Saturday, 29 November 2014

On Counsellor Groups

A practice that is prevalent at the academy is that of a formal, structured mentorship programme called the counsellor groups. The counsellor groups provide informal platforms for interaction between the faculty and the OTs. These interactions are scheduled on a fortnightly basis. As a goodwill gesture and as a courtesy from very senior civil servants, the counsellors host a demi official dinner/lunch for the OTs. We have had one such luncheon this day. The counsellors are guardians for the OTs, their friend, philosopher and guide in times of need. This structure works well. The counsellor group OTs are like a platoon and they participate in various events as a group, competing with other counsellor groups. The tug of war was one such event.

The end term exams start Monday and once again the FC 89 batch is wrestling with Powerpoint presentations of a wide variety of topics. As the marks obtained in these exams count towards determining the final batch inter se seniority which determines the speed at which one is promoted or pushed up the ranks, a lot is at stake for few OTs who have age on their side.

13 days of non-IAS OTs' company left. Less or more is subjective.

On few eateries

The Home Turf Cafe is a cozy, well furnished, economical place to have one's snacks or non alcoholic beverages. The snacks are all popular stuff, momos, maggi, egg bhurji, sandwiches etc. The menu at Home Turf is a welcome departure from the monotony of the Officers' Mess. The Home Turf staff is efficient, cordial and talented. The Home Turf is a favourite haunt for OTs who have had their fill of Pooja and Ganga dhabas. The decor is that of a hang out for sports lovers. Therefore there are few board games, posters of sports icons and sports equipment. There are also flash cards with quiz questions on sports. Quite thoughtful, I think. Quite did not understand what the bean bags are doing there, though.
Home Turf, interior.
Illuminated Home Turf

The way to a man's heart is through food...or eyes.
When one is feeling lethargic, it is recommended that one stuff oneself to the gills. What better place to accomplish this noble deed than at Momo's, the place for all edible things Tibetan?! Momo's has an attiribute that sets ia part from other eateries/restaurants in town, namely, consistent quality. The food is tasty and it is so every time one has had the opportunity of dining at Momo's. Consistent quality performance and promise of good quality is an essential element of branding. If they do not do too bad in the future, Momo's will be a strong brand to reckon.
A light fixture at Momo's

The afternoon was given off so that the serious OTs can prepare for the end semester exams. The non serious types went for lunch and since it was a balmy day, decided to take a stroll through Mussoorie town. Hence, Gun Hill was visited, for the first time after all these months. And what an utter, utter disappointment! The area is smothered by tacky commerce. What might have been a good view point-Gun Hill is the 2nd highest point in the local area, highest being Lal Tibba- has been spoilt by greed. We have a talent for killing the golden goose. Take Kempty falls, for example. The area surrounding the falls is infested with tin shed installations blocking the view of the falls. So it is with the Gun Hill. The area was boxed in by tin shacks, tourist traps. There were shacks with games of chance and skill, shacks with shiny clothes, snack shops and a 'binoculars point.' There are 3 binoculars and the slick businessmen characteristic of tourist places charge Rs.30 per person for peering closely at the snow peaks, the same peaks which are visible to the naked eye.
View from the Gun Hill, from the Binocular Point
A sample of shops at the Gun Hill

Temple Bell
The chronic disappointment of the Gun Hill was however offset by the pleasant walk on the Camel Back road. The quiet back roads were a good place to watch birds. There were many pretty bungalows as well.

Blue Whistling Thrush
The longish walk from Gun Hill via Camel Back road, Waverley road and to the academy was timed for the sun set. Sun rises and sun sets have been spectacular of late in these areas.
The after glow
Stairs near the AN Jha Plaza

14 days yet to be chopped.

Friday, 28 November 2014

On Networking and Little Llama Cafe

A 'maha' cultural festival comprising of performances by the very senior officers of Phase 5 training programme and the FC participants, followed by an interaction session between the two ends of a civil servant's career spectrum were the highlights of the day.

It is always a good idea to find a mentor. Few OTs are brilliant at networking. In a twisted, false sense of propriety, a misplaced modesty, a characteristic hypocrisy that typifies us, networking is seen as a sinister activity, as a sign of inferiority complex, a sign that one is taking advantage of people. I believe it only shows a congenital fear of social interactions. Networking is a key activity in professional lives. The word networking is a compact explanation of a complex process of social interaction. There is no need to disparage networking. One only stands to gain from it.

A corollary of networking, or, rather, a consequence of networking is lobbying. This is a dirty word the way it is understood. Lobbying for one's interests is a basic process of social membership. The whole world lobbies for the rich and the mighty. Who lobbies for the common man? The beauty of the Indian civil services is that the Constitution of India mandates that the civil servants be the lobbyists for the poor and the underprivileged.

