehicles on which I had imposed fines.

Whenever I look back, I cannot resist thinking why that happened. I should not have tried to stop that vehicle on highway, my driver should not have stopped on road, and the vehicle coming behind us should have maintained a distance. Anyway, that is not worth dwelling upon.

As I stood there trying to figure out our injuries, the first thoughts that crossed my mind were of my wife and family. Never in that half an hour did I think of the unfinished work lying on my table. So, though, many times we get lost in our work, we should never forget for whom we are working for.

I also felt the transient nature of our existence. Life can go in flash of a second and we may not even know. I felt a strange pain for that Scorpio. It was a beautiful new vehicle and after that incident, its beauty was suddenly gone. We thanked God that we did not meet a similar fate.

Standing on that road, waiting for some other vehicle to pick us up, I also realized that being alive is a wonderful feeling. I feel bliss when I breathe the fresh air, when I see the green bushes of Tea Gardens and the colorful mountain stretches beyond them in Bhutan. I also I feel bliss when I write this, when I wait for your comments on my blog, and when my wife teases that I am just another ordinary writer.

Life is Beautiful. Indeed!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Better Left Unsaid

Strange are the ways of Love.

The first thing she noticed was that he did not brush his teeth. He was somewhat fat, somewhat lazy and enigmatically interesting. She had known him for three months; and she hadn’t in real sense. They were put together in a group of ten that went together on ‘Bharat Darshan’ and that was when their journey began.

Bharat Darshan is a two months tour in which bureaucrats are sent to discover India. At the end of the journey, discoveries are not confined only to ‘India’. It is an experience in itself and two months of continuous journey bring out the best and worst in all. Ten people who are randomly put in that group often end up as best of friends; and in some other cases avoid each other for lifetime.

So their journey started along with that group. There was something that pulled them together. Both of them lacked enthusiasm that new tourists have, both of them had a flair for cards and both of them were loners. One thing led to another and soon they realized that there is something that binds them together.

Nothing in this world is more beautiful than falling in love and you cannot appreciate this as long as you experience it. They carved a world out of themselves and they talked about anything and everything. When you fall in love you realize that there is so much you have to talk about. There is nothing that is stupid; there is nothing out of bounds.

They were away from their friends and families, away from their ‘roles’ and there was nothing else that mattered. But then, all good things come to an end!

Many relations are best left undefined and same was true probably for this case. The problem started when they tried to name their relationship. It was the last day of their journey and boy proposed the girl.

She denied that she was in love with him; she also denied she was ever in. In fact her marriage was settled and she had known that boy from last five years. It was going to be a love cum arranged marriage and she was prepared for it. Her eyes were dry and plain and this was not the girl he had known.

It is difficult to understand women but the men never mind trying. He tried to argue, he tried to convince but somehow she had made her decision. She was not ready to take on the world and defy her social role.

From some distant corner they heard a song being played:

मेरा कुछ सामान तुम्हारे पास पड़ा है,
सावन के कुछ भीगे भीगे दिन रखे हैं
और तुम्हारे ख़त में लिपटी रात पड़ी है,
वो रात बुझा दो, मेरा वो सामान लौटा दो.

Many things were left unsaid and for the last time in their life they hugged and cried together. Bharat Darshan had come to its end and so had their relationship.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Never Nag

I never nag and I will not do it now. I only want to tell you about a journey. It was not of the kind of holidaying but some enforced journey that you undertake on the pretext of work.

So there I was, in my office attending a meeting and the people kept on repeating the same things. I told them that I have a train to catch but they still kept on repeating the same things and the meeting ended without a conclusion. Not that I wanted a conclusion as conclusions never come but because of that I had to rush to catch the train.

I know that train always comes late but I still have this habit of going there an hour before. So I reached the platform and bought coffee to kill time. It was bad coffee but that was not the reason of my disgust. I was really hurt when the shopkeeper gave things to two persons who came after me, only because their voices were louder than mine. The kind of depression that sets in after such incidents spoils my whole day, many times whole month.

I somehow swallowed that coffee and after that I had an empty paper cup in my hand. I tried to be like civilized types and looked for the dustbin. I held that cup for five minutes but after that when no one was looking and threw it on the railway tracks.

After announcing seven times that the train was on right time and would come any moment, the train came half an hour late. I tried to form a queue to enter but the old fat auntie in front of me blocked the door with her big baggage. She did not allow passengers to get down and climbed the coach with the help of her able coolies. I tried to look for the second door but the coach attendant had already kept it locked.

Somehow pushing and cursing, and seeing large posteriors of passengers trying to fix their large luggage, I managed to reach my berth. Nine people were already uncomfortably sitting there. I tried to act smart and ask their berth numbers but they just smiled and requested to adjust.

This always happens with me that whenever somebody asks me to adjust, I actually more than do. Not that I really want it because after that also I continue fighting with them for days and months in my mind; but my face maintains a stoic smile.

Then they asked me to further cooperate by giving my lower berth. See this is the issue I am bit touchy about. I like the lower seat and but every time some fat old auntie asks me to adjust.

I was quite depressed by now and I asked the attendant to give me sheet and blanket so I can sleep. The sheets were pathetic and their condition reminded me the smiling faces of railway ministers who refused to raise fare in a row. The blanket also had some twelve odd holes in it but the attendant looked at me in a way that I felt guilty of wishing for more, thereby not cooperating with minister’s effort of keeping the prices low.

The family sitting down kept on chattering till late night but to prove their courtesy they did so only after switching off the light. That day I decided like myriad similar incidents, I will never forget them and that is why I am immortalizing them in my blog.