My Muse - What’s my Rosogulla?

Author: 
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 common man. Post retirement he is devoting his energies, along with his wife Tilak, to public and humane causes.

My tryst with the Raj Bhasha circus started when I was posted at Ahmedabad from 1987 to '92.

I had two more interesting encounters but let’s dwell upon the first one.

First things first.

A simple letter at the beginning of September '90 from the Directorate of Inspection informed Commissioner Bakshi that a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both Houses of Parliament on Raj Bhasha would be visiting his office for Parliamentary oversight and to review progress in the use of Raj Bhasha in official work. The visit was being scheduled for the middle of October. The exact dates were under finalisation with the Speaker.

All hell broke loose.

Raj Bhasha: Committee of Parliament on Official Language

As per my estimate, the Commissionerate was doing badly in implementation of guidelines for use of Raj Bhasha in office work. Perhaps the percentage was as low as 30%.

All the senior officers at Ahmedabad were proficient in English and never gave a ‘whit’ about adhering to the guidelines. Me included.

As Head of Office for these minor issues, I bore the brunt of the complaints from our Raj Bhasha Adhikari, Pandey ji, who was affectionately and popularly known as Panditji. He would brief me every fortnight about the violations and need for stricter control. Each fortnight I would assure him of improvement. Yet nothing ever changed.

Religiously, I would raise the issue in every meeting of senior officers. Everyone nodded in agreement but simply ignored my implorings once out of the Conference hall. They continued to violate every single check point reference. Me included.

All letters went out in one language. All faxes went out in one language. All notices for personal hearings went out in English. All orders in original were issued in English. This was open defiance of the strict guidelines.

Gentle efforts by Panditji to coax the officers did not bear any positive results. Defiantly, work went on merrily in the office against the guidelines and received all round appreciation. Why change something that’s giving good results?

It was too good to last. The imminent arrival of Parliamentary Committee broke the spell.
Commissioner Bakshi was a very popular officer. His gentle demeanour, combined with deep knowledge, was highly appreciated. But some urgent and tough decision making became the need of the hour.

Commissioner Bakshi held a flurry of meetings. But at the end of the day it was crystal clear that the stats were abysmally low and could not be improved upon by much, even if the guidelines were to be followed on War Footing.

Now everyone was feeling the pressure. Only Raj Bhasha Adhikari Panditji was gloating. Everyone wanted to meet him to check out the guidelines and adhere to them.

Baby’s Day Out.

Strict compliance orders were issued. No letter or notice or fax or any other document could be dispatched or leave office without a nod from the Raj Bhasha Adhikari.

Work slowed down to a crawl. But Commissioner Bakshi knew, Panditji knew, and I knew that the frenetic activity would not add much to our numbers. It was just too little too late.

The Commissioner looked perturbed. Anxiety, helplessness showed on his countenance. He needed Inspiration. As his Two IC I felt compelled to somehow save the day. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I wasn’t going to surrender tamely. We had to mount a creditable defence.

I called a mini brain-storming session. Pandey ji, Administrative Officer Hassu ben and I were in attendance. We were looking for One Bright Spark. I ordered fixed lunch for the Storm troopers from Havmor as a sweetener to coax them. Petty suggestions were rejected outright. We needed One Big Idea. Period. Even if it was just a subterfuge.

The meeting was looking to be a failure. The sheer low numbers were blocking straight thinking. But Vanilla Ice cream over hot Gulaab Jamun did the trick. Hassu ben casually mentioned that she had not seen Ashram Bharti, our official Annual Patrika, for the past several years. And we had our Big Ticket Idea. This was my Rosogllua.

Ashram Bharti had not seen the light of the day for the last three years. Panditji explained that every year the publication was shelved; no funds. He had the material ready. Just needed to update. Bingo!

The Troopers marched across the corridor into the chamber of Commissioner Bakshi with the idea. Game changer, apparently. Walked out two minutes later. Idea approved, funds made available, the Commissioner agreed to contribute. Poor chap! He had no choice at all. From then on, I knew it was going to be a cakewalk.

But the report of the Director Raj Bhasha at Directorate of Inspection jolted us once again. Just four days before the arrival of the Committee, our real numbers were only 21% and not 28% as per our record. The team from DI flew in two days earlier to strategise. Who would speak? Excise Commissioner Bakshi to welcome. Customs Commissioner Singh to offer Vote of Thanks. Adjudication Commissioner Das to generally appear to be busy smile and generally radiate happiness. Additional Commissioner Prasad and Raj Bhasha Adhikari Pandey would deal with the questions and the numbers. Who would welcome the Members of Parliament at their place of stay? Deputy Commissioner P&V (that’s yours truly).