In a departure from the rut we had fallen in to, namely continued patronage of the restaurant Momo's (on Kulri Bazaar road), we checked out the delightfully cramped Little Llama Cafe on the Kulri road, next to the Union Church. It can seat at most 7 well-fed OTs sans their egos. The compact open kitchen lets one see and smell the food being cooked, a fascinating experience any time. One recalls the many hours spent watching one's mother in the kitchen creating beauty and perfection in food. One also chipped in by helping when possible, chopping, dicing, slicing things. The menu at Little Llama features western snack and fast food at moderate prices. It is a welcome change from the many bowls of Thukpa and platters of meat Saptak one has at Momo's.
At Momo's on Kulri Road

With only 15 days to go, most activities of the FC are winding down. Tomorrow is the last day of academic classes and also of PT. The end term exams start from Monday and will go on for five days. Most OTs are preparing for the exams at a fever pitch.

Two weeks and it is curtains down.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

FC 89 - A Space Odyssey

Those of us in the know will know that the Karmshila building is a space cruise ship which slammed in to a middling hill in the Mussoorie range nose down. It arrived after a short haul from Prashaasanik constellation, from the 3rd Attempt star system. Owing to a loss of control over Interview Mark II (the thrusters required for calibrated landing), the ship crashed head first in to the hill. One can see even now the exhaust vents on 'top' of the building, the conical glass structures that one assumes are for ventilation, for letting in the inadequate November sun light.

The flight deck was the current toilet of the Officers' Lounge, comprising of both men's and women's washrooms. From this cockpit the ship had been captained by Captain Chip Spik, ably assisted by his first officer Madam Loud Squeak, the navigator Mr. Long John, gunner Ms. Rattle Tattle, medical officer Mr. Palaver Salve, a vague but validated comic creature called Miss Higg's Bosom and other crew members. The pilot sat on the toilet seat, pulled on the toilet roll to release the throttle and flushed the toilet to break hard. It was an easy and intuitive control system. And there was the auto-pilot, Found Attention Cores, the artificially intelligent automaton.

Why did the space cruise ship chart its way to the planet Earth? Was there a mistake in file noting? Were they supposed to have reached File Cabinet planetary system but got sucked up by the In-Tray 101 black hole and ended up in the Red Tape galaxy? One may never know. The sentient beings of the space cruise ship adapted to life on earth. The aliens learnt early on that commerce is the dominant activity of humans. Therefore they mutated in to Mr. Ganges Dabas, Mr. Milky Rum, Miss Lovely Professional Universe Omelette Centre, Mr. Tevern and so on. They brought their strange rituals like morning PT which involved bending otherwise inflexible human bodies into awkward angles early in the winter morning cold, weird alien clothes like formal wear, funny practices like sleeping in the class etc.

The aliens sought to replicate their social structure called the Bureaucratic Hierarchy through a well graded Administrative System, on earth. It was easier said than done. To this end, the aliens formed a special committee called the Universal Potentially Silly Choice committee whose sole mandate was to screen a large number of humans and select from among them creatures with pliable minds, massive egos and a sense of entitlement. The committee received an overwhelming number of applications, all eligible. Therefore, they added more criteria and kept them all secret so that the humans can never decipher the alien thinking. However, few qualifying conditions that leaked out were that the applicants need to be insufferable, intolerant, elitist in nature etc. Even so, the swell of eligible candidates overwhelmed the committee. Therefore, they chose to add further stringent criteria, like a stay in a village for a week, a trek in the Himalayas for a week, cultural programmes every fortnight and so on. The cultural programmes did the trick, may be, they got the required quantity and quality of specimens whom they called the T-O.Ts (Toughened Operational Turnips).

The aliens designed a maze, an obstacle course in which these T-OTs run and must hurry ever forward to achieve an elusive goal. The aliens graded the T-OTs in to PKTP (Potential Keen Type Potato), LKTP (Latent Keen Type Potato), OKTP (Over Keen Type Potato) and various other grades. The T-OTs had all of 100 days to accomplish various tasks like scoring Walnut Brownie points with the instructors and T-OTs of the opposite gender, gather enough gold coins so that they rank higher in the Inter se Potato Seniority etc., while dodging injuries (which can be glossed over by acquiring Med Packs hidden near the Reception Counter) as well as red hot Memos, supposed radio-active pieces of paper that had to be avoided at any cost.

This was the set up of the doomed space cruise ship, its time-space travellers, their experimental subjects the T-OTs, their exercises, their existence whence all of a sudden and out of the blue, like the Chelyabinsk meteor but much more devastating, on this peaceful pale blue dot of a planet earth dropped the Cadre Comet!!!
Cheylabinsk meteor, for illustration purposes.

What happened next? Did the T-OT race survive the comet strike unlike the dinosaurs? Why not find out tomorrow or the day after or any day in the distant future when I am in a mood to write more?

