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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amazing bosses!

The sheer wealth of knowledge that bosses generally have and also put on the shelf for the benefit of subordinates amazes me no end. Like the ganges that originates from the locks of lord shiva and freely flows down Himalayas and then the plains enrichening the lives of the inhabitants of the gangetic plain, the amazing wealth of knowledge that bosses have been known to possess flows freely in the form of words for the benefit of the wide mouthed subordinates generally witnessed sitting spellbound.

The subordinates on the other hand cannot be faulted for an absolute lack of knowledge and a dumb posterior in the awesome presence of knowledgeable bosses. After all do not humans beings since time immemorial feel dwarfed in the presence of tall symbols of the lord almighty even if of stone. The absolute knowledge of the bosses on almost all issues under the sun dwarfs the invariably dumb and gaping subordinates, who generally deserve no mercy.

The ability to amazingly switch from being the epitome of knowledge to a dumb subordinate and visa versa has been the key to success of some of the most successful officers who have occupied the highest echelons at various tiers including the apex. Yet I have wondered throughout the over thirty three years of my service as to how a mere mortal transforms into a fountainhead of knowledge and intelligence even if self professed, within hours of occupying the bosses chair. Maybe the encouragement given by the wide mouthed gaping subordinates hastens the transformation process.  

If only the subordinates were knowledgeable enough and had better role clarity, the bosses would definitely have pulled the organization and the nation out from the morass they are in. The blame therefore squarely lies on the shoulders of the subordinates, and the bosses rightfully claim appreciation for the tiny steps forward that they are able to take despite the baggage of unworthy subordinates.

A worthy boss changes like a chameleon to an unworthy subordinate in the presence of his superior in rank, a quality precisely suited for a rapid rise up the hierarchy in the bureaucratic arena and therefore finding large scale emulation. The sheer ignorance of a few like me of the need for a rapid switch between roles would therefore definitely demand its toll in this highly vibrant bureaucratic environment powered by transformation technology.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Complex trivialities!

Handling simple issues the complex way has perhaps become the bane of the nation.

I simply fail to understand why things cant’ be accepted at their face value. I am also unable to appreciate the national penchant to look for complicated solutions for every single issue, in official as well as personal arenas. One of my biggest realization has been that even technical issues, a large majority of them have simple solutions far removed from technicalities.

The problem is more acute in the official arena, perhaps because for most of us sarkari blokes, nothing really matters except those that have a direct bearing on our personal comforts and career advancement. To hell with delivery, yet the need to appear intelligent leads to the ongoing search for complicated solutions to simple issues. After all how can a sarkari babu defend his salary when he has no intention of delivering, is not delivering and also does not appear to be doing so.

Accepting situations, the people around it and also what the people say, at their face value is perhaps the best way to lead our lives. Yet the sheer mistrust that pervades the sarkari environment like mist prompts people in accepting situations and people with considerable distortions. Yet those who place their bets on a face value acceptance invariably end up as winners not in the traditional but in the true sense.

Gandhi has been the biggest mystery of the twentieth century. How can a mere human be so divine, yet so powerful so as to take on singlehandedly the mightiest empire of his times, the nation has always wondered? Perhaps his strength lied in his simplicity and also the purity of his soul. His mind devoid of any devious thought process always came out with simple ingenious solutions that worked and ultimately led to freedom for the nation. His belief in the goodness of men regardless of caste, creed or nationality and his total penchant for truth gave him a larger than life persona that the entire nation followed and worshipped.

Yet the land of the Mahatma despite partaking of his accomplishments has indeed failed in imbibing the basic tenets of his life. Therein lies the biggest tragedy of Bharatvarsh.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is there light around the corner?

The next rail budget is round the corner.

A commercial organization in monopoly in a sellers market in a nation inhabited by over a thousand and three hundred million should ideally have no reason to belie the expectations of its clients as well as constituents. Yet it has successfully belied the expectations of almost all it came in contact with during the last over three decades.

Where have we faulted and is there a salvation?

Is it not sad that I, a true railwayman to the core and fairly senior one at that have no expectations from the ensuing budget, and there may be many more of the same variety. Having been a silent witness to thirty three budgets in my career spanning as many years, I have learnt not to nurture hopes from such annual rituals. A ritual is what the budget has now become, a ritual that merely places the accounts of the current and the forecast for the ensuing financial year on the table along with a few sops for the public at large.   

