Priyanka Yadav, PMRDF
I joined the PMRDF to work with the ‘system’, the much maligned system. I will see it personally, and I will see it from close quarters, I told myself.
One thing that does happen without fail is the meetings. “Committee baitha do, meeting bula lo” – was the typical sarkari response to any problem or crisis, told Jaspal Bhatti in his satire Ulta Pulta.
Befittingly, the conference room in every Govt. office is best furnished. It has very nicely arranged big, U-shaped table. At the U-bend, behind the table are the chairs bigger in size than the rest as a mark of differentiation. These chairs can often also be big revolving chairs – but not all, only three or four, at the U-bend. The last row of chairs and tables are mostly the most inferior quality, they can be plastic chairs as well.
People come in and automatically know where to sit. The most important person comes last, and occupies the middle chair, which is usually the largest. Those next in command is sitting to the left or right of this all important person. The ranks go on decreasing, as the distance from this all important person increases. And this taking of seats is the most smooth, almost automatic.
Another interesting thing is that these large chairs at the U-bend are nicely covered with towels – milky white towels. The central seat has the brightest white towel on it! The ones on the left and right can have towels which are slightly smaller, or less white, or of lesser quality. And sometimes, even the seats in the cars have white towel. How come so many of the officers could have this strange obsession with the white towel – even Sigmund Freud would be unable to explain, even if he scratched his heads out.
Now comes the real part, they all eat in between the meeting and snacks are served by the office peon on the table. The person sitting on the middle chair gets the most lavish snacks with dry fruits etc., in the best plate available and Tea in the best cup with a coaster over it. Other people sitting on the sides get the similar snacks but in a different cutlery (Tea cups without a coaster!). The officers further away get their tea in the plastic cups (sometimes environment friendly officers prefer paper cups also!) and their snacks in the paper plate. The quality of the food given to them is also different (no fruit/Nuts, only some namkeen or samosa!!). What happens during the meetings, what is said and how it is received, I leave it to another blog.
A cup of tea and white towel – the new identity markers of this new caste system determines your value, not the substance of what you speak or what you do. The only thing constant here is the position of the chair and the treatment given to the chair, the people sitting on the chair keep changing depending on the nature of the meeting! The peon knows which chair to give dry fruits to, which chair to give plastic cups. The humanity and the value of what you speak are somewhere lost in this process. After all, the “important person” is taking the meeting – you are there to listen and follow!