Look at the picture above. Anything interesting? At the first glance, No right?. Just some big bundles of browning old paper, steel shelves overburdened under their load, some steel utensils, a make-shift stove. The shiniest thing in the picture is probably the white and blue dustbin. Did you notice the fire lit under the pan? Doesn’t that degrade the importance of the papers stored in this place even further, if they ever held any to start with.
The above picture was clicked in a Secretariat in Haryana. These files are possibly all the paperwork filed in the office over the years. So much for documentation, so much for record keeping. Oh Paper, thy fate has come to its end. Digitalisation is on its way to rescue you of your weight dear shelves.
Doesn’t this picture look a bit chaotic at the first glance? Now, to a Sarkari office this is a powerhouse! And if this didn’t exist, chaos would entail.
“Arrey, zara bachcho ko Chai pilao, badi dur se aye hain” (Get the kids some tea, they’ve travelled far to come here). Thats what we heard every government official we visited say. From, the tehsildar to the District collector. Chai, suddenly felt like an equaliser. This place provided the chai for entire office, be it the DC or a Block Engineer. One of the services of the office everyone took some pride in. Chai– it arrived within ten minutes of it being called for. What kind of a cup it arrived in depended on the rank of the official. Not only the cup, the length of the conversation was also determined if you agreed to drink the chai or not. You had to say yes to the chai, cause denying it would mean that the official will be restless and not at ease while speaking to you. Meeting us was like a break for the officers. A breeze of fresh air, a moment of contemplation, and finally someone to talk to who didn’t have to butter them for something more important than just answering some questions for their college project.
“Bhai kahi publish mat karna, hame sarkar ijazat nahi deti kisi sarkari cheez pe tippani karne ki”, (Kindly refrain from publishing anything I say under my name okay, the government doesn’t give us permission to make comments on anything related to the government). Now this statement was mostly made by all officials apart from the ones on the top. They were the bosses and were very measured in their responses. They also weren’t so afraid of making statements and having them published, they had the DPRO to take care of them. Or maybe they knew that we were oblivious to actual big matters that would make them insecure. The DC, DCP, ADC sat on the first floor and others on floors above, ranks decreasing as you went higher. There was palpable amount of power in the air on the first floor and it decreased as one climbed to upper floors.
We just floated from one office to another consuming all the chai that we could and absorbing all the information take came with it.