The sweltering summer was mercifully coming to an end and the onset of monsoon only a month away. A welcome augury for the parched fields and the suffering village folks and their livestock’s.
The villagers were alert this year wanting to collect and save rainwater to last through next summer. Their head along with a bunch drawn from families of substance met the officer in-charge of village administration and development at the district head-quarters and voiced their concerns and the solution they had thought of: a tank should be built near their fields to provide water for their fields and homes all year around.
The officer heard them out patiently, checked his records and regretted his inability to undertake the construction as the meager government fund already suffering serious cuts was barely enough to cover sustenance through the year. He would certainly provide for this project in his budget for the next year. With luck it might even be sanctioned.
The villagers went into a huddle. They were loath to wait out another summer like the one they were going through without any mitigation . Something had to be done. What if they raised the fund by themselves?
The officer perked up immediately on hearing the suggestion and became helpful in pursuing the same. Within a few days, he confirmed it was possible for his office to allocate some unused government land for the project and undertake the construction if they could raise 3 lacs of rupees. This mode of executing a project was without a precedent for his office. The hardship faced by men and animals moved his office to consider this project favorably. And with urgency as the tank would serve the purpose of providing relief only if it was ready before the monsoon arrived.
3 lacs of rupees was not an insignificant amount. A dissenting group felt they were not exactly dropping dead presently without the tank. So why not carry on as is? All considered it was finally decided to go ahead with the tank.
From there events rolled by at a fast clip. The money was collected and handed over to the officer. He was good as his word: within days workmen were sighted near a lowland outside the village.
Six months later:
The new incumbent who took over months ago happened to meet the officer- now moved to a new district – in a staff training program. In the evening when everyone was unwinding over drinks: .
‘Many thanks to you I got this break. Let me know how I can return the favor. Anytime…’
‘Not sure I understand you.’
‘Remember the tank project?’
‘Oh, yes. What of it?’
‘You didn’t brief me on it during hand-over.’
‘Oh, I didn’t?’
‘If you say so…well, I did right with all other files, you must admit. This one thing – don’t know how it slipped my mind.’
‘So did the 3 lacs too.’
‘And what does 3 lacs fetch today, eh? May be a shrub-fence around the site? The true cost of the project would be not a rupee less than 25 lacs even considering only the bare essentials. Didn’t want to scare those jokers away at the first draw, you see. The records were maintained scrupulously for the money paid out.’
‘And there were no shrubs and no fence around the site – I personally visited’. In fact nothing to show for the project save a hole on the ground to stand a pole.
‘What do you think? Everything costs money. I had workmen do a recce of the site, collected soil samples and sent them for analysis.’
‘I know… must have cost you all of the 3 lacs in the kitty. To think you took up the project when you had the transfer order in your hand – ah, you’re one heck of a chap.’
‘’Service is our motto’ – isn’t that written up as our pledge? Am sure you would have picked it up from where I left. Goes to show how our machinery just rolls on regardless of the personalities…amazing isn’t it?’ Time and tide wait…no, time and project wait for none…cute, no? Thought of it just now as we are talking…must get included in our pledge. Frankly we should be thanking the Brits for installing these systems. Come rain or shine we…’
‘Must have been some very pressing situation.’
‘Mmmmm…yes, mate, strictly between us it was bad. If I had not coughed it up…anyway thanks, my friend, for covering my back. In fact I was quite worried for quite some time…really feared they would reach me somehow.’
‘Anything for a colleague. After all hamam me sab nange hai (all are naked in a public bath). Funny I say this…there was no bath, no tank here- that’s the crux of the matter. But I must give it to you – you weren’t greedy.’
‘Now that we’re buddies, tell me how did it go for you and, yes, for the village? And you talked about some break thanking me for it…what is it?’
‘Wasn’t easy at all to face them, the villagers, and their queries. They demanded to be taken to the site and shown work done till date. Even threatened to take the matter to the Collector.’
’My god, that’s serious.’
‘Didn’t know what to do. At one stage, I seriously considered fingering you and letting myself out.’
‘Thank god you didn’t.’
‘I tell you it was quickly spinning out of control. And that’s when the report landed on my table.’
‘From some little known cheapie lab you had sent the soil samples for analysis.’
‘And what did it say?’
‘Usual stuff – no surprises there. But a line in there set me thinking – said ‘arsenic content negligible.’
The officer was clueless where this was heading.
His new buddy continued: ‘I told those blokes I had to refill the areas dug up by you, almost overnight at great cost and effort as traces of toxic minerals were reported in the soil analysis – even showed them the ‘report.’ And as a responsible public servant, how could I take even the least risk in matters of their health…In the end they thanked me for what I ‘did’.’
‘Man, you’re a guru. Wish I had known you earlier…You know you should have taken a session for us today on ‘How to handle difficult situations?’ instead of those morons boring us stiff. But I still don’t understand this: while you certainly saved my hide, how was it a break for you?’
‘After my telling them at length, the villagers were more than willing to vouch before any authority why refilling was necessary and urgent. Our office very well understood refilling a large area wasn’t a cheap exercise. If digging up cost 3 lacs, filling up would…well, I don’t have to tell you…Of course the records had to be straightened out with the supporting documents and receipts. I would be ungrateful if I didn’t thank you for the opportunity you sent my way.’
…The new buddy was not one to forget favors. He picked up the tab for the evening.
Source: Adapted from facebook.com/gauthamkrish