The Techies Don’t Close…

Part 1

I was keen to make this rushed trip to prove or rather disprove…

Anil took off rather suddenly over the week-end to his home-town off Jaipur – must be his ailing father. I had to stand in for him.

After some 20 hours of travel by train, I reached Namapalli in the morning of Tuesday. The station opened out onto a main road with several narrow shop-lined streets teeing off from it on the far side. With a none-too-heavy overnighter, I was able to walk into one of these streets and check into a hotel recommended to me. It was my first visit to this part of India. But that didn’t matter – we were quite accustomed to travel to any place and make ourselves comfortable and complete our job on hand. After a quick shave-bath-breakfast, I made for the meeting.

Most customer-sites that we visited for installing or servicing electronic instruments were factories and labs located far outside the town limits. But the venue of this day’s meeting was an office block right in the middle of the city. An auto that made more noise than distance took me through roads clogged with cycles, auto and pedestrians and an occasional cow serving as an unperturbed traffic roundabout, and discharged me at the entrance of the office block well in time for the appointment. A few late-comers were making a show of dashing to their seats. A bored sepoy sitting at a rickety table with a thick visitor’s book in the lobby was all of the security perimeter for the office block – scanners and body-frisking were unknown practices. I could’ve signed in as the President of India for all he cared or understood. But he knew enough to point me, on my inquiries, to an office on the second floor.

I was fortunate to catch the ubiquitous peon on his stool outside the office.

The peons, now a vanishing breed, were the crucial oil for the wheels to roll at these offices, for those of you not familiar. Life was unimaginable for the officers without their services. They got pots of tea from the canteen, fetched files from other parts of the offices and did other chores, mentionable for most part, for their masters. As a species, their evolution was quite well differentiated. A senior bureaucrat usually attracted a ‘tyrant’ or a ‘battle-axe’, while his junior was attended by a ‘dealer’ whose services were available to ‘speed up’ matters. The less ambitious ‘amiable’ usually served a technical officer.

True-to-form, Mr. Dubey was served by a specimen of the ‘amiable’ kind. I declared myself to him and my appointment with his master – young engineers in my company were not privileged to flaunt visiting cards. He went in to check and was back in a short while waving me in. The technical officers customarily didn’t keep a visitor waiting – they never had too many queuing up to meet.

As I entered the big twenty-by-twenty room that looked like half a foot-ball ground for someone hailing from Mumbai, Mr. Dubey turned his over-sized chair forward and greeted me:

‘Anil, am glad you could come. Take a seat,’

A baby frown appeared on his face: ‘But you’re not Anil. Have you come to the right place?’ It was like him complaining to his wife about the morning toast not being well done.

A short-statured man, hair mussed up, his voice soft and tentative, barely rising above the hum of the air-conditioner, and eyes darting from behind glasses that had slipped from the bridge of his nose. In stark contrast, everything else in the room, mostly standard-issue, displayed firm lines. On one side of the large table lay a small suitcase that was belly full of papers and files and failing to close. He was either taking work home or planning to run away to some foreign land with all the Intellectual Property stuffed into his suitcase. Little did I know

‘As you rightly observed, Sir, regrettably, I’m not Anil.’

(To be contd.)

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One Response to The Techies Don’t Close…

  1. trisha says:

    even a decade ago there was a common term “kingdom of peons” which is slowly going to oblivion fortunately.

    Like

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