Guidelines for accommodation of the Parliamentary delegation were prickly. In essence, MPs were to be treated royally but not opulently. Gifts were mandatory but had to be selected with care; more than ordinary but — you guessed it — Not opulent! It was like mixing Masala tea with Chardonnay in a perfect cocktail. Is that even possible?

Much to our relief only 7 Members of Parliament turned up against the scheduled thirteen; five Gents and two Ladies. Protocol was strict. Officers in uniform were mandatory but were not to be obnoxiously visible. Stay around closely but always merge with the background. My officers were ready to commit hara-kiri.

First twenty five minutes went into welcome and intros. Everyone loved to show off. 10 minutes into the actual discussions, and just when we were wading into some very rough areas, the vital message came through. Discreetly in my ears: “Sir, Ashram Bharti had arrived.”

Offload the bundles, convert into small packets and RUSH to the Conference Room. No delays were acceptable. Although I was persona non grata for the content proceedings, I was always in command. I had the authority to disrupt the meeting at any point of time. And I did just that.

Barged into the conference hall with Shree Dawra, our Translator, and two others in my footsteps. Holding hot and moist copies of Ashram Bharti. Right Off the Press. The invasion halted the discussion. We quickly distributed copies. And left. Within minutes everyone was leafing through the Patrika.

Our Rosogllua!

 
Subhash Mathur chairing a planning meeting in September 1990 at the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Ahmedabad for an upcoming meet of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of both Houses of Parliament on Raj Bhasha.

Subhash Mathur chairing a planning meeting in September 1990 at the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Ahmedabad for an upcoming meet of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of both Houses of Parliament on Raj Bhasha.

 

The Members browsed through the contents seriously. We had covered the current visit extensively. Photographs of Members of Parliament were splashed around in various poses. That pleased them to no end. Obviously, a few typos had crept in. Result of hurried output. And unexpectedly one of Congress MP immediately spotted the big howler: the spelling of the name of the former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi in Devanagari script was wrong.

Heated discussion ensued amongst the Congress MPs about the correct way of writing her name in Devanagari. No unanimity. Each Congress Member wanted to have the last word. Soon the Congress members strayed into recounting their close association with Indira ji. Each one proclaimed greater proximity than the next. It was sort of a competition.

Time flew. Good for us. The howler was saving the day.

But otherwise Ashram Bharti was much appreciated. Even I had contributed ten lines in Hindi. Still feeling proud.

As soon as the heat and dust settled over the howler, I announced, “Tea is served.”

Everyone jumped up and made a beeline to the snack counter to grab the delectable pastries and hot Samosas and vegetable sandwiches and wafers. They also took care to line the pockets of their Nehru jackets with salted cashew nuts wrapped in a tissue. For later use as a snack, you see. Two cups of tea and one cup of coffee was mandatory for all of them to ward off tiredness. After all they had been ‘working’ hard since morning.

One MP demanded fresh orange juice. I was stumped. Somehow my supply side team had even arranged that. Thank Goodness for that brain wave.

Just as the tea was winding down, we gently nudged the Committee members to the chambers of the Commissioner for — you guessed it again — a relaxed cup of tea. Away from the heat and dust. Away from the burden of Oversight.

One CPM member was keen to go back for discussion. Others fixed their gaze at me. Save us! I rose to the occasion.

I announced lunch. Veg / Non Veg. With special Halal Shaami Kebabs. The CPM guy was apparently partial towards such delicacies.

After lunch we again nudged them to visit our Disposal godown to pick up confiscated goods ripe for sale. They loved the idea. Knick-knacks like imported scissors, nail cutters, cassettes and players, Camay soaps and Chanel N°5 eau de parfum, lipsticks, nail polish, etc. were gobbled up. Polyester sarees too, for the Maids. Rs. 250 a piece was a bargain. Original KIWI Boot polishes too, with brush.

Shopping over, we packed them in their cars for paying obeisance at Akshardham. That was the end of the Inspection and Oversight. Finally, Commissioner Bakshi smiled.

The report came in two weeks later: Excellent work for the spread of Raj Bhasha. Special mention for Ashram Bharti.

Boy, was that a close call!

Whence comes another? Just round the corner.

Comments

Hilarious!

Many many thanks Jogendra

Ho..ho...dear subhash ! It's a hillarious anecdote, written in a graphic, suspense story style. I remembered several of my own Rajbhasha Parliamentary Committe's firing tales ! I vividly recall Ram Vilas Paswan, MP, heckling K Srinivasan, the then Collector, Customs, Bombay. I did come to his rescue somewhat in the same manner by speaking for him in chaste Hindi. Confidcated goods godown was the ultimate saviour !
Congrats for this gem of office spoof !

Thanks Kamlesh . As usual you have gone overboard in praise . But just I enjoyed writing it I think you have loved reading it . I am delighted

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