Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Night at Flood Centre

Jhargram is a very old Subdivision in West Bengal.It borders with Jharkhand and is a very beautiful subdivision.Jhargram Subdivision is blessed with 2 rivers,one is called Kangsavathi river which flows in the northern part of subdivision and the second river called Subarnarekha river which flows in the southern part of Jhargram Subdivision. I was working as the Sub Divisional Officer of Jhargram Subdivision, West Midnapore District, in West Bengal.Jhargram Subdivision has 8 blocks (Block is an administrative unit.Many blocks together form a subdivision and many subdivisions together form a district). It was first week of July 2007. It was raining heavily for 3 consecutive days.Only 2 blocks of Jhargram Sub division(Nayagram Block and Binpur 1 Block) were flood prone.I was busy in sending relief material to these 2 affected blocks.Even though the remaining 6 blocks were partially affected,only these 2 blocks were historically and geographically flood prone and were drawing attention all these years.

It was around 9pm and I got a phone call from BDO( Block development Officer) of Sankrail Block.He told me that water level in Sankrail was increasing. Sankrail Block is located in the eastern most part of Jhargram Subdivision and even though River Subarnarekha flows through it, its drainage system is proper and historically no severe flood was reported from this Block.The BDO of Sankrail was an efficient officer but one problem i found with him on several occasions was , he always over reacted even for a small problem.So when he told that water level was raising, I started laughing and told him not to overreact and told that I was busy in sending food material to Nayagram and Binpur 1 Blocks.Boss is always right and so he had to keep the phone. Around 10 pm, District Magistrate called and reviewed the flood situation.Mr.B.P.Bharat was the DM at that time and he was a friend, philosopher and guide to me.He used to protect me, whenever I, as a young officer fought with ruling party.He always used to tell that I was like his son and really took care of me.After reviewing the flood situation of 2 worst affected blocks,he told that he recieved a call from Sankrail BDO. I laughed and told him,"Sir, Sankrail BDO is like a child and reacts for everything.Historically no flood is reported from Sankrail". In bureaucracy precedents decide and I was a bureaucrat.Mr.Bharat laughed with me and he kept the phone.Then around 12 midnight,after planning for next day's relief operations,I went to bed.

I was in deep sleep and I heard heavy knocking of door.I got up and saw the time.It was 2 30AM. I could hear the voice of my Bungalow peon.I opened the door and asked him what happened.He told that BDO Sankrail was on phone line.Generally no one has the guts to disturb his officer at midnight unless the issue is really important.So I went to my Bungalow Office(Bungalow Office is attached to residence but has all communication facilities like phone, Computer,Fax etc and the officer can meet public during holidays). When I lifted the phone I could hear that BDO Sankrail was breathing heavily.He was stammering.He was almost crying.He told that around 10 villages had been marooned(Villages had become island- fully surrounded by flood water) and within next few hours those villages would be submerged totally.First time, I realized that situation was grave and very dangerous. I asked him whether country boats (boats used for fishing by local population) can rescue the marooned villagers.He told that country boats could not go beyond a point because the current was heavy.BDO also told that the youth who went for rescuing in country boats could not go near the villages but could hear villagers crying for help that many were in trees because water level was increasing.It sent a chill in my backbone.If people were in trees, then any person with common sense would understand that within next 3 hours,these people would be submerged if water level increases.I asked him about water level.He told that still it was raising.I asked him not to worry and kept the phone even though I was thoroughly shaken inside.Immediately after keeping the phone I dialed District Magistrate's Bungalow Office.I could hear the beep sound which indicated that BSNL phone was dead due to maintenance in Midnapore town(As I did not have BSNL connection,my phone was alive).I then dialed his mobile but unfortunately his mobile was also BSNL connection.I redialed several times hoping suddenly it may ring.It didn't ring.

I was sitting and smoking continuously without knowing what to do next.I saw my Bungalow Office clock showing 3AM.I thought to wait till 6 am and pass the message to DM through special messenger but again what DM could do.He could requisition army but army cantonment was located in Fort William in Kolkata and it would take at least 5 hours for the Army to reach Sankrail.So even if I sent a special messenger, he could reach DM's Bungalow in Midnapore not before 4 30 am and so army can not reach before 10 am to Sankrail even if all paper formalities to requisition army were completed in 30 minutes time.If rescue was not completed by 8 am, many would die.So option of sending a special messenger to DM was ruled out.I was cursing myself for not taking BDO's warning seriously.

