Total Pageviews

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friends, Foes and Faceless Jokers

(These notes were randomly jotted between November 1987 and May 1988, when one of my periodic crises had rendered me practically destitute, without office, without work, without the perks that go with the office. The point to appreciate is that I had lots of leisure. In those pre word processor days, writing was a heroic task and needed great determination and lots of leisure. But I could proceed no further than forty or forty five handwritten foolscap pages, because in June 1988, I was posted to the CID and assigned the investigation of cases registered against the members of so called “Cooperative Mafia”. The many cases that we launched against influential political figures as well as high profile IAS officers left me no time for anything else for quite some time. It put an end to this project.

I must put in the all important caveat. I deliberately approached the subject in an elliptical, non linear fashion for fear of exposing the identity of the persons concerned. Adequate precaution was also necessary because identification of the characters due to some coincidence or chance resemblance could seriously expose me to the danger of personal harm; if not actually murder, the loss of a few limbs was a distinct possibility. I’ll tell you why; one of my closest friends threatened to shoot me should I dare to immortalize him or his father in law- a senior police officer himself- in my ephemeral memoir which was certainly not going to see the light of the day.

Written to fill in the empty languorous hours of my enforced idleness it is bound to be coloured by the mood of the moment. Lampooning and caricature was the only weapon available to a junior officer to get back at the unreasonable and iniquitous system. So all that will figure in here has to be taken in a lighter vein. This piece has been in existence for close to 22 years now as part of the police samizdat, and some of my close friends have gone through it and some more have been aware of its existence. Since a blog is after all a personal account put up for public inspection, I thought an expurgated version may pass muster. Initially captioned Friends, Foes and Faceless Jokers, it is being published without any updation . Superintendents have gone on to become Director Generals and Director Generals have been buried six feet deep under, but this story has not kept pace with their rise in fortune and ranks.)


Leisure has its own rewards, especially if it is enforced and fully paid one at that. It is very conducive to introspection and if such leisure takes the shape of a near permanent holiday (with, I repeat, the compensation package intact!) You may sometime even experience a tremor of bliss, a wink of heaven, a curious feeling of déjà vu. Never did it appear more certain to me that God was in his heaven and I could swear he was a pretty kindly fellow at that!

My day begins early – there is no hard and fast rule, though. It may not start even till late in the afternoon. The fundamental point to appreciate is that one is liberated from the bondage of structured time. One becomes the lord and master rather than the slave of the clock. And if the tick tick still bothers, one can just smash the bloody nuisance of a clock and be none the unpunctual for it. After all, time comes in quanta. All one needs is the ingenuity to organize it.

But to begin at the beginning. My newfound freedom has given me lots of time to think, to meditate, and to introspect. And I need no great stimulus to ignite my thought process. No accompaniments are needed. Any setting will do. Just plain me and my head. We got along nicely and like each other’s company. Except when the upper story tenant has a bad ache and then how I wish I was not saddled with the baggage. But that is rare considering my body, (I was thin and underweight) my mind is remarkable healthy. Healthy – and a little wayward too.

A good hearty lunch followed, may be, by a catnap makes me exceptionally receptive to ideas and suggestions and puts me just in the right frame of mind for deep meditative thought. But what about the pre-lunch session you may wonder. Well, even after I have been laid off, beneficiary of a fortuitous but very

welcome nevertheless lock out, I go to office every day. It is very comforting for my wife and children. Shows that everything is normal. And after all there are the neighbors, too. For appearances, sake. And more importantly to remain fully acclimatized to that mind – free zone called office. Don’t the potential astronauts submit themselves to grueling sessions in gravity free chamber in preparation of their trip to the outer space? After all one may some day, any day, be called back. And I am not the one to flinch from making sacrifices or sparking a thought for myself in the interest of work.

But this realization has dawned on me only recently. A thinking mind can be a professional hazard. It can be a bit of a nuisance. Can interfere with your co-ordination really. You may find yourself scowling when a smile is expected. A snigger may escape when the appropriate response should be a wide eyed `oh no’. So when I go to office, I leave my upper story tenant behind. Now I nod, I smile – or the involuntary twitch of the muscle does the job. Say yes sir, no sir, thank you sir, I am sorry sir, without any trace of feeling. By sheer force of habit. No intellection. And what a great relief it is. It saves one from the bother of thinking, of judging people; of giving opinion. And also saves one’s skin. One can’t be accused of being smart, or impudent; indisciplined or arrogant.


