Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's a Bus, It's a Train, It's a Railway-Man

“Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year.”- Thomas Mann
Time simply flies. Minutes to hours, hours to days, days to years. Years to 5 years. 5 years into the world of a legacy enriched for hundred of years diligently by people now no more, world of rolling wheels and cruising metals, world of rails, tracks and bridges, world of Indian Railways.
 These 5 years also gave me an opportunity to visit several places across India. Opportunity to interact with several wonderful people and make long lasting relationships.
 I learnt about a species of superhero called Railway-Man whose single pursuit is to keep the wheel rolling and the giant moving. Whose muscles are not of steel, like Super-Man, but his thoughts are. Who doesn’t weaves a web of silk, like Spider-Man, but brilliantly weaves a web of railway tracks. And unlike all superheroes he wears his underwear correctly. 
He can battle it out equanimously under a scorching sun or a shivering cold night or a thunderstorm. Like every superhero his personal concerns take a backseat when there is an emergent call to duty. After a cyclone or an earthquake he watches first for others well being and the train’s safety than his and his family. The first call he makes is to ensure if everything and every train is safe in the section and then to his family. When needed he works relentlessly under demanding situations- the tougher an environment the better his skills. Time and again he complains of better working conditions, of better facilities and this is what sets him apart from other superheroes. He shows he is human yet can exemplify superhuman capacity under all situations. The next time you sleep peacefully inside a train, trust that there are several such superheroes  from the engine driver to the controller at station to the one at tracks out there to help you reach your destination.
image credit:

A site work of Railway yard for laying new turnout

On a lighter note, he is considered the Godfather of railway tickets among his friends and family . A quarter of his annual income goes into securing berths for lesser mortals who could not manage to login to IRCTC website during tough times-read tatkal hours. As a champion of travelling souls he becomes the last minute hope of a confirmed ticket. He is expected to possess a wand and a magical charm through which he could get a waitlisted ticket into fully confirmed berth anytime any day across anywhere. A powerful vision he has, people expect him to foretell their future- whether a waitlisted WL24 seat on 18th of next month will get confirmed or not.  A  Railway-Man sitting thousand of miles away is humanly expected to know whether the Yeracud express will arrive at Tiruvallur station at right time or not.(How?Tell me how!!?) Like Spider-Man he too possesses a sixth sense. His sixth sense is always awake in the form of an ever ringing mobile phone. Just  a ring and a brief “Halo...halo” can recharge him in minutes even from a deep sleep. So intense is his affection towards the phone that when it does not rings for an hour, he by default checks the miscall status.

Coming back to my experience I don’t consider it an accomplishment for having honourably survived these 5 years. Someway somehow it ought to happen. As long as you keep on moving on a straight road the destinations don’t count into your achievements. Nor can I boast of my actions giving due direction to this rolling world. Like time this legacy does not wait for anyone nor it is enslaved of anyone's endeavour. It sets its own ambitions and knows how to surpass them. This legacy worships motion, faster the better. Day in and day out it is propelled not by the brilliance of one or two minds but by its own sheer momentum gained over a period of 160 years. Like time it moves ahead at its own pace. We who are part of it are just fleeting characters in its ever expanding saga. Howsoever extraordinary we may consider ourselves, as the story unfolds we realise that the roles of our characters are limited. 5 year is a long time,in a short span of life, but I never considered my actions shaping this organisation’s story. If it were not me, it would be someone else playing the character.  Like time it will carry me ahead whether I make an effort or not.
These 5 years of association though gave a mixed feeling. To be honest, at times I considered it as my biggest achievement and biggest mistake of life so far. Don’t know why. But may be as in life our perspective changes with our circumstances so does it in an organisation. Being human I think one can afford these two point of views. I may or may not be a part of its journey in the next 5, 15 or 30 years. It doesn’t matter who comes and who goes. All what matters is that the wheel should roll and the giant should move.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Curious Case of Salary Slips

An image of  bunch of salary slips

*Also on**
While other people receive salary statements, we as govt employees receive salary slips or pay slips in government parlance.

Any thing which is not tangible does not goes down our throat. The pay slip is not just a piece of accounting paper. It is everything what a slip is ordained to be. It is born as a slip and it dies like one. You can fold it over and over, roll it, crumble it, or laminate it 15"x5". The last being least recommended because of least profit and more effort.

The joy of a government employee at the sight of a neatly folded salary slip as the first thing on his office table is inexplicable. Sensing the worthiness of the immortal paper, the peon brings it like a pleated shawl, with full guard of honour. As though he is entrusted to deliver the Padma Shri to  his immediate officer. The officer also reciprocates with cheap love and a rare grin. In a spirit of celebration and generousness  an all paid tea party is thrown to office staff with an added complimentary samosa.

Then arrives the moment of pride and satisfaction, sensed by a labourer having secured an evening meal after an exhausting day’s work. The employee lifts the slip up delicately and carefully in open palms as if it were a new born baby, caressing and savouring through eyes every feature of it. A convulsion of emotions ranging from fear to ecstasy surrounds him as he slowly unfolds the slip. As if he were a groom and the salary slip his newly-wed bride whose veil he has to uplift to reveal the beauty hidden underneath.  In both the case anxiety is at an all time high even though the product is known before hand. 

What lies inside are messages encrypted in fonts once used by Soviets during cold war. The numerals are so well sized and uniform that it is hard to differentiate between 8 and 5. Only a lethargic mind seasoned under controlled government atmosphere can judge that his payment is 50000 and not 80000. At the bottom, in clear letters one can read his exact Date of Retirement. It is a nirvana statement that makes very clear that your job is permanent but you are not. Next is the puzzle round. With abbreviations so tough that may bewilder even the geek god of social network acronyms. For each ‘SLAP-Sounds Like A Plan’- type we get many slaps e.g NPS, GNPS, PPF,GPF,PF,DEDN,TRAN etc. DEDN may resemble Dehradoon but it is the most crushing reality of pay slips -Deductions. Our attitude towards our work load and deductions is equal- we desire both to be minimal.

No organisation has better believed in and practiced recycling than government offices. A paper  is recycled and reincarnated so many times that it loses interest in its own existence. Once a dull grey texture evincing a sombre expression becomes part of a paper's life, it is considered fit for pay slips. The pay slips are recycled so many times that the trees from which they are derived, if paid their due royalty then their offshoots would be millionaires by now. It becomes so coarse in due course of time that one can use it efficiently as a sand paper or in place of tissue paper to soak off oil from your face.

The favorite pastime of a government employee is decoding his salary slip. Unfortunately it is the most strenuous of all. So much so that I find standing upside down far more easy than understanding my salary slip. The much hubub surrounding 7th pay commission revealed to me realities of life and salary structure.  It became  more like a Sudoku puzzle to find your new basic pay after the pay commission report. I am sure understanding a genome of an organism would be far more simpler than our salary structure. But old habits die hard. We seek pleasure in things which kills time, provided it is not ordered by the boss.

Well everything put to rest, as you start adjusting with a compromised bride as your wife so do you with the net salary in your life.(Mind you, it rhymed!). Salary slip is not just a piece of paper. It shows each one of us-in crude words- our actual aukaat and -in decent words- our worth in an organisation. Receiving it is a ritual, a practice, a festival celebrated in the last week of every month. It is the choti Diwali before the actual one when salary is credited in bank accounts. It is the mortal hope and resembles the collective happiness of ever complaining but sincerely working government employees.

Thank you for reading
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