I was smoking continuously and was totally helpless.Suddenly it struck me.IAS probationer who was undergoing training in my Subdivision told me the previous day that she went to purchase some items at subsidised rate in Kalaikunda Airforce Canteen.Kalikunda is an airforce station located in a place called kalaikunda which was in my neighboring Sadr subdivision.But as per protocol, only DM could requisition Army.Another thing which worried me was, even if i broke the protocol whether Airforce would listen to SDO because, later they may have to face serious problems because defence rules are very stringent.Another worry was, who would respond at 3AM.I thought for a minute and decided to take a chance.I took the telephone directory and found Kalaikunda Air force station's number.I dialed and no one lifted.Again I tried.This time after several rings, a person asked who I was.I explained the grave situation.He told that it was 3 AM and he was just a telephone attendant and asked to call at 8AM.I again explained.Finally he transferred the call to next level in hierarchy.I explained to the next person.He was polite and transferred to some Wing Commander.It was a surprise to me when I heard the voice of Wing Commander.I could make out from his voice that I awoke him when he was at deep sleep but he asked me politely what he could do for me.I told him the situation.He told that he will call me back after discussing with his seniors and got my telephone number .I thought Air Force door was closed because according to their rules they can be asked for help only by DM .So I thought he tried to avoid by telling that he wanted to discuss with seniors, which is a common practice in civil service to buy time without hurting the other party.So again I was back to square one without knowing what to do next.I started smoking another cigarette.

My telephone rang in another 5 minutes and wing commander told that "Station Commandant" of Kalaikunda Airforce Base would call me and kept the phone.Station Commandent is a very very senior person in defence hierarchy and was the senior most officer of airbase and I was very very junior in civil hierarchy.So I was surprised because hierachy was inbuilt in my system.In another 2 minutes my telephone rang and I heard the friendly voice of Station Commandent.He asked me why I disturbed his sleep at 3 AM in a laughing tone.I explained him the situation.He told me not to worry.From his voice I first time felt in that night that people would be rescued.In a friendly but firm voice he told that he would start the rescue operation with motor boats immediately and with helicopters from 6 AM onwards.When I thanked him he said," Young man, who are you to thank me.Its my duty for my country".It happened at 3 15 AM when in normal days I would have been in deep sleep and if any person would have asked for help at 3 AM, I would have kicked the telephone if not the person away.After few minutes of explaining the details of rescue operation he kept the phone. Around 4 15 AM, again my phone rang and Sankrail BDO was on the line.He told that IAF personnel had reached the spot with trucks loaded with speed boats.Around 6 AM I could see an helicopter flying.I saluted the helicopter and Indian Air Force and it was a salute from my heart.
(P.S.As usual my DM protected me for breaking the protocol.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My experiments with toothache

It was December 2003.I was working as an IRTS officer in Indian Railways.I was posted as Assistant Operations Manager in Lumding Division . Lumding is a small town of Assam and it borders with Nagaland.I was in deep sleep in my luxurious railway quarter.Suddenly in dreams I could feel the pain and was forced to open my eyes.I realised that I was having intense toothache.I switched on the light and found it was just 3 am.I did not have any pain killer.I remembered my mom who used to tell me that cloves could control toothache.I walked into the Kitchen and with great difficulty located the box in which my maid servant kept cloves.I kept two cloves in my left side back teeth(It is called as 1st molar and 2nd molar which I learnt once I became an expert in toothache).I was chewing,biting and did everything but pain was not subsiding.At 3 am you cant expect a pharmacy to be open in a small town like Lumding.Pain was increasing and agony,intense pain are small words to explain the intensity of pain I was undergoing.I started walking up and down inside the quarter almost for 2 hours. Around 5 am, suddenly I heard the siren blowing from Railway Office.In Indian Railways there is a practice that whenever there is an accident, immediately siren will be blown and its a rule that all engineering staff should report within 30 minutes to the ART(Accident Relief Train) which will be stationed at nearest Railway Station and Operations Staff should move within 30 minutes to Railway Control Room for managing the movement of ART to the accident site. The number of blows of siren will indicate whether its a goods train accident or passenger train accident.On hearing siren I could make out that it was a goods train accident.Whenever the siren blows, a railway man's heart would miss few heart beats because for next 2 to 3 days he would lose his food, sleep etc.But on that day, even though I was a true railway officer, deep inside my heart there was slight happiness due to goods train accident because Railway Doctors would also come to Office hearing the siren.I rushed to Control room and my Boss(Senior Divisional Operations Manager) reached in another 5 minutes.We could realise that there was derailment of Goods Train in between Lumding and Badarpur( Lumding to Badarpur is a very scenic train route which runs in between mountains and one can come across in numerable tunnels.Steep gradients and curves mark the route all through.In my view this railway route is more beautiful than Konkan Railways).After giving instructions to my staff, I could realise that toothache's intensity had doubled. My Boss who was continuously observing me asked whether I was tensed due to Railway Accident.I told about my toothache.He started laughing and told that 'tooth derailment' was more important and painful than 'goods derailment' and he immediately called the dentist of railways.Around 6 30 am, after dentist gave me some medicines, my pain started subsiding.