Sweet 16 today but wont last forever, these number of days of the Foundation Course.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

On A Cat on Cold Tin Roof

I came across a cat in the academy today. In itself it is nothing to write about. However, it is the first time I have noticed a cat. Dogs, monkeys and langurs make up the fauna of the academy. Stray cows too. A stray cat is a strange sight and hence it merited a mention. It jumped in the cold air from the Happy Valley Hostel, sauntered across the 135 degree wide stairs and leaped on to the Unhappy Plateau Hostel roof. 

Cat on a cold tin roof.

The cat then proceeded to the Gandhi Smriti Library and pawed at books yellowed from the Hippie days, the pages brittle as the bones of the rainbow generation. The curious cat browsed through the books kept at the shelves at the end of the book racks, the books that the batch of OTs had gotten issued, read and returned. There were books on law, public administration, warfare, economics, poverty. The cat's curiosity was aroused, however, by the books at the English fiction section. Camus and Wodehouse were being read. Good for the batch, the voyeuristic cat thought, good for the batch for reading more than PowerPoint presentations of subjects, good of them for consuming more than mere slide handouts. But what is this? 'Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul'?!

The thought of chicken soup made the cat hungry. The cat went to the A.N. Jha Plaza cafe for a cup of coffee with a dash of strawberry syrup and pretty lady OTs for company.

The cat walked in to the Sampoornanand auditorium and listened in on few lectures. Insincere sounding media men and earnest senior civil servants lectured on topics dear to their hearts. The OTs nodded in agreement or in sleep. Few OTs  spoke among themselves. Their thoughts were bubbles rising from vats of boiling tar, the thoughts were tar bubbles, ink black demons and they rose from the mouths of these OTs, floated up a little and then burst, staining the shirts and sticking to hair of fellow OTs, irritating them. The cat decided to shred the demons of distraction to shreds and scratch the presumptuous OTs, scratching away the thick blanket of arrogance with which they cloak themselves. These narcissistic fish think nothing of talking aloud in the class. They love to hear their voice and think everyone does too. 
'Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.' (T.S. Eliot)
Our cat makes short work of these blow fishes, leaps across the valleys, ridge to ridge, peak to peak, in to the distant sun set, in to reluctant night, in to chalked out horizons.

The cat then woke up and found itself in the Happy Valley Ground, it appeared from a winter of discontent. It performed slick moves as an aerobics practitioner, all the while imagining the feline female forms in unitards, actresses escaped from Cats.

Good Cadre, Bad Cadre, ICBMs

The big news of the day was that the cadres have been allocated. The allocations were as per calculations/estimations and were more or less a confirmation of the expected cadre. Are the OTs happy? Are they disappointed?

What is a good cadre or a bad cadre? Do they even exist? One of the Phase 5 seniors with whom we interacted was of the opinion that a 'good' cadre and a not so 'good' service is preferable to a 'good service' and a 'bad' cadre. Another senior officer was of the opinion that AGMUT is a 'good' cadre in that if one falls afoul of the political dispensation at power, one can always move to another state within AGMUT and bide one's time whereas in any other cadre one is stuck with that dispensation.

Then there is the whole aura of the home cadre. One supposedly gains 12 inches in height if one is allotted the home cadre. Or not. The most advantageous thing that I see of being allocated the home cadre is that one could be close to home (duh!), dig one's roots deeper in to the soil.

Good or bad is relative, of course. There are OTs disappointed even though they got 'good' cadres and vice versa.
Truth be told, no one except a privileged few have a clue as to what lay in store for us in any of the cadres. We only hope that we do what we are supposed to do and do it with devotion.

It is time for the ICBMs to be launched. Long range, solid fueled, mobile or submarine launched missiles will be the talk of the day. Inter Cadre Based Marriages (ICBMs), however, do not come in the MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles). The game would change beyond comprehension if the MIRV were allowed.

Another term to describe the feeding frenzy that will be unleashed is that of CBMs (Cadre Based Marriages or Confidence Building Measures in diplomatese.) One wonders as to what confidences are being shared or built for a change of cadre. There must exist a law to prevent speculation on cadre based marriages.

As for me, I am going back to the state of my youth, a state where my world view evolved, where I fell in and out of love, with it and without it. All good.

On Athletics Meet

Athletics Meet for the 89th Foundation Course, Mussoorie, was an unqualified success. Kudos to the organizing team, a fresh set of faces, and the athletes for a grand show. The event was stretched over two days so as to cover events such as 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, 1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m races, 4X100 m relay, 4X400 m relay, javelin, discus, shot put, high jump, long jump, tug of war, spoon race, three legged race, wife carrying race, horse race and rat race. At least few of these events are fictitious.

