Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Failed Talisman

You do not know me.

You do not know me because I never wanted that. I do not boast about my work, nor do I ever list my achievements on Facebook/twitter profile. You also do not see my picture in newspapers inspecting schools, hospitals because when I do that, I never tag reporters along. You do not know me because I never aimed for that.

I am the nameless, faceless bureaucrat who is present all around. I believe in impersonality, hierarchy and work ethics and I represent the honest bureaucratic tribe. Believe you me, our percentage is much more than what it is made out.

My daily routine often involves fighting with politicians but the fight isn’t something you see on television channels. It is much more refined and nuanced, an art that I slowly picked up in all these years. I let them have their way when they are right, convince/cajole or force them alter things when they aren’t and I also occasionally need to put my foot down. Often politicians respect me for that and at times we part on amicable terms. Agreed there are bureaucrats not like that, but I can speak only for my tribe.

You do not know all this because I do not call news channels and tell them how everything is wrong in this world yet my dissent is taken seriously and often decisions are changed due to that. I also work very hard and enjoy my work. I doubt if any other profession can give satisfaction that I derive from my job.

I was brilliant in academics and I come from a place where reputation mattered more than anything else. I got goosebumps when national anthem is played and there was lump in my throat whenever I saw a hungry child. My parents said there was no other place better than Civil Services and I followed that. I was on the top of this world when I joined and my friends and family thought that I will change this country and so did I.

Things were more complex that I had thought; there was white, there was black and then there was a large zone that was undefined. Decision on black and white were the easiest but there was no norm for grey areas. I did many things in my job, there were many things I could not but at the end of the day when I lied down at night, I slept a satisfied man. There was this common man who looked at me with hope and trust and I was happy if I could protect his interest.  The talisman given to us was to do our work honestly with a clean conscience, and one would be respected for that. In hindsight, most of my decisions were right; some were probably not.

You do not know but I never felt worried as to why I took any decision on grey areas.  I never wanted the system to come to a grinding halt. My reputation traveled fast and I beamed with pride when I was appreciated for that. I knew I was honest and felt that would take care of everything else.

Then came a day when our country was angry at the corrupt. There were reports of scam after scam and all of us were aghast. I was as angry as anyone else, and wanted punishment for those who were responsible for that. There was loss and there was presumptive loss and lot of anger around that. Everyone wanted to fix it immediately and Courts were too willing to do that. They took upon themselves the burden of administering speedy justice and punish guilty for all that.

The jolt came when the first one to be convicted in this conundrum was Mr HC Gupta for Coalgate scam. They did not find politicians, they did not find any big businessman but conviction was awarded to a ‘bureaucrat’. He was an IAS officer, retired almost a decade back and was leading an obscure life before courts found him responsible for all that. This is not the first conviction of any bureaucrat but the problem comes when all agree that he is an honest man yet responsible for this ‘presumptive’ loss. There were people who put up the cases for coal block allocation, there were people who approved and then there were those who actually reaped benefit from all that. Being the Chairman of the committee that recommended the case, he was found guilty for all mess that went around.

I always thought Mens Rea or Guilty mind was prerequisite to commit any crime. I cannot be convicted for something I did not aim for. But I was told in case of corruption, any loss to public exchequer was enough. No personal favour was required and it did not matter if one did not aim for that loss. A scapegoat is as good as a solution and who better than a bureaucrat.

In all that cacophony, I found judiciary, press and many others bayed for the blood of bureaucrats. How could Mr Gupta not know what all was going around? How could he not do more than that? I felt for the first time that working with a clean conscience is not something that suffices. One also has to think how no blame could be attributed to oneself. I wonder if Judges will be sentenced when their judgement is overturned by higher courts due to any discrepancy, police officers will be charged for a crime if accused is let free for improper investigation and lawmakers would be booked if a law turns out to be wrong in hindsight.  

Today, whenever there is a grey area in decision making, I dread deciding on either side. Protecting myself may also matter equally than protecting interest of common man. Maybe I should just push the files and hide behind committees and committees. My conscience doesn’t agree, and for one person questioning bureaucrats, I see scores of helpless common men who look at us with hopeful eyes. I love my work and my country too much to be affected by Mr Gupta’s fate but it has left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe I will continue to work as I did all these years and just ask future generations not to opt for this job.

The talisman to be personally honest and do what one believes is right, failed Mr Gupta. In a way, we failed him too. Corrupt always had a motive in doing what they want but for us there is nothing more than reputation. It may not be worth it to spend years of your life fighting in courts for that.

