Thursday, 16 December 2010

Babudom or my Permit A38 moment

Just when I think life has descended into the mundane, it decides to surprise me. Or maybe I have developed a more zen sense of humour and laugh at the mundane, who knows.

Anyway. This tale spans a weekend and a day; however, it will take a lot lesser to relate.

On a certain Friday I missed picking up a call from an unknown number. After repeated attempts to call back, I finally got through to a certain gent, who we will call P. Now P informed me after a lot of ah-and umming that I had reached the Indian High Commission (henceforth referred to as IHC). Now why would someone from the IHC call me, you wonder? I did too.

Hearing me out as I explained why I called, he deduced that someone from his department may have called me regarding a vacancy for which my CV might have been short-listed.

Now to give you a short background of how my CV reached the IHC. A couple of months back hubby saw an ad of theirs asking for applications from Communications professionals, with a Ph.d in marketing, branding and what not for some position the IHC were looking to fill. Now V’s idea is (bless him) that any thing with “communication” in it, is a role I should apply for. To keep domestic peace, I applied and the time when I was talking to individual “P” of the IHC, I thought I had actually made it to round 1!

“Bugger! Now I will have to down the humble pie in front of V,” I thought.

However, that was not to be on the dinner menu that night.

Back to individual P. “It is a part-time clerical role. If you are interested, please come along to the IHC with you passport and visa on Tuesday.”

Now before you dismiss this entry as a woeful tale of my unemployed status, perish the thought. There is more to this.

“But could you at least tell me what exactly is the job description and when how long is it for?” I enquired.

P was not aware of it and the colleague who called was away. He was hesitant to give me the name but I was encouraged to call again later in the day and check for details.

I tried and failed that day.

On Monday, however, I finally got through to the number (after five attempts, mind you) to finally have someone pick up the number, and guess who it was? Yes, it was Mr P again.

He still wasn’t sure who had called me, but asked me to come over on Tuesday if I was interested.

Now I was in a dilemma. I definitely needed (n still do) a job that was salaried (never mind that I didn’t know what this one was going to pay or even what it was!), so would it be worth legging it all the way to the IHC, just to find what it was all about.

Of late, I have become a champion of positive thinking. I knew that if this had come my way, it must be for a good reason. And so I decided to go.

The next day dawned gloomy and grey, temperatures flirting with the negatives and the tube workers of the hallowed Underground were on a strike. And it wasn’t a bolt out of the blue, these, then pending, conditions I was aware of even when I made the decision to grab my destiny with both hands.

As I sat in an overheated bus crawling through over-crowded roads, I mulled on the irony of my venture. Back in the day (sic) when I was a jhola wala, read reporter, I tried to haunt the corridors of bureaucrazy (that typo was not deliberate! Sub-conscious perhaps. However it stays, because I like it!) and failed miserably. I never quite knew how to handle their loopy talk and didn’t have sufficient skill, or patience, to “make them a source” or become one of their “reporter friends”. I steered clear of the crop as much as I could in personal life as well. In the last two years, the last time I had a tete-tete with the kind was when my passport needed renewing. And here I was seeking employment (of some sort) with them!

Two hours, a bus ride and long walk in the bitter cold later, I was at the IHC’s door. 15 minutes at the reception, a walk in the labyrinth of floors and rooms later, I was shown into the admin department, where I was greeted by the cacophony of voices that are quintessential to the babudom. To be fair, it felt nice to hear conversations in hindi. It felt like home.

The peon announced to no one in particular, there were 6 people and seven desks and chairs there, that I was there for the job.

One person asked for my passport and visa, which I provided. And then tried to ask what the job was. He ignored me handing my papers to his colleague. Who after ten minutes of scrutiny passed it over to another who had a couple of questions for me. After my interrogation was over, by which time I had spent half an hour in complete oblivion of my purpose there, I asked again, what the job was.

“Negi ji will take you to the department concerned and they will explain what it is.”

And so went I with Negi ji through yet another maze of corridors and there we were at the “concerned department”.

I was introduced to this young woman (who I think was malyali. I mention because I feel a kinship with the lot), who cleared a low-lying cabinet next to her, beckoned me to sit and went on to show me what the job was- scanning pictures and uploading them to their server. Before I could say anything, she encouraged me to try it and show her if I could do it.

She was too nice and I too polite to refuse, so I obliged. While I was in the middle of it the task, one matronly woman came to stand next to us and began asking the young woman questions.

“So you think she can do it? Yes? OK. So tell her to start from tomorrow.”

For all she cared, I was not even there.

Swallowing my pride and indignation, I told her that I couldn’t start as I was working somewhere already (I volunteer full time at a charity) and I needed a notice period.

“NO NO that wouldn’t do. If you want this job you need to start tomorrow. You shouldn’t have come if you were not available immediately!” she cried (literally).

Let's take a pause here. Now the old me would have screamed back at her and given her an earful. But the new me didn't. I am not sure if it was my Zen state of mind or fear of deportation (don't ask how) that I calmly told her this.

“You know MADAM, I was never even told why I am here.” OK so I allowed myself a sarcastic MADAM; I am only human!

I returned to dept no. 1 to collect my papers, was given another lecture on the immediacy of the job; I gave them a rueful smile. After being summarily dismissed from the hallowed halls of IHC, I realised a couple of things. One was that some attitudes just don’t change, even when far removed from Shastri Bhavan, second that I still don’t know who called me that day. :/


Anonymous said...

Loved the line, "temperatures flirting with the negatives.." Creme brulee indeed! Natural (sigh!)
Unfortunately so are our Babus :/

Prerna said...

Thanks CB! But are you saying our babus are creme brulee or natural? :D

Roopabee said...

It's always funny - no matter how many times I hear.. or read it!

Charu said...

some attitudes just don’t change .. haha .. well dnt knw if I shld say sorry u had to go thru it all but then again look at the bright side atleast we enjyed a gr8 laugh thnx to u :P

Prerna said...

@CD: I am glad u liked it! :D

Sengemo said...

oh peru, this is superb :) You should have given them an earful. And where on earth this zen being emerge from?

Anonymous said...

The video is so apt!