The athletics meet showcased the athletic talent of the batch. There was enthusiastic participation in most events. Some of it was necessitated by the word 'compulsory,' an admonitory, authoritative term that is applied to most rules made by bureaucrats, as I am coming to realize now. However, the participation was also driven by peer pressure or inspiration. The sight of a fellow OT manhandling a shot put or a javelin aroused the competitive instincts in onlooker OTs and compelled them to try their hand at sports, often in many cases for the very first time in their lives. Never mind the 10,000 hours of practise that Malcolm Gladwell talks of, never mind the quarter that needs to be given to one's age. One was content getting coached by videos from Youtube. Another factor was at play too, related to competitive spirit of the OTs. Many of them were competing against themselves more than with others. They wanted to see how far they can throw or how fast they can run, an assessment of their bodies and to satisfy the doubt if their ships would hold fast till the journey completes.

The OTs would never forget the singular sight of a gentleman OT flying towards the finish line, only puffs of dust at intervals of 2 metres on the track to hint that he was in fact running, not flying. If there is any one event that defined the athletics meet, an event that shall be remembered for a long time to come, it was the 100 m race. The performance of a gentleman OT in that race, to be particular. It was a joy to watch the record set by the previous batch being broken by a good margin, it was a joy to watch the athlete, the gentleman OT demonstrate the beauty of the human body. We are all grateful to him for making the athletics meet the most memorable event of the FC. There were few other shining stars, athletes who participated in most other events and bagged medals, including the flying Jharkhandi. Congratulations and thanks are in order to these athletes, sportsmen of first order.

The athletics meet has proven that the civil servants are sound in both mind and body. It is a good sign for the country when its administrators can set new records or at the least challenge themselves and push themselves harder.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The athletics meet is scheduled for this weekend. I look forward to it as it holds a promise of being an entertaining event.

Shri Yogendra Yadav of AAP, Shri U K Sinha Chairman, SEBI, Shri Avinash Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, Director General of DRDO and Smt. Anita Jain, Joint Secretary, NDMA were the guest speakers today. With such star studded guest faculty list, sleep should be the last thing on one's mind.

May be it was the last thing on one's mind. The next thing one knows, one was in the Happy Valley ground, pulling a rope with all one's might. Strange vicissitudes of life I tell you.

So the OTs tugged at ropes, clung to the ground on their shoes with tentative grips, pulled as one might pull a fellow out of a quagmire.

Such physical exertions need to be sufficiently rewarded with good food and we had an unexpectedly good dinner thanks to the reception of the newly wed OTs. A gala dinner in deed. The lady OTs dazzled in their best traditional attire. The gentlement OTs tried their best too. But obviously there was a difference.

On Idiocy of Rules, Lovelorn OTs

22 days for the batteries to run out. What will the Duracell bunny do then?

Autocratic is not a word to be bandied about lightly but few instructions and few strictures now seem to warrant such an action. They walk the thin line between idiocy and absurdity. Long after all the love has vanished, O KS! one only finds faults in one's beloved. The multiplicity of rules which at first appeared charming and idiosyncratic now seem dreadful and suffocating. C'est la vie.

Ours is not to ask why, our is to do PT and die. Though in all honesty, one feels one enjoys PT too much to safely conform to any group norms.

The Honourable Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju addressed a session this forenoon. The session was informative, interactive and interesting. Of all the valuable advice the Honourable Minister had given, only one point seeped in to my sleep addled brain, i.e., his advice to the OTs to marry for the sake of love and not for cadre and that cadre do not matter in these premiere civil services. Sound advice no doubt but who will heed this advice? The gear wheels in the brains of the bright OTs are shifting and turning as we speak, making mental calculations on cadre probability and caste compatibility, arriving at a list of probables on whom love can be bestowed.

Today was a dead line for submission of village reports and book review. If this sounds school-like then you are not far off the mark. Throw in a strict head master type figure, demanding PT master types, eccentric science teacher types AND throw in sexually repressed adolescent OTs, you have it spot on, school all over again.

I have been receiving many suggestions and topics for the blog posts. The Sunny Leone Shrimati Sunny Leone part was inspired by a suggestion catered to by a gentleman OT. It is always a good sign for the blog when the readers are livelier than Google spider bots.

A gentleman OT, mad and sick in love, requested that I convey his feelings on this blog to his lady love, in case she too reads this blog. I had played Cupid earlier, successfully I must add, for the couple in question are celebrating their 4th wedding anniversary today, let me see if I can reach in to my thinking hat and pull out few love bunnies.

The closest approximation to the gentleman OT's situation can be found in the lyrics of the song 'Hello!' by Lionel Richie. The relevant lines are as follows:

I sometimes see you
Pass outside my door
Is it me you're looking for?
'cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely?
Or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart
For I haven't got a clue
But let me start by saying I love you.

The video of the song, for your viewing pleasure.