A budget is meant to be a statement, a statement of the efficiency and purpose of an organization, of its goals and aspirations and of a new vision or direction. A budget of a commercial organization is expected to be a pointer of the direction that the organization is expected to take in the coming year and therefore should logically result in actionables that drive the organization to achieve the figures and also the intent. Unfortunately it has generally never been so.  

It is also true that for a developing nation like ours and an organization like the railways, mere announcement of intentions is not meant to be the end all. Intentions if not backed by a solid commitment of purpose can only serve as a temporary shroud for gains that can at best be short term in nature.

The convenient lack of clarity on whether we are a commercial organization or the sarkar itself has been the bane of this monolith, almost since the time the nation came on its own. An archaic and bloated bureaucracy, the nine verticals of which are often at war with each other would always find it difficult to deliver what the nation aspires for. Yet its sheer inability to restructure itself on commercial lines from the present departmental one has indeed been the reason behind the organization not being able to live up to national aspirations. The recommendations submitted on many occasions by eminent economists have been gathering dust in an organization that desperately needs to modernize and corporatize in the national interest.

It is also necessary that our processes, both for taking decisions as well as entering into contracts are simplified and brought at least at par with other governmental systems in the country, if not on total commercial lines. Yet, on the contrary, the over bloated bureaucracy that rarely differentiates between deliverance and remaining busy continues to make mountains out of molehills. 

If only the ensuing budget is not merely a statement of figures and a few announcements, but instead a statement of avowed objectives and time frames thereof backed by a resolve to take all necessary steps to achieve the same, the greatness of this organization would indeed be redeemed.

If only wishes were horses...................

Monday, February 18, 2013

Being a good human being is the crux!

Drinking and smoking are considered to be universal vices more so in the hindu society at large that generally scoffs at what it considers are drunkards and smokers. Yet my heart as well and the brain plainly refuses to accept the premise that all those who partake of the bottle or the packet are sinners or a bad man, on a scale higher that those who do not. For me, drinking as well as smoking falls in almost the same league as partaking of food for survival. At best these can be regarded as human traits with a slightly negative connotation bordering on health related issues.

I find it strange, often ridiculous that the society lays a strong negative premium on these traits, while at the same time accepting bigger vices like corruption or sexual misdemeanors without even batting an eyelid. Often it places on a high pedestal, people with power and pelf, regardless of the bloke having his hand perpetually in the till or indulgence in vices related to the fairer sex.  Whether one is a good human being with the milk of human kindness freely flowing within him or not, rarely merits consideration. Moreover while goodness is normally looked upon with awe as well as appreciation, yet the ability to recognize goodness gets clouded by irrelevant considerations. 

Perhaps the society at large is unable to differentiate between goodness and evil, yet attempts to do the same on the basis of visible traits like affliction to the bottle or general behavior. The attempts are however confined to merely scratching the surface and judging people on symptoms rather than their deep interiors. Often our appreciation of the goodness or the evil in a person is also clouded by the glamor that the person exudes based on the power or wealth at his command. And so the bureaucrats, politicos and industrialists generally command aura and awe despite their goodness coefficient often being in the dumps.

It is likely that our response or appreciation in these matters has been conditioned by our remaining under mughal followed by british subjugation for a very long period. It is however time that our benchmarks for assessing human beings assume proportions at par with the developed world.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The lure of steam!

Life must go on.

Romesh Sethi  had always been someone we took for granted. His awesome presence right from the day the society came into being on the 23rd of October 1999 was always a source of inspiration support and strength. My association with him at that time was almost a decade old and it therefore gave me  confidence that he is the only one who had the temerity to take the movement, the steam movement forward in a nation that rarely cared about its past or even its present, a confidence that was never belied.

Yet when he suddenly left for the other world on the 17th of November 2012, all of us who knew him intimately were not only shell shocked but also experienced our entire world coming apart, for we knew that the almighty had built only one like him, one who was human to the core besides being the finest officer railways had sired in its almost one hundred and sixty years of existence.  

Yet life must go on for he had been an embodiment of life itself. It was indeed tragic that someone who breathed life into everyone and everything had life sniffed out of him suddenly and surprisingly. It is therefore but appropriate that the tenth national steam congress scheduled on the 24th of February this year is a mark of tribute to this great man.

The steam movement that began with the historic run of the fairy queen and made waves cutting across countries and oceans towards the turn of the century is now truly picking up steam. First Rewari happened after almost eight years of deathly silence and then recently Amritsar also woke up and started blowing life in engines that one thought had gone to seed. The restoration of WP 7161, followed in quick succession by WL 15005, the Patiala State Monorail Train of the Museum and the KC 520 that belonged to the hills have literally set the steam world on fire. India has suddenly moved to the forefront of the international steam scene even though most of its inhabitants are yet to fully appreciate this unique achievement of a tremendous stature. Yet I am confident that definitely some day they shall.