It was February 2005.By this time I got into IAS and was undergoing training.As part of training, IAS officers meet various dignitaries including President of India, Prime Minister of India etc. On this fateful day, I was in 7 Race Course Road,New Delhi, which is the official residence of Prime Minister. Meeting dignitaries is one of the cherished moments for young IAS officers because we could keep boasting to our family members and friends.After security check, all IAS officers of my batch were taken inside the conference room and were waiting for PM to come and address. I was so happy because I would be meeting PM and would also get photographed with him which is a life time moment.Suddenly, my worst enemy 'toothache' started.After few minutes Honorable Prime Minister of India ,Mr.Manmohan Singh, entered the conference hall and started his address but I was shivering out of pain.Like a race car accelerates from 0 mph to 200 mph within seconds, my pain intensified within seconds.I was pinching my hands to create pain so that my tooth ache would get diverted.I was pulling my moustache.I was pulling my eyebrows.Nothing worked.It was really really painful.I could not listen to a single word he uttered.When each of my batch mate wanted that stay in 7 Race course to extend as much as possible, I was praying to God that PM completes his address at the earliest so that I could get out and rush to a dentist.Seconds were moving like hours.Once he completed his address, photography session started, then Buffet break fast. When my batch mates were cherishing the royal breakfast hosted by PM of India,I was cursing my batch mates in my heart.I was just walking up and down in the Dining hall without even drinking water.I wanted to run out of PM's residence and go to the nearest dentist in Delhi but Prime Minister's residence was fortified with number of rings of Z+ securities and one cannot move in or out without proper documents.My Course Coordinator(Course coordinator is a senior IAS officer who is in charge for training in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration,Mussoorie) noticed me and asked whether I was alright.I was shivering out of pain and told her that I had toothache.She told to wait for few more minutes for formalities to be completed.I asked her whether I could be taken to any of the doctor who treats PM in his house because I knew that many super specialist doctors would be there.She gave me an odd look and told that toothache was not a serious disease and moved away from me.Again I started walking up and down cursing God for not giving toothache to my Course Coordinator.At last, visit got over with 'sweet' memories for everyone and literally 'painful' memory for me.

The last episode was in December 2005.I was in PSC (Public Service Commission) Exam Hall in Kolkata.IAS officers have to clear exams on different subjects like Law,Hindi,Bengali as part of training.If an officer does not qualify he/she would not get annual increment and promotion.It was Law exam and I was seriously writing the answers.My foe 'toothache' suddenly started.As usual within few minutes I was about to collapse.This time I did not take any chance.Few questions were left to answer but I closed the paper and gave it to the Hall Superintendent.My Bengal Cadre Batch mates were surprised to see me moving out of examination hall so early.I came out and went to the nearby pharmacy and took 'Combiflam'(pain killer) and came back to PSC and waited for my friends(Batch Mates).Pain did not subside.As usual I started walking up and down due to pain.I started cursing my batch mates for writing the exam seriously when I was crying out of pain.I don't know when they came out, but when they came out I was sitting in the chair of 'security' who guarded the gate of PSC holding my head.Immediately they took me in a taxi and were searching for a Dental Clinic.They tried to enquire the Taxi Driver in Bengali Language which at that point of time was like Greek and Latin to us because we were new to Bengal.Taxi Driver was laughing at our language and I felt like thrashing him because I was in intense pain .At last he took us to a Government Dental Clinic at Tollygunge in Kolkata.I ran inside the hospital to get my ailing tooth plucked away but was shocked to see the long queue.Seeing my miserable condition, one of my batch mate told the nurse who was outside the Doctor's chamber to let us in immediately and told that patient was an IAS officer.That 'Communist' Nurse questioned rudely whether IAS officers had special tooth and special toothache.She was right when I think objectively now but at that point of time due to intense pain I shouted at her.She did not bother and told me to follow the queue.I obediently followed the queue as I did not have any other option.I felt like plucking my tooth myself because pain was acute.After hours, my turn came.I requested the Doctor to remove my tooth immediately.He asked whether he was the Doctor or I was the Doctor to decide what treatment to be given.I told that he can be a Doctor only if he can reduce my pain immediately.He replied,"Hello , Shut up your Mouth" and when I shut up he told,"Don't you have brain, open your mouth so that I can see your bloody tooth".

