First of December, 1964, is a gold letter day in the annals of my life, for, it is the day I got the official letter from the organisation, the Water Development Authority (WADA),appointing me as an Engineer – Officer in that organisation. The news of my appointment as an officer was already known to most of the people in my village through the courtesy of our village post man, Nanu Nair, who had the habit of reading each and every letter addressed to the village households and informing the contents while delivering the letters, mainly post cards. Naturally, when a registered letter addressed to me, with the official seal of the sender as Water Development Authority, came to his notice, his curiosity did not allow him to wait to know the contents till the letter was delivered to me. He took it upon himself the right to open the envelope, read the text, and inform the villagers he met on the way the important information contained therein. “So you got a nice job by the grace of God”, mother said happily. “Evening I would go and offer special prayers in our temple.’ “Is it a government job?” the local school teacher asked me. “From the name of the organisation, the offer appears to be from some private company”. Since the teacher was the only one who was a graduate in English and hence had the ability to scrutinise letters in English, the villagers present gave out an impression as if they felt that my job is not that good if it is in a private organisation. “Is it a pensionable job?” my maternal uncle, Kelu Nair, wanted to know. He was a pensioner from state government service and had respect only for such jobs which carried pension at the time of retirement. “He is still to join the job and you are talking about pension. How silly!” my father’s cousin, Ravunni Nair, chided him. “Nowadays, one should not be attracted only by pension but by prospects of advancement in the career”, he, a mechanic in a textile mill in the town, advised. As I was going through the contents of the Office Memorandum, the terms and conditions of service and the time available for joining the post, etc. I did not know that, the crowd was waiting impatiently for my response. After reading through the papers, I told them that the post is a permanent one, is pensionable and the prospects would be bright. All of them heaved a sigh of relief and, after congratulating my mother, they dispersed to their respective places. I did not deserve any congratulation for the achievement, they must have thought, for in the village, one gets a good job only due to the good ‘karma’ of the elders! “You have brought laurels to the family.” My paternal uncle, Koman Nair, a retired Subedar Major, congratulated me. He snatched the papers from me to read the text. “Hmm, your posting is at Gopalapuram.” He said. “There is a bus from Palghat going via Gopalapuram. So, you can conveniently stay at home and do out and back to your work place.” “This Gopalapuram is in Andhra Pradesh,” I corrected him. Major Nair, as he is locally known, does not like to be corrected, because he considers himself as a ‘Mr. Know All’ , since he is the only person from the village who has travelled far and wide all over the country. Ask him about any place, he would unbundle his army stories, about how he managed a crisis situation, how he fought wild animals single handed and his many escapades from enemies during wars.“How do you know that?” he wanted me to clarify. “The order says that I am to open the office at Gopalapuram, connected by metalled road to Eluru railway station.” “Ah! Now I remember the place Eluru, near Vijayawada’. The Major acknowledged. “When I was in the army, a very interesting episode happened while we were nearing the Eluru station,” he started to reminisce. “See, whether the orders are alright; whether it is a pensionable job, etc.” My mother cut him short. “Yes, I find that it is a permanent job and he is eligible for pension,” the Major said reading the order. “Well, there is an enclosure also, a form detailing the charge you have to take, a charge paper. You have to account for ganja, opium etc. when you take over the charge.” “My God! My mother screamed. “Is this the job you are going to do? To deal with opium and ganja, I won’t allow you to go for such a job. If I had known that you were to handle these drugs, I would not have even allowed you to apply for the job. Why did you not tell about this earlier?” “No, amma, this is not my job, mine will be an engineer’s job, constructing roads, bridges, buildings, etc.” I tried to pacify her. “The form enclosed with the letter is a general form to be filled by all candidates selected for various departments, such as engineering, police, customs, central excise, etc.” “Is it so?” my mother asked Mr. Know All. “It has to be”, the Major said. “When I was…” “Well, if you say it is O.K., then it is O.K. for me also.” Mother again cut him short. “But how is the place? Will you get rice, sambar, iddly etc. there?” “Being in South India, I am sure he would not have any problem for getting these southern delicacies, only the language could be a problem. After all, he is a young man and he is joining a good pensionable service”, the