Service with the Sizzler

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.

My flirtations with problems in joining my place of postings began from day one. Upon completion of Probation I was posted to Calcutta Custom House. I was one of the ‘privileged’ three who were denied the first posting of choice. And on top of that Calcutta!! [as then] I felt truly blessed???

I reported for duty on that glorious cool November day to begin my journey as an officer [no longer Officer-Probationer]. I was on top of the world - which came crashing down pretty fast to my horror!

A few other batch mates who were also posted to Calcutta Custom House [CCH in short] had already joined and were already fully functional.

Asst Collector [Hqs] informed me that I should call on the Collector as Collector himself [hallowed be thy Name] would like to discuss my detailed posting orders personally with me. That took me by surprise.

Duly I set out to meet the Collector. For convenience we will call him Bhin Bhin [spoken as Bin Bin, as in trash]. Bhin Bhin’s chamber was preceded by a huge conference room and outer area. It was quite intimidating in those days. And impressive. After a quick nod to the Personal Assistant, I knocked, entered and introduced myself.

Bhin Bhin was of course expecting me, having been alerted by AC Hq. Due courtesies followed, but not the detailed posting. At the end of the meeting, Bhin Bhin directed me meet the Additional Collector.

That’s leadership for you!

In that era Addl Collectors of Bombay Calcutta and Chennai Custom Houses were posted directly by the mighty Board itself. Thus these Addl Collectors were very powerful. They were fully independent functionally and in charge of the prestigious Preventive wing. [Confiscated imported watches [fully automatic, with day and date Seiko or Ricoh /n ail cutters/ knick knacks / and that creamy Craft cheese! Dream on!]

Being powerful some of them behaved autocratically and boorishly as apparently other DCs occupied an inferior status. Preventive wing was Thy Kingdom Come where even the Collectors dreaded to tread upon. We can call this Adll Collector as Sin Sin [spoken as Cin Cin]

So there it was! Bhin Bhin [Bin Bin] Vs Sin Sin [Cin Cin]. And here I was! The freshman!

I was quite perplexed by now. I began to harbour some really odd thoughts:

Had I really been posted to CCH after all? [Peeked at the Board’s order just to confirm]

Was I Very Important Person? [Don’t be foolish Subhash!]

Did I join on an Inauspicious day? [Probably, no consultation with an astrologer]

Was I jinxed? To begin, on a sour note? [Naturally]

Was I really a pawn only to be sacrificed in the power struggle? [Many would place a bet and win!]

Putting aside all these perfectly legitimate doubts I ventured into Sin Sin’s chamber. [Big but not as impressive as Bhin Bhin’s]. He was also expecting me having been alerted by Bhin Bhin. Upon seeing me in person, Sin Sin nodded me to a chair.

And exploded. !@%$&! Greek and Hebrew flew! Smoke billowed out from his ears.

What’s so special about you? [Proud of my heritage, u nut!]

Are you related to Bhin Bhin? [Your Honour, all homo sapiens are!]

How can I give you such a sensitive assignment? [Simple! Just issue the order, Dumbo!]

Do you have any preventive real time experience? [Of course! Did I not ‘jahello’ all those boring classes at Training Institute and survive?]

And that rope climb to the ship in Nagapattinam! In mid Ocean!!

Are you a courageous person? [Sure! Didn’t I ‘kill ‘all those mosquitoes in one swat?]

The questions came in a flood. Of course, I just stood very still and answered none.

Sir, Bhin Bhin has directed me to report to you for further orders.

Keep it simple, u stupid? [KISS]

This guy Bhin Bhin ! He’s just a classification geek! A bookworm!

Preventive work? Miles away from his blood!

He knows nuts [about preventive work of course].

This is my Kingdom! I run it the way I like?

U follow? [Yes Sin Sin, I do.]

Late in the evening AC Hq sent for me. Silently, he handed over my detailed posting.

Assistant Collector [Preventive and Rummaging]! Ahem! Prestige devolved up on me! Decorated at the start! Of the career!

Colleagues congratulated me for getting a posting at last! When I reached home, my wife was ecstatic. But deep in my heart I knew the truth.

As expected, the dream run ended on the 45th day and I was off to KDP [Kidderpore] docks to learn all about the import cargo. Like a pedestrian!

Did I enjoy the short stint? Bloody hell I did! Particularly the picnic on the Customs Yacht with the family and a few Probs![ One '74 Prob constantly reminded me of that trip all through my service years! Does he remember now? [Serious doubts.]

**** 2 years later ****

My tormentor, Sin Sin retired. Bhin Bhin went on to join the Board and invited me work as Under Secretary with him.

I promptly declined. [In those days one could do just do that and still hold one’s head high]. Simply put, I was not willing to take any chances with such a weak guy!

But what I hated most about my first on the job assignment was being treated like a Pawn in a Pincer war. [Shades of Rommel.] My joining a new place of posting dogged me throughout my 36 years of service.

Never did understand why I was so ‘loved’ at new stations.


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