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lord Shiva visits Mumbai to meet Balasaheb Thackeray

(This is purely my imagination.I dont intend to hurt anyone.Its just an outburst of my hurt whenever I see Shiva Sena on rampage)

Lord Shiva is disturbed by the attack of his children who hail from North India but working in Mumbai.So he decides to go to Mumbai and set right things because he knows Mr.Bal Thackeray will only listen to him.So he started his journey from Mount Kailash and reaches Mumbai Railway station.
Shiva Sena worker:Are you Maharashtrian?Where are you coming from?
Lord Shiva:I am Shiva.I have come from Mount Kailash.
(Shiva sena worker does not realise that Lord Shiva has come)
Shiva Sena worker:Go back to your place.Mumbai is only for marathis.Get back in next train or else you will be attacked.
Lord Shiva:My son,please dont lose patience.I have come to meet your leader Balasaheb Thackeray.
Shiva Sena worker:What? you want to meet Bala saheb. Dont joke. Even we shiva sainiks never saw him for past 5 years.Please dont joke. Go back to Mount Kailash.
Lord Shiva:Ok you stop attacking innocent people.
Shiva Sena worker:You are talking too much.Where is Mount Kailash.Is it in North India.Immediately leave this place.
(Mr.Manohar Joshi, a Shiva Sena leader who is on visit to Mumbai railway station for protests appproaches Lord Shiva).
Manohar Joshi:Hey whats happening?
Shiva Sena Worker: Namasthae sir. its good that you have come. This person is talking bad about our party.
Manohar Joshi:What?Is he talking bad about our party?Even Amitabh Bhachan, Sachin Tendulkar, Amir Khan, Shahrukh Khan etc are scared about our leader.Hello, Who are you? Are you Marathi.If you are not Marathi, dont waste time.Go back to your place.
Lord Shiva: My son, I am Shiva and I have come from Mount Kailash.
(Mr.Manohar Joshi is taken aback. He immediately folds his hands and worships Lord Shiva)
Manohar Joshi:My Lord, what a gift for me. Thanks for appearing before me. I am your bhakta.Even our party is named after you.Please bless me.
(Mr.Manohar Joshi falls on feet of Lord Shiva)
Lord Shiva:Get up my son. My blessings are there with you.
Manohar Joshi:My Lord, what I can do for you?
Lord Shiva:My son, I want to meet Bal Thackeray.
Manohar Joshi:My Lord,i am a senior leader in Shiva Sena but I have not met him for past 3 years. What for do you want to meet Balsaheb?
Lord Shiva:My son, I am very much disturbed because you people are attacking my innocent children who have come from Bihar, UP.This is also their country.
(Manohar Joshi becomes agitated)
Manohar Joshi:My Lord, you are wrong.These North Indians have taken our jobs.Mumbai is only for Marathis.Because of these people, Marathis are not getting job. You please dont interfere in our affairs.
Lord Shiva:My son, Mumbai is a big city and its growing everyday. Everyone can get a job opportunity here. There are enough jobs in Mumbai for not only Marathis and Biharis, but for entire Indians.Moreover, these Biharis are poor people and are sweating day and night and earning their bread.Why Shiva Sainiks are attacking them. Please stop attacking.
Manohar Joshi:No my Lord,No. Its impossible.I wont listen to you.balasaheb will expel me from party if he knows that I am listening to these things.My Lord, please go back.
Lord Shiva:My son, I didnt expect this from you. You are a learned man. You even held the post of Speaker of Lok Sabha. When you were staying in Delhi as Speaker, if Delhi people would have told that Delhi is only for Delhiites and if they would have attacked you, how you would have felt.
Manohar Joshi:What are you saying? How can they say that Delhi is only for Delhiites?Delhi is the capital of our country.So only Parliament is in Delhi.Whether Delhiites built Parliament?Because Delhi is capital, and because I was speaker I stayed there.
Lord Shiva:My son, similarly Mumbai is the commercial capital of India and every Industry,every bank, every institution has set up its office in Mumbai and has added value to this city.So only poor people from all over the country are coming here in search of job. My children in Maharashtra who have learned IT, go and work in Bangalore and Chennai.If Kannadigas say, Bangalore is only for Kannadigas, and Tamilians say,Chennai is only for tamils,will you be happy? All are my children.Please understand.
Manohar Joshi:My Lord , please dont confuse me.I dont worry whether Bihari taxi drivers earn their bread in Mumbai or not.I will lose my bread if I think like you.My leader will remove me from party.My Lord,then how can i eat. Please Lord, dont confuse me.Please go back.