You do not know me but I am sad. Just being honest doesn’t suffice anymore and today there is a threat to our tribe. The irony is it does not come from the corrupt, but from crusaders of honesty who are out to get as many executions as they can!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Procrastinators

I wanted to learn Guitar for a long time. I gawked those who could play Guitar and also sing along and envied them all my life. I thought about it for a long time, debated merits of acoustic versus electric guitar and searched for music teachers in and around my house. I discussed it with family and friends and also wrote about it at times. After spending a considerable me-time and thinking about that, I realized my actual interest lied in painting instead. Had I not procrastinated for a while I would have wasted time, energy and most importantly hard-earned money of my life.
These days I am trying to analyse why I would like to paint and know about the nuances of this art. If and only if it passes my procrastination test, I would take the plunge, something that would be beneficial both for me and Painting.
Procrastination has often been misunderstood in this world but I can hardly find any habit having benefits more than that. As a gratitude to this old-time friend, I want to like to talk about the virtues of this pal:
1. You become a better planner if you Procrastinate: Suppose you need to write a big report and you have seven days for that. Suppose you also have to buy a present for your friend’s birthday party and get your dog vaccinated during the same time. You spend quarter to seven days thinking about that. Now you only have six hours on a Sunday eve and you realize you friend understands you well and never expected a gift from you in his life. Your dog is also understanding and won’t complain to your better half. In fact, it forgave you when you missed it last couple of times. You fully focus on the report instead and in two hours you have something that would bail you out. You have accomplished in two hours what others would have wasted seven days on.
2. You effectively utilize your time: If you effectively procrastinate, you are never in a hurry all your life. You always have a lot of me time and you are not sure what you should do with your time. The dilemma is that you respect your time and the task must be worthy of your time. You can use your time to play, sing or to the envy of all you can spend your time in worthiest activity of all time, dozing off.
3. Your brain becomes sharp and attentive: Remember a time when you had an entire year to study for the exam. You tried so many times but you could never understand that complex calculus integration. You felt you are too dumb to understand that but thought one day you will sit for hours and finish that. You procrastinated and never found perfect environment and time. When your roommate explains it for fifteen minutes on the morning before exam, you have never known it better than that. Half hour before the exam was most productive time of your life. You remember each and every step to the extent where he smiled and where he smirked explaining that. You suddenly discover fondness for your sharp mind.
4. You can do so many things in this world: Those who do not procrastinate are always busy in this world. They are bogged down with work, impending assignments or are running to finish some task. You will find them saying they would love to so something but do not have time. A procrastinator will never say that and end up doing so many activities others can only dream of. One can procrastinate in different ways and in modern world, social media is of so much help. You can peep into personal/professional life of everyone else. If you are the hot head types, you can troll others you do not like and improve your self-worth in your eyes. You can also form mutual admiration societies and post selfies/pouts.
5. You do things which only you can do and no one else: You have a lot of respect for yourself and cannot do anything just like that. Suppose you are doing a project work with two other project partners and submission time is nearby. Everyone knows everyone else and there is a stiff competition for the biggest procrastinator award. The game for who has stronger procrastinating nerve has already begun and just before the submission time, someone chickens out and does whole work. You use your time in saving the country and participate in trolling/selfie fest instead.
6. You avoid stress disorders: Doctors have been screaming form rooftops that most of the diseases in this world are related to stress. One cannot name a disease which is not caused or made worse due to stress. A person who procrastinates never panics and is always jolly and relaxed. They know best how to handle pressure in their lives. In fact, an effective procrastinator increases the stress levels of those who try to give her/him stress. You are content in life and end up living a healthy, fulfilling and long life.
7. You believe in Karma philosophy and graciously accept all outcomes: Procrastinators believe in the philosophy that do your duty and leave rest on God. They work when they have to and sleep rest of the time. They are also not attached with result. Suppose, a person who has always been working hard fails, they cannot even explain to themselves how it happened and do not know how to accept that. A procrastinator even when the result is not conducive, knows the reason for that. She/he knows how to turn the tables next time. For others who have worked hard all their life, there remains no scope for improvement. A Procrastinator is always in control of life. You also truly internalize the 80-20 principle and practice doing 80% of the work in 20% time. You are not greedy to waste all your life for remaining twenty percent.
Now you know the advantages of Procrastination and if you are not convinced even now, I will give you a recent example. In the beginning of this article I thought about painting but now I realize my calling may lie in writing instead.

Let me give it some real procrastinating thought for now!