The TN Assembly and Secretariat – home to Babus of many kinds

The Man from Madras Musings is aware that there are people in this world who go out of their way to court the society of bureaucrats. The sound logic is of course that you never know when such friendships can come in handy. MMM on the other hand is rather wary of seeking out the Babus. He prefers to go by the old North Indian dictum – never stand behind a horse or in front of a ruler, you never known what may happen. But in the course of this life MMM has met up with several bureaucrats and become friends with a few too. And he has found them all to be uniformly civil, which being civil servants, he is glad they are.

But there are some less appealing sides to dealing with them. And one of these is the fact that their time is rarely their own. Chances are that they will call you for a meeting and then when you hotfoot it to their office you find they are nowhere to be seen – a minister or some other higher up has called them away and there is no saying when they will return. You sip regulation tea, eat biscuits (these days munch dry fruits), look up at the ceiling and marvel at the mountains of files that appear to hold up the roofs of these offices. And then, just as you begin assuming you are part of the furniture, along comes bureaucrat, all apologies. It is in the light of this that MMM, especially when he has to meet Babus in the middle and lower orders, stipulates that they come to meet him at his office and not the other way, for then MMM can at least spend his time usefully even as he waits for his visitor to show up.

Thus it was that last week MMM found his cell phone ringing endlessly and almost instinctively knew that someone from Government circles was looking for him. They never cease calling till you answer while when you need them it is usually the reverse – they don’t answer till you cease calling them. Anyway there was middle order Babu wanting to have a meeting and so could MMM please call at his office. To this MMM replied courteously that MMM would much prefer the mountain calling on Mahomet and so it was arranged. Babu agreed to call on MMM at an agreed time on a particular date. The anointed hour found MMM all accoutered and waiting but of panjandrum there was not a sign. The clock ticked away and still no Babu. After bounding to and fro like a caged tiger for a while MMM decided to call the man on his cell phone. There was no answer. His secretary, on calling the landline said sir was not in his seat.

After quite a while during which MMM busied himself with other pursuits, there was a call from the Babu. He had been tied up with the Minister and was now on his way to meet MMM. He managed to throw in some breathlessness to indicate his efforts in that direction but that cut no ice with MMM. Rather in the manner of the bow-wielding god addressing his ten-headed foe, MMM asked the Babu to stop where he was and come the next day. There was some gasping and spluttering at the other end but MMM held firm.
This had its effect though. The caller arrived for the rescheduled appointment five minutes ahead of time.