Friday, June 18, 2010

Imagined image

This is a real laugh. When I say our country is bizarre I mean it is seriously bizarre because of stuff like this.

Organisations, governmental, non-governmental, whichever, are supposed to have eyes and ears and hands and mouths just like us. But whereas our eyes can see what our hands are doing and our ears can hear what our mouths are saying, our civic caretaker, the BMC, appears to be severely challenged in this respect.

This morning I see a huge picture in one of the five newspapers I depress myself with everyday, of a woman in a blue kameez and yellow dupatta swiping her card at a machine. Another woman beyond her is doing the same. The caption gives us to understand that these are BMC employees in a mad rush to get home. The news that accompanies the pic goes (in a nutshell) “Tut tut; that’s very naughty”. Apparently these women are leaving office a full half-an-hour before “the stipulated time”. It’s not happening only on the day this photograph was taken. It is happening everyday.

Unnamed BMC officials are deeply annoyed. They’ve announced punitive action. First, no increments. Next, termination of service.

I’m laughing hard, really hard at this. Didn’t we think BMC employees left work early (like their brothers and sisters in Mantralaya) because they didn’t think there was work to be done in the first place? That, even more radically, they didn’t turn up for work at all because moonlighting added more zeros to their already fat incomes? And that these indeed were the distinguishing marks of the BMC employee? In fact, I was quite convinced that these practices were cleared at the interview stage itself, before employees were hired: “Repeat after me: I submit humbly to BMC’s long-established work culture. I shall keep my hands free of work at all times and at the same time, keep them well-oiled for the pursuit of lucre.” Stamp, stamp, stamp, hired!

But the unnamed BMC officials quoted in the news report don’t seem to see it that way. They complain that early leavers are costing the corporation a loss of 58,000 man hours per day, at half an hour per head, and (excuse me while I roll on the floor), “affecting the BMC’s work culture and tarnishing its image”!

Image for heaven’s sake! Like the BMC is listed repeatedly as one of our most corrupt organisations? Like its employees sit on files, not chairs at the workplace and “misplace” said files the moment their contents begin to irritate their backsides? Like they treat octroi as a golden egg laying goose in their back yards or…need I go on?

As I pick myself off the floor, irony strikes. Our contractor who is doing some knocking and plastering work on our old building because it’s been leaking for years and peepul trees have been growing out of its back, calls to say there are some BMC chaps downstairs asking for 5,000 rupees because we are repairing our building and can you spare the cash? Never in my entire considerably long life, have I bribed. If this had been my personal work, I still would not have done so. But my 96-year-old upstairs neighbour has been worrying herself sick about the leaky walls falling in on her with the monsoon setting in.

I fished out the required 5,000 rupees from my emergency fund and handed it over to the contractor in utter humiliation. I watched the oily transaction from my verandah. The recipients of the booty were four strapping young men, smartly dressed, one in a fancy jerkin. They pocketed 4000 rupees and gave the contractor a receipt for 1000 rupees—a fine for some obscure rule they must have accused him of breaking. I am now part of the system.

BMC take a bow. Your image shines bright and clear. When a beggar puts his hand out to us, we tell him moralistically to work, not beg. When your men put their hands out to us, we dare not utter the word work. We simply pay up.


義珊 said...


shanta said...

You have often left comments on my posts in a language I do not know. Since you read my posts you must be understanding English. I wish you would write your comments in English so I know what you are saying. Thanks.