There are benefits of being at the academy. One can run in to a certain illustrious gentleman who pioneered the use of zeros in audits and accounts, a veritable re-inventor of zero in the Indian political math. A series of selfies of OTs with the illustrious gentleman civil servant may follow in time. Watch your Facebook feeds.

The Athletics Meet is to be held over two days, both of them happen to be on the weekend. Why, oh why?!
Look forward to the Rainbow Batch making a mark, breaking few records by the way.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

On Matches Made in Heaven and Marriages in the FC

23 days to the finish line.

Suave speakers score in the academy. They score brownie points. They score unbeatable adulation among adolescent OTs. They impress the wizened older OTs with their clever use of idioms. Slick speakers, city slickers, skilled orators.

The 89th Foundation Course is witnessing a unique event, namely the wedding of two fellow Officer Trainees, a handsome gentleman OT and a beautiful lady OT. A happy culmination after a long period of courtship. This heartening event, the marriage of OTs during the Foundation Course, is scheduled for a day in this week. We are all thrilled, excited and happy for the couple. As a part of the Great Indian (Administrative Service) Wedding, the preliminary event Sangeet was celebrated this evening. The event was the exclusive domain of the womenfolk and so I have no information as of now to share.

We all are thankful to the couple for giving us an opportunity to be a part of their extended family, as it were, involving us in inarguably the most pivotal and significant moment of their lives. Thus one sees several OTs standing in for the family in distributing invitation cards to the faculty and to the staff. Such simple sights as these brighten the dreary days with which the FC now seems filled. There is a general air of despair and ennui with the activities of the FC. Extended PT sessions aimed at turning OTs and potato sacks in to lean, mean and clean fighting and marching machine contingents in 3 days flat are the cause for a great degree of irritation. Ek do ek goes the Pied Piper's tune and the OTs march one and all off the cliff of the Polo Grounds and tumble down, down and down in to the valleys of the Dalai Hills.

Talking of the dreary days, special mention needs to be made of the generous lady OTs for celebrating the 'Men's Day' with a well made presentation, eminently lightening up our day. They charmed the socks (stinking, mismatched, torn socks) off the gentlemen OTs with the presentation and the celebration. Thank you lady OTs, your gracious gesture is well appreciated.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Schrodinger's Cat was a Cow and other Absurdities

24 days for the circus to leave the town. Would you shed some tears for the dearly departed?

It is always a good idea to write off when in anger and then trash it. Or put the post up in the probables list. Or dip the post in such caustic humour that it turns in to a pulp of vague references.

Anyway, it was a dreamy day. The sun light was sweet, straight and bright. It fell on the delicate shoulders and intelligent heads of the pretty lady OTs, giving an unintentional brilliant golden highlight to their hair, illuminating them as Madonnas on stained glass panels of medieval cathedrals. Just another day in the academy. The class rooms are neither cosy nor cold, they are just so. However, a filling breakfast of proteins, carbohydrates (hydrocarbons?) and fruit juices puts a generic gentleman OT in to a genial mood for sleep. Lectures on rights based legislation by explorers and pioneers or on macro economic policies by advisers to very important people of India get taught, while a head somewhere drops abrupt, a fresh entrant in to the world of the sitting sleepers.

Sometimes the 89th FC OTs get surprising guest lecturers. Shrimati Karenjit Kaur Vohra, a.k.a Shrimati Sunny Leone, an actress of some talent and an accomplished business person, visited the academy to deliver a lecture on the Ancient Art Forms Of India. A particular art form was referred to more than others. A clairvoyant's image of the artist captured the essence of the art and the artist's engagement with the audience. The guest lecturer asserted that the Ancient India was a place of high refinement in tastes. Cultural norms of the society of Ancient India were of a standard unsurpassed. The guest lecturer derided the current crop of civil servants for their pusillanimity in their imagination. She insisted that glorious, golden, halcyon days of the past can be regained once gain when the civil servants shed their inhibitions and take grand decisions, adopt bold positions on issues and come out on top, in general. The degradation in standards (of what was not specified) were a cause of concern to her. The guest lecturer concluded by exhorting the OTs to exert themselves (on what was not specified).
Shrimati Karenjit Kaur Vohra extolling the glorious days of Ancient India.

A gentle tap on the shoulder usually wakes a day dreaming OT before they embarrass themselves by exerting  in snoring during the classes. 

Apart from the exciting guest lecturers, the batch also receives unsolicited emails from well meaning citizens and/or civil servants. The emails are summaries of news, general impressions and opinions. Fearless fellow OTs however are not very amused by the voluminous mail as it only adds to the increasing sense of an impending showdown, a denouement of the FC, adds to the stress of unresolved issues, unread mails amidst a deluge of emails dreaming of achieving coordination via electronic media.

