Monday, April 12, 2010

#30.Inside and Outside

The Most Embarrassing Moments of my Life.

I was an undergraduate student in my late teens. I had come home during summer vacations. I got a call from the college for the summer camp of N.C.C. The first step was to get washed all the khaki uniforms that was issued to me. Well, I gave them to the neighbouring washerman - our regular family washerman used to stay a few miles away. The washerman returned the washed uniforms a few days later. I found a pair of trousers short. He assured that he will check and asked me to come the next day.
Next day I went. He stated that he had checked and it was not there. I gave him a piece of my mind and insisted that I will see all the washed and pressed clothes that he had. Well, he took me there and I saw his entire stack one by one. The trousers was not there. I cursed my bad luck and came back. As a parting shot the washerman told me more in distress than anger that it was for the first time that anybody went to check his entire stock. It haunted me and even now I remember it with shame and embarrassment as a few days after when I was leaving for the camp, I opened my trunk. Well, the trousers was there, duly washed and pressed. That must have been the reason why I did not give it the washerman in the first instance. Needless to say that as a young man I was too proud to go and apologize to the washer man.

This experience of mine came in good stead much later in life. One day my wife lost her gold Kada (bracelet). She searched and searched and couldn’t find it. And the suspicion fell on the maid-servant. My wife consulted one of her friends who was a police officer’s wife. She advised her to report to police, and they would be able to do the job. I asked my wife to wait for a day more, search once more in the various nooks and crannies, and if even then she was not able to find it, she could take recourse to police. I asked her to remove the mattresses on the double bed. The bed was also moved, and lo and behold, the kada was lying on top of the trunk which was just under the bed. It seems that the board on the bed had a gap and the bracelet had slipped from there to the top of the trunk!

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It was my first charge as the Sub-Divisional Officer in a small town of 10,000. Being in charge of a subdivision some 200 km away from the district headquarters, I was asked to do flag hoisting at a college and a school on the republic day. It was the college first. I reached on the ground dot at 8.30 as scheduled. The parade-in-charge looked at me with a puzzled look. I could not make out what it was, and I was also puzzled. Next was the school, which was after a sufficient gap of time. I reached the school The old Principal had an irritated look on his face. I was again perplexed.
I could discover the reason only in the evening when I found from my transistor (sorry, TV had not come to India till then) that the old wrist watch was wearing from my student days was exactly 10 minutes slow. How it had happened I just don’t know, but the fact was that I was late by 10 minutes in functions where punctuality is still observed. Well, from the next month’s salary I changed the watch.

A funny incident of similar nature had occurred when I was Collector of a district on leave vacancy. This was the flag hoisting by a minister in the district headquarters. After the flag hoisting and at the time of the national anthem there was some trouble from a section of students in a corner. Well, the anthem was over in 52 seconds. Now the shouting was clearer: ‘jhanda ulta hai’. Yes the flag was upside down, with green at the top. The poor minister had mistakenly pulled the wrong string. Let us not blame him . It must be the police constable who handed him the wrong end of the string. We all being near the flag could not see it so easily but it was clearly visible from a distance. Neeeedless to say, the flag was hastily brought down and put back the right way up.

Another incident relating to flag hoisting on republic day happened at another district when I was the Collector, and again some Minister who had to do the flag hoisting. Just a minor hitch, nothing serious, though if I club the three incidents together I must consider 2+6=8, the date, to be my unlucky number. The previous day we had done the rehearsal. A young police officer was entrusted with the job of escorting the Minister to the parade ground. The time taken by him from the circuit house to the parade ground was duly noted by him. The Minister was to reach at the spot sharp at 9 am. Myself, the District Superintendent of Police and the young officer (I am deliberately not naming him- he has just retired at a fairly high level) had synchronised our watches. The next morning I and SP reached the spot well in time. Suddenly we found the Minister’s car coming in about 3-4 minutes ahead of the schedule. We were non-plussed, and at the spur of the moment decided to go ahead with the programme even though a few moments before time. I remember the SP was wild on the young officer and it was with difficulty that he could control himself in front of the Minister and everybody else including the large gathering. Later we tried to find out why the young officer had brought the Minister early. His explanation was that in the night he had synchronised his watch with the radio, probably hoping that we would also do the same. Any way he did not inform any of us either in the night or in the morning. Now I think his watch must have been the winding or the self-winding type, and would have stopped for sometime and on finding it out he synchronised it with the radio. There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip!

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A few years ago I had gone to a hill resort in an English-speaking country. No names. We had to go by ropeway to the top of a peak. There was a music shop with cassettes and cd’s. I don’t know much of classical music whether Indian or European, but sweet tunes can be enjoyed even by an ignoramus like me. I did buy a couple of cd’s there which were in a separate carry bag. An hour or so later when I was elsewhere I put my hand in the tweed jacket I was wearing. Suddenly I felt something hard in my pocket. My firangi host was with me. I was in jitters. I could guess what had happened. Unconsciously I had put a cassette in my pocket, without realising that it was there. I had not paid for it. Had it been sensitised then I would have had it. I thought of confessing to my foreign friend, but then the thought arose of all the ensuing complications and the fall in his esteem for me. After a long debate with my conscience I decided to keep mum. Even after more than two decades of the incident, it rankles, and puts me to shame. Not that at that time I was not used to foreign lands. I had stayed in a firang land for 14 months to get a degree. I can only say that I don’t know how this unconscious act happened. I at that time suddenly remembered an old incident involving Indian film star Nargis. The incident happened later with Rekha I think, another film actor. They must have got enough money to be on a buying spree, and it is understandable that they also unconsciously pocketed a pair of socks or some such thing for which they had every intention of paying. But the thought that I could have been caught still fills me with trepidation.

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