I had remained untraceable for months now, giving rise to rumours that some vested interests might have kidnapped me and sent across the Bangla border, a point of No Return. For there were delicious bits and pieces of news and events happening that would have me wander across the streets salivating; and matching their bullshit with mine—Dung for dung.
The fact was nothing much changed while I was away, there was of course a Supercyclone…but nothing that I hadn’t written about presciently. The usual clueless administrative inefficiency and resilience of the people once again manifest in standing up. The Queendom’s reign continues unhindered with some behind-the-scene bonhomie with the Sultanate and people as ever are still drunk with the Queen’s charisma and cheap Aska 40. Except that liquor dealers generating more sales were to be feted by the Queendom now.
So, was it very wrong that I set aside some stoic MEtime and vanish for some much needed Vipassana like the PagalRaga?
Oh…so when I came back to the periphery of Ghania tea shop, I was kind of treated like a celebrity in my own right. People fed me extra packs of biscuits, were more accommodative of me brushing past them and some even took selfies with me.
So, in this atmosphere of familiarity and un-change; I peeped hard and eavesdropped hard to catch a glimpse of what’s new and exciting. It seems in addition to the “half-tea” and “lemon-tea” and “malai tea” of Ghania’s menu, what has captured the regulars’ imagination was “Five-Tea.” I naively assumed it was some potent cocktail of five types of heady brews that produced this elixir that the costumers were so drunk upon. Even my poking some of them lightly to spill their tea glasses and slurping the hot drink myself couldn’t convince me this was the case. Mmmmm….I had to focus and listen hard to decipher this jargon.
After much careful listening and rumination, I gathered this much. 5-T is a brainchild of the Queen herself to bring rigour and discipline (whatever that might mean) in the complacent, sloth-like state administration. So, she has devised a program to bring five great sounding principles to all levels of govt offices and collect direct feedback from her citizen. The feedback, collected directly at the highest level will also affect career charts of lowly mandarins. Now this has caused a mini earthquake in the state’s babudom, with the hanky-panky clearly visible.
Police stations, Govt Hospitals, Schools and Colleges which had not known what inspection was for decades, were now receiving direct phone calls and field visits from babus directly from the capital. And lending the initiative no-nonsense, the Queen has entrusted his blue-eyed boy Quickgun Murugan to lead the effort.
So, as my curiosity got the better of me, I trudged to a mofussil headquarter farther away from the Capital. Please don’t ask me how I caught hold of the visiting officer’s plans as it is usually TOP SECRET and very often the district admin also has no clue as to what will be their next stop.
So the Queen in all seriousness wants the program to succeed, this is evident from the fact that she has given her nod to her Blue-Eyed Boy and other delegates to fly around in a chopper. That it used to be standard practice for babus to tour distt. headquarters in cars/trains, stay at govt guest houses in cases of inspection were clearly forgotten. All men are not made equally, esp in Queensdom if you’re Quickgun Murugan.
So as it became a sunny 10 am, there was the distance hum of the chopper of the horizon and the dirty premises of the hospital saw some frantic activity. The cleaning staff, who were till then put their aprons to rest on wires and drinking endless cups of tea and gossiping jumped to action and at least pretended cleaning the floor, the OT and the passage to the gate. The compounder quickly ran to the quarter of the Doctor 100m away who had thankfully slipped into a pair of trousers from a lungi and brushing his teeth. Patients, attendants, and attendants of attendants were told to put only admitted cases on beds and clear the areas as soon as possible.
By this time the chopper was just hovering above the adjacent High School ground with a motley crowd of villagers looking awe-struck at it. People were guessing it must be the Queen or some senior political leader as it was only them who could venture out so. But as the rotors ground to a halt, sending swirling gushes of dust and masses to the dusty onlookers emerged none other than the larger than life figure of –QUICKGUN MURUGAN. An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd on semi-literate onlookers, the unbelieving hospital staff and the hapless patients and relatives….this must be the SuperMan Who Walks the Corridors of Power! Awe…Awe…More Awe. Even I was so stuck by the charismatic entry that I forgot to pee.
Murugan was not alone, as presumed he had a coterie of senior staff and bureaucrats accompanying him as he alighted from the heli and rushed towards the hospital. Meanwhile, the local thanedaar had smelt his arrival and promptly threw a cordon of two fat-bellied constables and himself (his underwear nada showing thro zipper) between the team and the onlookers, whipping his lathi enthusiastically at the crowd and the stray dogs who were a permanent fixture.
(To be concluded in Part Two next week)