Mirror! Mirror! On the Wall?

Subhash Mathur

Subhash Mathur was born and brought up in small towns in Rajasthan. During his school and college education at Jaipur, he was keenly involved in sports, journalism and public speaking. His civil services career has given him a platform for spreading his ideas about modernising tax administration to benefit the commmon man. Post retirement he is devoting his energies, along with his wife Tilak, to public and humane causes.

In August 1980 I sought a transfer to Jaipur Collectorate from Delhi DRI. Keeping my difficult family situation in view, the Board obliged fairly quickly.

And so, I landed up in Jaipur in August. My arrival set off a chain of events which took place with regularity throughout my stay at Jaipur. Usually the issues were petty but the drama was high octane.

I simply couldn’t believe the kind of bizarre situations which engulfed me and my family from time to time. From the series of ‘mishaps’ I narrate the most innocuous one.

In February 81, I was posted as Assistant Collector [Hqs] a post supposed to be very close to Collector. [These days the equivalent post is Jt Comm. P & V.]

Of course, in my case the motives were different. By keeping me close to himself, Collector was merely trying to size up my functional abilities from close quarters. He had serious misgivings about me and wanted to establish that my reputation [what reputation?] was built on incorrect indices.

Even before my arrival Collector had picked up some fancy stuff about me and my family from some of my colleagues who were natives of Rajasthan and were acquainted with some family members at Jaipur. Vague references were also alluded to the ‘power’ of my ‘extended’ family. So by the time I hit the town Collector had already formed a dislike for me intensely. So much that he made just my ‘joining’ a challenge!

But never the mind. Let’s move on.

First step, let’s then call the Collector as Jolly [The Good Fellow].

As a rule of thumb, Jolly would necessarily summon me first thing in the morning on most days for a meeting [more of a fault finding session really] around 10.30 am.

Thus on a warmish April morning I happened to be in Jolly’s chamber around the time he had his customary morning refresher. His room was nicely cooled and silent except for the whirring of the air conditioner. Normally, Jolly would signal me to leave but that day it was a bit different as apparently we were discussing something serious, time consuming and perhaps time bound.

So, as per his regular daily drill his smart Sepoy Ram Chander walked in with the tea tray. On it sat the white Teacozy covered teapot, milk pot, sugar cubes and two bone China blue and gold cups. Perhaps also a plate of biscuits.

After keeping the tray in its customary place the Ram Chander out of the blue asked ‘Sir, anything the else?’

Irritated Jolly retorted ‘Just go, man! Go!’

Taking his eyes off the paper he was reading, Jolly began to stare at the tea tray. Soon, the stare turned into mortification. Horror was writ large on his face. His face contorted and turned Blue Red and ‘Hot’. Progressively. He couldn’t believe that his smart Ram Chander had blundered so badly.

It appeared to Jolly that a mere class IV Sepoy had the temerity to suggest to Jolly [the Good fellow] himself, that he should share a cup of tea with an unworthy like me. Within nano seconds Jolly flew into rage! He started fuming and gesticulating, wildly! Smoke started billowing out of his ears! It was obvious that something was terribly wrong and something was going to give. Sooner than later!

Without a care and a thought Jolly raised his right hand [with a steel ‘Kada’] all the way up and brought it down all the full force and might at his command. The fist with the ‘Kada’ hit the glass topped office table hard and instant reaction followed. [I was witnessing all this dumbfounded].

Bang! The glass rose a few millimetres and fell with a thud. And Exploded. Into smithereens. Shards flew in all directions. [They missed me for sure. Not sure about Jolly.] Shit hit the ceiling! And how!

For Jolly it was ‘statue’ time. Jolly sat stone faced, not uttering a word. Almost frothing at the mouth and then started babbling! And he hit the bell button and didn’t let go.

DINGgggggggggggggggggggggggggg. Hell broke loose. The Corridor went into a spasm. Doors flew open and people rushed out and into Jolly’s room. Dumbstruck at the Mayhem! In the melee, I quietly slipped out of the room and went straight to my office next door. To recover from the shock.

Soon, the incident was the ‘Talk of the Town’. Many a tongue wagged. But I held my peace. After all Collector was a Jolly Good Fellow!

Of course the Million $ question which should arise in your mind is: After all, why was Jolly so averse to sharing a cup of tea with ME but did so without compunction with other subordinates almost everyday?

[Drinking a cup of tea alone can be quite boring really.]

And thereby hangs another tale!

Ciao! Till we bump!


thanks Sir for the informative post.Till now I was under the impression that the incident pertained to some pendency in provisional assessment in the collectorate!

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