The movement does not belong to an individual, though Romesh Sethi individually raised it to towering heights. It is the handiwork of some very committed individuals from different walks of life and their efforts with the support of organizations like the Rewari Steam loco shed, Perambur loco works, the DHR society of the UK and the federal Ministry of Tourism have now started bearing fruit. The ground reality of a hundred year old steam locomotive bellowing steam right in the heart of the capital is indeed a testimony to the monumental effort that makes up the rear. In the very near future, with the exception of perhaps matheran, other four hill railways would be able to boast of steam in some form in their midst and that would definitely not be a mean achievement even by the most stringent of standards. 

What next? The Indian Steam Railway Society, a society with a cause would do well to publicize its efforts amongst the masses at large besides encouraging the federal and state governments to give this niche heritage as well as tourism segment the place that it rightfully deserves. After all was it not the steam kettle experiments of James Watt followed by the steam locomotive of George Stephenson that has raised the world to its present stage of advancement?

The humanity indeed owes a lot to the power and aura of steam and should forever be grateful!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What's in a name!

Haircuts on a Sunday morning are always pleasant affairs. And if the morning is wintery with a bit of chill and a lot of sunshine, the walk to the barber’s can indeed be an exhilarating experience. Besides it also sets the mind racing as experienced by me today.

The first street of importance on the way was the “Nyaya Marg” that made me wonder whether the existence of this street has any relevance to the state of affairs in so far as dispensation of justice in this country is concerned.  The second was the “Satya Marg” or the street of truth. For a nation and its constituents steeped in lies, it appeared to be a travesty of truth in the land of Mahatma, to be naming streets after his biggest quality without really meaning it. The third was the “Niti Marg” or the street of propriety that was also out of sync with the daily happenings in the nation. The fourth was the “Shanti Path” that houses embassies of various nations deeply involved in acts of violence.

And the fifth and the most interesting of them all was the “Vinay Marg” on which lie the houses of many senior bureaucrats who contrary to sentiment conveyed by the name of the street they reside in  lack even basic courtesies in their dealings with the commoners. Even “Satya Sadan” ostensibly the houses of the truthful have many whose integrity apparently is not above board.

Can mere naming of streets inculcate value systems in a society seemingly devoid of it and the mandarins of the nation should indeed be doing much more than that in their half hearted attempts at nation building. The attempts at renaming are however even more blasphemous with Connaught place becoming Rajiv Chowk, Victoria Terminus becoming Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Madras becoming Chennai, Bombay becoming Mumbai and Calcutta Kolkatta. What are we aiming to achieve by these exercises I wonder?

Perhaps these are symptoms of a nation aspiring for a feeling of achievement in fancy ceremonies associated with these silly pranks of naming and renaming, pranks that we used to indulge into as children.


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Ambassador

Being driven around in my swanky ambassador, I am often amazed at the sheer respect the car commands, irrespective the standing of the bloke sitting inside. While most of the latest variety of cars are ogled at, this is one car that has an aura of its own and commands respect tinged with fear. 

The Ambassador was once classified as the worst car in the world by a reputed British agency, yet surprisingly it had a small market in the nation of whites. Perhaps the snob appeal of the British gels with the aura that this car radiates and in tune with the servility that the ruling class displays in plenty, this stout car literally rules the roads like a tiger.

There is no greater symbol of power on the roads of our nation than an immaculately maintained Ambassador with bharat sarkar emblazoned on it. A light on top and a flag, even if covered adds tremendous value to the glamour and aura of this car. The cover if removed results in even the passers by freezing to attention. The Ambassador is indeed the only car that is generally never challaned for it would be almost a blasphemy for a traffic constable to do so. Traffic violations like entering a no entry zone and jumping traffic signals are acts that this car indulges into with impunity.

For this car, the Ambassador is perhaps the last vestige of the Raj, the raj of the British, when we were slaves in our own nation. An approaching Ambassador therefore tends to convey to the commoner the arrival of someone powerful from the ruling clan, even if the guy ensconced inside has serious doubts about himself. Yet the car gives the bloke a power that he perhaps does not wield or deserve.

And this leads me to wonder, whether life is all about symbolism that confers status and power, not rank and authority, in this nation of ours where good governance is still a far cry?