Major said. “When you join such a service, you can lead a relaxed life from day one- that is the advantage.” The day I was to leave for Eluru, I made a courtesy call on my grand uncle, Kunju Menon, who lived in an adjoining village. A farmer possessing a robust health, he had seen more than thousand full moons, yet he looked not more than 60 years in age due to his following a strict daily routine both in his work and in his eating habits. Everyone in our house considered him as an expert in financial matters even though he had no such qualification to boast of and he had retired as a primary school teacher in the village. “Congratulations for getting an officer’s post”. The grand old man was profuse in complimenting me for being the first person from the village for generations to get selected to such a high post. “I came to seek your blessings and advice before joining the service”, I told him, touching his feet. “Our blessings will always be there for you good boys”, he said “and I have only one advice to give you- do always keep a control on your expenses to ensure that you do not waste your hard earned money.” “Now that you are not to depend on your parents for meeting your expenses and your salary would keep you flush with money, do not squander away whatever salary and allowances you get every month on miscellaneous items.” “I would certainly keep a watch on my income and expenses”, I assured him. “Easier said than done,” He told me. “For example, if you find a branded shirt in the market, even if you do not need it, you would be tempted to buy it.” “That is true.” I agreed with him. “But then how to get over such temptations?” Kunju Menon said: “Whenever you come across such situations, my advice is, always ask three questions to yourself.” The first question is- Is it absolutely necessary? If the answer is yes, comes the second question- Can’t you do without that? If the answer to this is-no, you ask the next question- Can’t you postpone for tomorrow? “Once you leave the decision for the next day, you will be surprised to see that even after months, you never needed it.” He concluded. I thanked him for his advice and took leave of him. Even now, after many years in service I remember and follow these golden rules. Disclaimer: Individuals named in this Epic do not exist; but individuals displaying such attitudes do exist now. Organisations named do not exist; but organisations exhibiting similar work culture do exist now.
FOREWORD from the Author
The memoirs have been christened as “Sanku Purana” since the episodes narrated therein occurred in a bygone era, to be precise, the closing decades of the last millennium.
In this attempt, I had to face fierce opposition from my relatives, friends and colleagues. None of them was willing to even write a ‘Foreword’ to this epoch making compilation, since, according to their perception, this document was nothing but a collection of ‘frivolous reminiscences’! As they did not want in any way to be associated with it, I am compelled to do this sacred duty also.
The pages relate to my experience as a civil engineer, not as one constructing concrete jungles, but as one working in the confines of such buildings along with well qualified technical personnel, planning projects for the development of the country. The urge to write these memoirs came after reading similar works of eminent journalists, bureaucrats and even politicians.
My relatives did not want me to tread the uncharted waters of writing memoirs and to get drowned in the process. Knowing my calibre in the language, they were certain that I would be successful only in murdering the Queen’s language and make the great writers of the past turn uncomfortably in their graves!
My friends discouraged me in taking up the venture assuming that I was taking recourse to writing to make some quick bucks. They had seen such writers mushrooming during election times. Hence they were generous to offer me money and other help if only I promised that I would withdraw from such an attempt.
Many of my colleagues were furious presuming that I was trying to emotionally blackmail some of them. They assured me in no uncertain terms that they would not cooperate with me in this project and would even try, through social media, to enforce a ban on it!
I take this opportunity to assure the readers that the memoirs do not intend to cast aspersions on any of my colleagues and is only a genuine record of the jealousies, conspiracies and intrigues one comes across during the long journey in the profession. I am sure that there would be many who had similar experiences in their professional lives too and, reading this chronicle they would be relieved to know that they were not alone in having such experiences.
I only hope that by reading my story, even my bitter critics would be convinced that their misgivings are unwarranted. Further, I would like to add that these memoirs would not have seen the light of the day but for the continued discouragement given by my relatives, friends and colleagues who made me strive hard to complete the text in record time. I thank all of them for offering their valuable comments and views.
Engineer of An Ancient Cadre.