In other unrelated news, conclusive evidence emerged that the Schrodinger's cat was in fact a cow. Not any other average Joe cow but the very sacred one, a cash cow. The cow was supposed to answer the question 'when does the actual quantum state stop being a linear combination of states, each of which resembles different classical states, and instead begin to have a unique classical description?'

Disclaimer: None of the points stated in this post are true except this disclaimer. There was no such guest lecturer nor was Schrodinger's cat a cow.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The FC exposes the OTs to a range of ideas. One was (re)acquainted with the right to information through lectures by its pioneers, like Smt. Aruna Roy, Shri Nikhil Dey.

An article in the Outlook on Smt. Aruna Roy. 'Daughter of the Dust' by Urvashi Butolia, 16th October 2006. Accessed on 18th Nov 2014.
An article in The Guardian on Shri. Nikhil Dey. 'Transparency in India' by Paige McClanahan, 13th June 2013. Accessed on 18th Nov 2014.]  

India Day, etc.

25 days for the FC to wind up.

A sign of poor writing is the accumulating draft posts. They sit in the literary equivalent of purgatory, the draft box, and await the Judgment Day when I, in my wisdom and learning, shall decide which post shall see the eternal bliss of being published and which shall be consigned to the bin. Except, a lazier sentient being you would not have come across in 4 or even 5 dimensions of this universe. More about the dimensions in a bit.

The India Day celebrations were a blast. Given the severe time constraints, the OTs exceeded expectations by putting up a spectacle of a show. The day started with a parade by the 4 zonal teams from the main gate to the Kalindi lawns. The gentlemen and lady OTs dressed up in regional attires, making a deep impression on the onlooker. At least I was deeply impressed by few OTs. The South zone team stood out for the sheer energy and 'exotic' attires. No wonder then that the award for the best dressed male and female OTs went to the OTs from Karnataka and Kerala teams respectively.

After a hearty breakfast (some overdosed on food, sampling the best of victuals from all 4 zones), the open air auditorium near the Kalindi lawns played the venue for an hour and half of outstanding cultural performances from all 4 zones. A handicrafts exhibition near the parking lot saw textiles and handicrafts from various northern states being displayed for sale. Lady OTs had a field time shopping for fine silk sarees as well as acting as consultants to clueless gentlemen OTs on picking up sarees for the women in their families.

After a breather, the evening cultural events took off, again of fairly good standard despite the time constraints. The cultural performances were followed by a sumptuous dinner, to use but one cliche among many that I feel brimming over in me.

The food was overwhelming, for, one felt compelled to sample all the major cuisines of our country, which, incidentally, is far more varied than the typical 'North Indian, South Indian and Chinese' types you find in almost all restaurants. The bits and pieces add up, tossing the carefully built illusion of weight loss out of the mess windows.
I shall skip the details of the cultural programmes. Instead, please peruse these two albums of photographs of the cultural events held at noon (open air auditorium, Kalindi lawns) and in the evening (Sampoornanand auditorium).

The day after India Day, cultural performance by a team from Uttarakhand and a fashion parade by the OTs rounded off the longish weekend.

I got an opportunity to watch Interstellar (2014), the latest by Christopher Nolan. The movie has made at least a few OTs revisit Physics concepts and it is a good thing. I loved the OST by Hans Zimmer. The story deals with a practicing farmer who also happens to be a former fighter aircraft pilot and an engineer, and his efforts to save earth. Agreed, this is a severely summarized story and does not spoil anything, but it is the closest approximation of the movie's narrative. A strong family ethos is portrayed all through the movie. A robot, TARS, provides the comic (and heroic) relief. 'Interstellar' lingers in one's mind long after one has stepped out of the theater via fire escapes, the regular exit route of most theaters in India. One tries teasing out a meaning from the ambiguous ending, a trademark now of Nolan's storytelling. Our mind is comfortable dealing with a lower number of dimensions and seem not able to wrap itself around more than 3 dimensions. Nolan exploits this fact, which when combined with the linear passage of time, can disorient the movie goer for a while. One can watch Interstellar for the sheer visual, aural and psychological pleasure.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

28 days left.

India Day preparations are in full swing. One hopes that the ultimate aim of the India Day, namely cultural sensitization and integration, will be achieved.

The weather has gotten fine of late. The skies are blue, the Gangotri range, 114 km as a very energetic crow flies from Mussoorie, and the Kedarnath peak and the Chaukambha peaks all appear so close that one is tempted to stretch a hand out and scoop up the ice may be, for an ice gola of Himalayan proportions.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

29 days to go, get out

29 days for curtains down.