(Lord Shiva realises that there is no use in talking with Manohar Joshi.So he decides that meeting Balsaheb Thackeray is the only way to solve the crisis.)
Lord Shiva:Ok you take me to Bal Thackeray.I will make him understand.
Manohar Joshi:My Lord, I cant take you.No one is allowed.Let me do one thing.I will call him from my mobile and make him to talk to you.
(Mr.Manohar Joshi calls Balsaheb's landline.)
Mr.Bal Thackeray:Hello(In a rough tone)
Manohar Joshi:Namasthae saab. Your desciple Manohar talking.Sorry sorry for calling you.But its important and so only I called you.I am sorry.
Mr.Bal Thackeray: What happened?
Manohar Joshi: Lord Shiva has come to Mumbai all the way from Mount Kailash just to talk to you.
Mr.Bal Thackeray:Lord Shiva? Please please give him the phone immediately.
(Mr.Manohar Joshi hands over his mobile to Lord Shiva)
Lord Shiva:Hello. How are you my son?
Bal Thackeray: My Lord, My Lord, I am fine by the grace of you. I am so happy.Its a blessing of my life to talk to you.I am so happy.What can I do for you Lord.You just order and I will do it immediately.
(Lord Shiva is pleased)
Lord Shiva: I know that you will listen to me my son,for that reason I came from Mount Kailash. Please stop attacking my children from North India who are working in Mumbai.
(Balsaheb is taken aback)
Lord Shiva: My son, are you listening?
Bal Thackeray:Yes my Lord. I am listening.Please understand my can I stop telling Mumbai is only for Marathis. You know, already Shiva sena party is in very bad shape.We lost municipality, assembly and parliament elections.Mumbai for Marathis is the only hope for Shiva Sena now.Please understand my Lord.
Lord Shiva:My son, when Indians were attacked in Australia you told Australian cricket players if they come to India and play in IPL then they will be attacked.But you are also doing like Australians. You are attacking North Indians in Mumbai.
Bal Thackeray:I know my Lord.But its politics and we have to survive.
Lord Shiva:My son, why cant you do some CONSTRUCTIVE things for the people.
Bal Thackeray:My lord, even in CONSTRUCTION industry, all these north indians are working and so no jobs are there for Marathis.
Lord Shiva:My son, i told work CONSTRUCTIVELY and win elections.
Bal Thackeray:My Lord, we Shiva Sainiks dont know anything constructive or else we would have done it without you telling us. We can dig roads, pour tar in cricket pitch, break taxis, attack taxi drivers,attack cinema halls etc. Even if I stop,my nephew Raj Thackeray who has floated MNS party will do these destructive things and will take away my party workers who know only destructive things.Please understand Lord.
(Lord Shiva gets irritated.)
Lord Shiva: Bal Thackeray, stop these things.Because of your nuisance activities marathis are not supporting you these days.
(Bal Thackeray becomes agitated)
Bal Thackeray:Yes we lost elections. So what? Let Marathis not support me.I dont mind.Atleast my party workers who do not know any work other than destructive activities will be with me.If i stop, then my party workers will defect to Raj Thackeray's MNS party.You stop advising me.Please go back to Mount Kailash.
Lord Shiva:You forgot that your party is named after me. I will call press conference and tell that Shiva Sena is not listening to Shiva.
(Bal Thackeray is taken aback and agitated)
Bal Thackeray:What?Will you tell press. Go and tell.Media houses are scared about me and they cant write against me. Anyhow I will call them and tell a lie that 'Shiva' Sena was named after Shivaji and not Lord Shiva. I will also lie to them that we removed 'ji' in 'Shivaji' because 'ji' is a north indian hindi word.You are forgetting that I am a Politician.Ha ha ha.
Lord Shiva:You are agonising me.
Bal Thackeray: Go back to Mount Kailash.You are Chinese not even Indian. So dont advise me about not attacking North Indians. You go and advise Beijing Government of not attacking Dalai Lama.You dont interfere in India.
Lord Shiva: What?Am I Chinese?Have you forgotten that I am God of your vedas.
Bal Thackeray:My Lord, Mount Kailash is in Tibet which is part of China and not India.If you interfere in my affair then Shiva Sena will go to any extent.I will call you Chinese.I will even order my shiva sainik workers to pour tar in all your temples.Please dont interfere.Go back to Mount Kailash.
( Lord Shiva goes back to Mount Kailash with heavy heart).