Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why is it ?

Why is it
that all around you
a strange silence breathes?
Of the leaf falling,
Of sparrows chirping
on a summer noon
The shade of a mango tree
heavy with sleep
The net of light
through a ventilator
near the ceiling
in a darkened room.

Why is it
that when I am with you
sunsets of impossible years
slip their frames
and seep on to the sky outside

Friday, April 23, 2010

The exile revisited

This morning, I wouldn't know, if intentional or a quirk of fate or mischief, I found in my mail box a mail that I had sent to my mentor soon after being despatched to Dhanbad- 'transfer,' my employers call it, I call it punishment for sins I had never been aware of having committed. After the hell of 2 yrs and 8 months in exile, I am back with my family, after having been through hell and having literally begged on my knees for a transfer after my wife got afflicted with cancer.

I am grateful for the 'quirk of fate' of having a mail sent 3 yrs ago returned to me in legible form and I think it deserves to be posted on this blog. It follows :-

"Thank you sir. I need your blessings.

I have been made HOD of MIning Deptt. Normally people of M2 level are posted as HOD. There are 10 E5/E4 experienced mining/environment discipline officers, called Planners under me. I have to supervise their job, see that specific jobs are delivered on target dates, co-ordinate with other Deptt like, E&M, Geology, Civil, liaise with (a coal producing company I will not name for I too have to live), etc.. And I know nothing of planning. The work involves, apart from drawing up Project Reports, Mining Plans, necessary for Environmental clearance, which are now necessary even for underground mines, Fire-Fighting Projects, etc.

(Our company) is a ISO 9000:2000 company. The work of every officer is billed. There is a statement showing the number of days the officer was present and the number of days he was billed for. Payment for every job is made in Engineering Days.

Presently I have been provided accommodation in a Transit Camp, which is in an apalling state, though I am sure it is better than that provided in most areas of (3 nationalised coal producing companies in eastern India).

There is no system of cleaning the Transit Camp. It is a duplex D type quarter, looked after by the wife of a private car driver, who occupies the servants' quarters and half of the ground floor drawing/dining, since the Care-taker took VRS and the post was abolished.

I have been given a bed in the 1st floor. The sheet is clean with a clean pillow. The other bed has dunlopillo cushion whose covering cotton enclosure is torn in strips. It was full of cobwebs and dust. There is a dressing table and a table which have taken on a permanent coat of dust. On the dressing table was an old dirty comb with hair on it, a little bottle of mustard oil, and other things that the previous occupant didnt need to carry away when he was rid of the place.

The toilet is extremely dirty and the flush was broken but has now been repaired. There was a low power incandescent bulb that was necessary to add to the gloom. And there were left over pieces of soap, scrub and shampoo pouches. But I was not surprised by all this. In my transfer from BCCL to CCL I experienced worse and expect nothing better from Coal India Limited. I was surprised that there were no termites.

After two days of cajolling the lady/acting caretaker the room was persuaded by a fifty rupee note to clean up the room, to some extent; cobwebs are still there in some of the windows and some below the bed.

The lady cooks for me and another officer, another forced bachelor Geo-physicist from Nagpur who lives in the ground floor. I am happy with the 3 hot vegetarian meals I get. I have had to procure mineral water from outside Koyla Nagar (I love the name, it had to be coal; I love the word Black Diamond, I think it must have been coined by a Bihari/north Indian, they have a unique sense of humour).

I am sorry I have burdened you with all this. You have faced worse in your younger days. I have heard the story of a snake in the bed roll of an officer when he returned after leave and that of a tiger on the way to the incline. But now I am approaching 50 and a little tired of all this. In my very comfortable stay at Kolkata, though in a job that I had gotten utterly sick of having been at it for 15 years, I had forgotten that I was a servant and I need the salary badly.

I am trying to get a hang of the job. I must give the company what I can in return for the salary which brings home the bread for me, which I have always done. For 3 years. Then we shall see.

The problem with (the holding company that recruited me from BHU-IT campus) that it has always been a single focus company with one goal. Get coal. The supporting systems have not got the attention they needed. I think the Manager should be the last man for the responsibility for production. The SAM/Agent should give support to the production activity in his sphere of responsibility. Ditto the GM. Here we have CMDs screaming daily regarding production. While Personnel Officers make tours to the HQ even as there is a strike in the colliery. The Finance Manager goes home to Kolkata with the keys for cash. I so badly want to write to somebody who has the authority to change things, even though I know, knew since I joined ___ in 1981, that its days are numbered."

I would modify that ending now. That company, wonder of wonders, survives and will continue to survive, and qualified, honest, sincere, hard working, executives of the company will continue to be trapped into employment with it and thereafter raped lifelong to produce the coal that is its bread and butter and the fruits of its success shall continue to be enjoyed by unqualified people - Guest House care-takers who rise to become Directors (Personnel), (nearly all its high ranking personnel managers joined as clerks or workmen, no problem there, but look at their qualifications in Personnel Management/HR, yes they have heard the term) chainmen who become Chief Mining Engineers, etc.

However, now that I have seen the darkest nights, I have hope. The company has become a Navaratna, that is it pretends to be free to take its own decisions, even though insiders know that the Ministry has the final word. It is about to launch an IPO. So I might hope that in 20-25 yrs, we shall see an end to stupid idiots from villages of Bihar and UP who joined as clerks, security guards and care-takers rise to become Directors while engineers from IITs are transformed into clerks.