My wife is a very normal, peace-loving, husband-baiting, typically middle-class woman. Like all middle-class women, she takes her nagging very seriously. Nothing out of the ordinary really – except that her extreme anxiety about and complete ignorance of official matters, makes her very jumpy. But the worst thing about her worries and her anxiety is that it is dangerously infectious. It multiplies faster than the most fertile virus. So very soon I am myself in the grip of this anxiety of unspecified etiology. I have a feeling that my career is taking a nose dive. (Absolutely imaginary – because my career had never soared really!) So aided by the nagging of my wife, my own propensity to introspection and the ambience of uninterrupted leisure, I sat down – or rather we sat down – to have a good look at my future. One gloomy foreboding led to another until it seemed there was no hope for me. I seemed caught in a cul de sac of meaningless gestures, in an impasse of comic bravado. Was there no hope for me? Was I a doomed soul already, ear marked as a drone; destined to compulsory retirement or worse? We became victims of a curious time lag; it seemed to me that my future was already behind me. No promising lead was in sight; the atmosphere was getting far too oppressive but no magic casement opened for us to escape. In a deliberate effort not to look at each other, we caught ourselves casting furtive glances at each other then away and back again to gazing at each other in obvious and plaintive search of comfort and reassurance. But none came our way. We changed strategy and put the time machine in reverse gear. May be we could scan the past in order to draw some conclusions, to be forewarned and take evasive action; to analyze the mistakes committed in the past so that we could shape the future nearer to our hearts desire.

I just played back the past fifteen years of my career as on a video monitor, at a slow speed; almost frame by frame to see whether in the expressive phrase of my wife I had made a complete “pig’s breakfast” of my career. I would have liked to delve deeper; to try and relate my failures to the facts of biology, to raid the unconscious to arrive at a theory of subliminal longing. But that was uncertain territory and after my spine chilling voyage to the future I wanted to tread ever so cautiously.

But I was in for a lot of surprise. Along with the mass of seemingly familiar and trifling data came up recollection of the purest vintage. And now that I was standing apart and was not too close it I could look upon these things with a real cool detachment – a god’s eye view as it were.


I am serious about my work but not solemn; respectful to authority but not reverential. Open to conviction; ready to take advice but no respecter of persons. Precisely the failing and infirmities any young, aspiring and ambitious police officer must studiously avoid.


Bosses, generally, have a singular inability to appreciate their subordinate’s point of view; their failure to look at the world through glasses other than their own. Or shall we put it the other way. The subordinate who does not have the talent to ingratiate himself to them would not go very far. Sooner rather than later he will fall by the way side.

I have had mixed luck in matter of bosses. Some were bad, some very bad and some downright insufferable. It is ordained that the boss will judge his subordinates and there is no armour against this fate – it is part of the burden of karma really. The lower down in the hierarchy you are the greater number of people there are to judge you. To find out infirmities that you don’t have, to point out short comings that are not there; nor is even part of your genetic inheritance; to lionize others for qualities that they could never possibly have.

This whole sordid business of recording A.C.Rs, I always thought, was a weird piece of book keeping, operated by the law of caprice and personal whim so that the worst failing can be entered in the credit side or sterling qualities entered in the debit side should the bursar so decide, and management experts are kept busy at devising ever more ingenious and labyrinthine forms of performance appraisal. New toys to play with; new games with the same set of rules. Cronies must be taken care of. Favorites first. Pets must prevail.

So you judge and are in turn judged; and in the process you produce drivel of unimaginable sloppiness. Everyone is kept busy. The entire play of the evolutionary strategy of nature is replicated in our offices. The big fish chase the smaller ones. While the bigger ones themselves hide from the powerful political sharks. Nature at least in the services is still red in tooth and claw. He who dares dies or is decimated. He who sucks up to survives and attains salvation. Silence is the law of the services. Servility is the stuff of official decorum. The service has its revenge on those who break the moral laws, with the inexorable certainty of a Greek play. If a modern day Agamemnon breaks an official taboo adverse ACR or worse is the inevitable wager of the act