Sudha Devi Nayak

Different Strokes

During the course of my career in a large public sector organisation I was posted to Sambalpur in Odisha. Our Sambalpur Regional Office was at the time ruled with an iron hand by a draconian chief who was an uncompromising stickler for work and punctuality.

‘There is no substitute for good work well done’, he said, and ‘punctuality’, he would remind us in meetings and seminars, ‘is the politeness of princes and the courtesy of kings. And we are but lesser mortals’. On his wall in his chamber he had a white  board with Carlyle’s immortal words “Blessed is the man who has found his work .  Let him ask for no other blessedness.”

He would come on his daily   rounds in the morning to inspect whether people were at their respective seats on time and work has seriously begun. Our staff hitherto not used to such strict surveillance, before getting down to the grind would habitually go through the warming up exercise of sipping tea and  exchanging   gossip of the day. When they heard the chief’s step or his voice in the company of his revered PS they would charge to their seats,  pull open their drawers, fling open their files , pick up their writing materials and start  working at a frenetic pace.

This was a daily ritual and such was the fraternity no one  ever got caught till that fateful day. On  that particular day too people rushed to their seats in the nick of time and got absorbed  in their files.

The chief observed with evident satisfaction  the perfect office atmosphere and the strong work ethic.  He moved with deliberate majesty from seat to seat looking at the bowed heads, raised only to wish him. At the end, before he finally left he stopped at a particular table ,  longer than usual and saw the bowed head deep in meditative concentration.

That is when he said , addressing the official by his full name as was his wont “Oh, Bikram Kesari Misra. You possible want I should read your file”! The gentleman in question was mindlessly  lost in a file that was upside down!