Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Putting the Cart before the Horse

We are all familiar with the mind boggling question, ‘which came first, the Egg or the Chicken?’ But in life, things don’t have to be so complicated all the time. There are things where the choices are easy. What would you do if you see a woman on your right caught on fire while on your left you see another woman needing a hand to lift a pile of firewood on her head? Who would you help first? Of course the woman on fire. But priority setting based on the common sense of the order of things is not very prevalent. I saw a banner in Delhi which says, ‘Computer Course for Slum Dwellers’.  The government in order to generate employment opportunities for slum dwellers came up with the plan to teach them computers. It doesn’t occur to the government that the slum dwellers toil to put food on their plates daily, forget about reading and writing. Let me present here some sets of things and let’s think which should be first and which should follow.

Which one first?

1.       Putting up a ‘don’t dump rubbish here’ notice by the town municipal council OR provision of public dustbins?

2.       Observance of earth hour OR provision of regular power supply?

3.       Supply of sophisticated antibiotics/antiviral drugs for diarrhea OR provision of safe drinking water?

4.       Social networking in the internet OR visiting a friend?

5.       Building a career OR receiving an education?

6.       Celebrating the festival of festivals OR rationing of food grains to BPL families?

7.       Forming a union for social justice OR loving your wife?

The choice isn’t always one first and only it before we proceed to do the next. In the sets of options given above, we may have to do both at the same time. But isn’t it the case that we often put the cart before the horse though we know we need both the cart and the horse?

The real Road Show

We say VIPs are responsible for traffic jams. So, imagine what you will get when you put all the VIPs in one place and make them drive through a narrow passage at the same time. I’m not talking about some wannabe VIPs who clamber for recognition and visibility, but real big fishes: Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Opposition MLAs, Commissioners, Secretaries, and Directors.  If you want to see what might happen in such a situation, come to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly during the assembly sessions. If you get access permit to witness the assembly proceedings from the public gallery, don’t leave early. Stay behind to watch the ‘Road Show’.

The Assembly complex has a sprawling compound where elephants can play football. It defies the reality that there is hardly any space left in Kohima for an average guy to pitch his tent and start a family. The parking lot is also spacious because only cars with A or B stickers can enter. I had the privilege of having a B sticker, but there was no reason for me to be proud of it. What was an epidemiologist doing in the legislative assembly? But on hindsight, I am thankful to the medical department for sending me there for emergency medical coverage, which was not my job at all by the way. If not for this assignment, I wouldn’t have the privilege of enjoying the assembly proceedings and the road show.

Although the parking space is large, there is just a single gate for the VIPs which form a kind of an hourglass neck. So, when the day’s done for our VIPs, they rush out as school children do when chutti bell is rung, resulting in  utter chaos at the gate. This is what I would call the real Road Show and not those that the DAN government is infamous for organizing in the past years. All the cars (innovas, scorpios, boleros) squeeze in at the gate as everyone try to go out together at once, producing an interesting spectacle to watch. This is where power politics come into full play. The ministers cut into other vehicles while the others who also don’t have the habit of making way stand their ground. The traffic police are at the mercy of the gods as they don’t have the public to shoo away. I thought, 'if our VIPs have a little patience, they wouldn’t have lost so much time at the gate'. But that simple thought of mine is irrelevant here. To them, I don’t have any idea what is at stake if they give up the fight at the gate.

What a privilege it was to be there, what a treat to the eye, also how unreassuring a thought that our society is in such hands.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Honey, is it the money?

An article for students of North Delhi-ICEU

Since June 2010, I have been earning ₹25,000/month; tax free. Nine months later, now I have just over ₹3,000 in my bank account. Every month something or the other always comes up: brother’s college admission fee, travel expenses, cooking gas, rice bag, wedding gift, new clothes, sickness, etc. All this makes it so easy to forget that I’m being paid quite handsomely. I do not compare myself with the Ambanis but I do have colleagues who are getting paid more than me. Of course, I know a person in my office who earns only ₹2,500/month and works as hard as me, but again there are at least 2 other people who are getting paid more than ₹50,000/month. There ends my sympathy for the one with ₹2,500.

What attracts people to the Civil Services if not for the fame and money? There are people who want to serve in the administration, but what will be the proportion of such people among the total population of civil aspirants? If in the course of your service you are paid well, be grateful for the blessing. I am looking forward to a salary raise from April. With it, I hope I can buy a phone for one of my office staffs who couldn’t afford one. Also I can help in paying more frequently the monthly school fees for some of my poorer relatives. Money in itself is not the problem because more money can generate more generosity. This you know but it is worth repeating here, that the love of money/greed is the root problem, as the Bible says. When our careers are directed to meet that greed, it’s a perfect recipe for frustration.

Why do you try for IIMs when you don’t like management? Is it because your parents want you to be rich (of course, for your own ‘good’ and with lots of prayer)? Why go to IIT just because you are able to crack the entrance exam? What a waste, when you are so talented in carpentry, film critic, identifying bird species, or whatever. 

I had an internet chat with a friend who thought that I was talking about ‘job’ when I said ‘service’. ‘In service’ is understood as a job designation/position/portfolio that one is holding. But in that chat, I was trying to tell my friend that our jobs are the means by which we serve others, ‘service’ as ‘serving people’. If our careers are aimed at serving people, God will surely bless us with, among other things, a deep sense of meaning and satisfaction in what we do.