If one gets a sense of a listless busy-ness, one may not be far off the mark. The classes drag on from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm. Did I tell you that the time table was shifted by half an hour to account for the increasing chill and the shortening day light? May be I did. 'The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.' [Slaughter House-Five (1969), Kurt Vonnegut]

The busy-ness is on account of the fast approaching 'India Day.' The sacrifices that the OTs are making by giving up on PT and academic sessions would in all probability be reflected in the commendable performances on the big day. I too would have liked to sacrifice PT attendance at Culture's altar. Alas! I have two cultural left feet! The strenuous efforts in preparation are already showing in sprained ankles, hoarse throats, various aches at miscellaneous places. The OTs would be kept busy over the remaining weekends too. There is the athletics meet the next weekend. The athletic OTs are hard at practise for displaying their athleticism. There would also be a march past by all the OTs durin gthe inaugural ceremony. Few OTs would be doing the march past on horseback. There is something to say about being on the horseback. For one you are five feet above ground. Then there are all the commanding heights that one occupies.It is a sight to behold.

The mid-sem exam marks were announced last evening. Congratulations to all those who fared well. You deserve objective appreciation. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

30 days for the FC to come to a close.

Once in a while one feels like a rolling stone. Today was one such day. It was stasis. 

Have had an opportunity to interact with very senior IAS officers currently on campus for the 5th phase of their training. Us in the FC have not even entered the phase 1, for comparison. The perspective of the officers after 27-30 years in the service is illustrative of their experience with the administration, the system, their personal aspirations and how it all ties up at almost the end of their careers. 5th Phase. Must be a good place to be in. Wonder what we will be after 30 years.

Monday, 10 November 2014

For no reason except to make people senti, I am starting a countdown to the end of FC. There are only 31 days left for the show to wind down.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Back from Village Visit

We are back from the village visit. For a week we forgot all about Mussoorie, Officer's Mess, the rigmarole of dressing in smart casuals (at least) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the pain of PT early in the morning, the dread of horse-riding every once or twice a week et cetera. We got a taste of what it means to be a civil servant in India. With the benefit of hindsight one can say it was a bitter sweet taste. As a representative of the government, even if a junior most officer of the senior civil services (All India, Group 'A' etc) one has signed away their privacy. It was akin to being on a display in a zoo. One knew in a muddled sort of way that a career in the civil services involved certain trade-offs. However, did not expect that one's privacy would be the first casualty, followed very closely by one's sense of right/wrong/correct/incorrect/good/bad.

Enough of these harangues already. Sunday mornings are best spent in the quiet of a library, fighting post-breakfast slumber, watching the scant traffic on the Kalindi lawns from a vantage perch. However, retired bureaucrats eat the morning silence for breakfast by a two hour long phone conversation in the reading room, organizing meetings, moving and shaking things over phone. I wonder if civic sense departs once one is out of the civil service.
One looks away from fiction to notice pretty girls taking selfies in the pleasant sunny lawns of Kalindi, a middle aged woman dressed in an egg yolk yellow chudidar and a white sweater, for all appearances a cross section of a boiled egg on two legs-a lady Humpty Dumpty, OTs taking relatives, family friends and prospective in-laws on a guided tour of the campus and so on and so forth. Matcmaking, soul-mate finding and cadre marriages are an integral part of the FC. They are traditions coming down from ages and one respects traditions. To the curious outsider or the clueless insider who queried Google in a charming naivete, "Are couples formed at LBSNAA?" (and landed on this mine blog), yes, couples are formed at LBSNAA everyday. It is a chain reaction really. Once the couple formation process starts, no coolants or control rods can stop it. We only watch from miles away, safe in our radioactive shelters, through darkened glasses the flash and the shock waves and the fire storms. Couple formation is assisted in most instances by catalysts in the form of helpful family members, relatives and well-wishers packed in to an Innova/Xylo and disgorged at the Academy or the Ganga Hostel gates. Out pops the nani, dadi, dada, nana, foofa, foofi, bhatija, bhanja, bhanji, sala, sali, chacha, chachi, chechi, cheta, mummy, daddy, uncle and aunty from next door, dad's colleagues from office, his boss' in-laws, the all important match fixing aunty from somewhere in the extended family etc. It is a charming sight.

Persistent queries on the quality of food and non-veg being served at the Academy also land on my blog. I can only say with the utmost conviction that the food served here is A-1, top class, number one quality. Non-veg is generic Chicken preparations (the butter chickens, mughlais and tikka masalas of the world-boring fare) or mutton or fish once in a while. Pork and beef are not served, to my utter disappointment. Fish is a poor stand in for the amazing variety of sea-food one can eat. This high in the mountains, one is satisfied with chicken. For everything else, there is Momo's on Mall Road (Kulri Bazaar).

A host of dignitaries are scheduled for guest lectures this week, staring with a luminary from the Foreign Services. Also, the PT and class hours are shifted by half an hour. So we trudge and trundle to the Polo Grounds at 6 instead of at 5.30 am.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Man-Eating Rumour

We were resting after a heavy lunch. There were no participatory learning activities scheduled. The Panchayat secretary and two lekhpals entered the room with somber expressions. They requested our permission to provide us with some news. The assembled IAS officers granted permission to impart the news. The panchayat secretary told us that the man-eating tigress terrorizing the area had struck again and close by. It had killed a fakir/baba who lives in a kutir at the edge of the forest. The said killing happened as late as last night. We were aghast. The shocking news sent chills up my spine. I was jesting online only a day ago that the tigress may develop a taste for fat and juicy OTs. What if the tigress did get a whiff of my scent-the scent of a bureaucrat? What if the tigress was active on online social networking platforms? What if it decided to wreak vengeance on me for rejecting her friend request sent from a profile with Katrina’s face as display picture? The conjectures were many.

We decided to visit the site of the killing. For good measure we asked the two UP wala police bhaiyyas to come along with their .303s. The convoy consisted of two motorbikes, a Gypsy and a Scorpio. We could have as well been a travelling circus. The road was a kachha road. It could not have been kachha-er than it was. There were deep ruts from the bullock carts and pot holes 3 feet deep. A two inch layer of fine dust topped the road which was raked up by the tyres and rendered the air a post-apocalyptic yellow/ochre tinge. The silent convoy was an eerie sight. Sugar-cane rose 10 ft on either side, eucalyptus and poplar trees blocked sight of the fields afar. After what seemed like a venture deep in to the uncharted forests, we arrived at a clearing, the said kutir. There were two banyan trees 50 ft tall, a thatched hut open on two sides and a makeshift mandir. There was a farmer, his wife, kids and sugarcane on a bullock cart nearby the kutir. The whole platoon of police, revenue officials and prashikshu adhikaari disposed him to a chatty mood. He informed the gathered government machinery that the baba was safe in a village close by and that there was no tigress attack. The villagers assumed the worst when they saw the contents of the kutir turned upside down and a trail of blood on the floor. Blood on the kutir floor. That there were 15 odd killings by a man-eating tigress in the area only bolstered the villagers' doubts. A drunken brawl and a possible bloody nose led to the wild (but probable) news of an attack by the tigress. Lessons learnt: One needs to verify the information fed by the lower administrative machinery and not take it at face value.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

On Man-Eating Tigress, Mindless Bollywood

The village visit was a short bus ride (4 hours) to a place in West UP. The academy did not skimp on academic resources for the village visit. However, even the moderately thick village visit manual was no match to the verbiage awaiting us at the district headquarters. The thick tome of documents was in Hindi, making it doubly dense for me. I had to bring to my mind all the prashaasanik Hindi picked up during Hindi language classes to get through the first two paragraphs of the first page. Around 1000 more pages await.

A curious incident happened at the state border between Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Since we were to visit villages in a district in western UP, we were met at the border by a sub-divisional level officer along with a pilot vehicle. I was flattered and flustered at the same time. Flustery outweighed flattery. We found no reason for the show of strength, however nominal. We were just a bunch of well meaning OTs-  I am sure we meant no harm to anyone and vice-versa. So, all those gun toting batch of half a dozen UP wala police bhaiyyas, in my opinion, were unnecessary.

There was an unobtrusive news crew with a video camera at a way-side stop near the UP-UK border filming what may have been an out of the world sight for them- couple of dozen out of shape OTs alighting from a bus and making haste to find a tree behind which to relieve themselves. Fortunately, to the relief of the OTs, the media and even the dignity of the senior civil services, bathrooms were close by and were duly used.

The police escort was not the only 'culture' shock I have had today. There were the garlands and about 30 odd staff of the district administration gawking at the OTs at the place we were put up. It was all thoroughly embarrassing. I scooted from the garlanding silliness but am not sure if I will have cover for my disappearing acts in the future. I have come to love my anonymity more and more.

The most significant piece of advice given to us by a senior functionary of the district administration was to stick to the premises allotted to us and under no circumstances to stray, particularly at night. There was a man-eating tigress at large. The most recent kill was that of a 10-year old boy.

One should never underestimate the power of the Fates. Only yesterday I was making fun of Shah Rukh Khan running around in make-believe rural settings, mustard fields, berating Bollywood for lack of authenticity, among other things. Today, I was caught unawares and ended up watching half of 'Happy New Year.' The movie was so egregious that I had to leave the theatre at the intermission stage. Looks like Shah Rukh Khan has had the last laugh. I shall watch out for such twists of Fate as best as I can. Lessons learnt. Still, one wonders as to what got in to the heads of the movie makers and the movie watchers. How can a sane person ever conceive, leave alone watch, such a movie? The movie makers need to be tried for human rights violations. The movie 'Happy New Year' is a clear violation of a right to dignity of life.

And so we were given a taste of the things to come. Man-eating tigresses. Mind violating Bollywood stupidity.
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