• Gambuda

  • Recent Publications

    Books

    1. Pratap. A. (In preparation). Rock Art and Archaeology of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh.

    2. Pratap, A. (In Preparation) Indian Edition. Indigenous Archaeology in India: Prospects for an Archaeology of the Subaltern. First published 2010 by Archaeopress, Oxford.

    3. Pratap, A. (In Preparation). Mss. Theory in Indian Archaeology.

    4. Pratap, A. (In Preparation). Mss. Revised Edition. The Hoe and the Axe. Ethnohistory of Shifting Cultivation in Eastern India. First published 2000 by Oxford University Press. Delhi.

    4.Pratap, A. 2009. Indigenous Archaeology in India: Prospects for an Archaeology of the Subaltern. Archaeopress, Oxford.

    5. Pratap, A. 2000. The Hoe and the Axe. Ethnohistory of Shifting Cultivation in Eastern India. Oxford University Press. Delhi

    Research Papers

    1. Pratap, A. 2014. Indian archaeology and Postmodernism: Fashion or Necessity. Ancient Asia 5(2): 1-4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/aa.12318

    2. Pratap, A. 2013. Rock art at Chuna Dari Site 2 (CHD 2): Aspects of Rock Art Conservation in India and its Presentation to the Public. Research Today 1(2): 57-63

    3. Pratap, A. (In Press). A Discussion of the Ancient Archaeological Sites and Remains Acts of 1904, 1958, 1959, 1978 and 2010, Government of India, for Adapting them to the Requirements of Better Preventive Conservation of Indian Cultural Property, with Special Reference to the Rock Art of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. Journal of the Indian Association for the Study of Conservation of Cultural Property. Delhi. 2013.

    4. Pratap, A. (In Press). Saints, shrines and religious graffiti. Journal of the Indian Association for the Study of Conservation of Cultural Property. Delhi. 2012.

    5. Pratap, A. (In Press) Anthropology in the Material World: the case of rock paintings at Wyndham 3 or (WYN 3). Proceedings of the Anthropology in the World Conference. Royal Anthropological Institute. 2012.

    6. Pratap, A. (In Press). Faunal Depictions at Wyndham 3: a painted rock art site, Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. Proceedings of the National Seminar Archaeology of Central India. Bhopal Circle. Archaeological Survey of India. 2012.

    7.Pratap, A. 2013. The Geography and archaeology of shifting cultivation in
    India: the current scenario. Proceedings of the National Seminar on “Recent Advances in the Development of Geographical Knowledge and its Interdisciplinary Association with Sciences” November 3-4, 2011. Department of Geography. Faculty of Sciences. Banaras Hindu University.

    8. Pratap, A. 2013. A Preliminary Microwear Analysis of Some Artefacts of the Chirand Neolithic. In Dikshit, K.N. (Ed) Neolithic-Chalcolithic Cultures of Eastern India. Indian Archaeological Society. Delhi. 259-76.

    9. Pratap, A. 2013. A Discussion of Professor Lord Colin Renfrew’s
    Lectures held on the Occasion of the Archaeological Survey of India’s
    150th Anniversary Celebrations. Vikramshila Journal of Social Sciences. Bhagalpur.

    10. Pratap. A. 2012. A Lecture by Professor A.C. Renfrew. Vikramshila Journal of Social Sciences. Part II. Bhagalpur.

    11. Pratap, A. 2012. A Discussion of Professor Lord Colin Renfrew’s
    Lectures held on the Occasion of the Archaeological Survey of India’s
    150th Anniversary Celebrations. Saiddhantiki 5 (15): 134-8.

    12. Pratap, A. 2011a. Recent Surveys at Likhaniya Dari, Chuna Dari, and Wyndham falls, Uttar Pradesh. Vikramshila Journal of Social Sciences. Bhagalpur.

    13. Pratap, A. 2011b. Prehistoric Rock Art Imagery of the Vindhyas, Uttar Pradesh. In Ancient India. New Series 1. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.

  • Benaras

  • Phorwa Ded

    Author's Note: Friends, in order to see the archaeological aspects of this work you are advised to pay attention to the material objects and things mentioned in this fictional story, to see how they influence human behaviour. For backup reading try Miller,D.? Artefacts as Categories.?, Miller, D. ? Materiality.?, Appadurai, A. ? The Social Life of Things.?

    ...

    Phorwa Ded
     
    By

    Ajay Pratap

    Author’s note:

    This is a work of complete fiction. No resemblances, in any circumstance whatsoever, and under any laws prevailing anywhere, are intended in this work. However, as purely statistically speaking, there may be a margin of error in this claim, we state clearly, that, any resemblances, that may perchance arise, are entirely, a co-incidence, nothing more.

    (Author)

    .....................

    The Privilege Works Department (hereafter the PWD) of the City of Bhitargaon-upon-Sone was agog with activity for they had won a very prestigious and much vied for contract to clean the sewage of a remote place in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa, and called Phorwa Ded.

    The Malik and Babu in-charge of the PWD’s extramural work was in a very very rare pensive mood. Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji the Zamindar of Jhakkajhumar-Mithapur-Pargana, in a very rare instance of whiling away his time, was twiddling his thumbs, in his office at the PWD, as his eyes, as those of a buffalo very comfortably sunk very deep in a very cold pool of water, moved pointlessly and rather lazily and without any focus whatsoever, from one object to the other, displayed in his very spacious and comfortable office.

    He thought. Now I shall get rid of this very green pen-stand one of these days, and these horrible golden pens which never ever write, and, ah, oh yes these steel-grey note-sheets too.

    Now that this very prestigious of rewards had, at last, and, after almost four decades of ceaseless and, self-less service, had descended upon his department. For other than being the landlord of Jhakkajhumar-Mithapur-Pargana, he was also in-charge of this unit of the PWD. That is the Sewage Department.

    Phorwa Ded.

    What a very very very odd name for a place.

    He had to find out where it was located, as the babble of the employees in office-corridors had revealed only but the name of the city, Phorwa Ded, but not its location. He always had been a forward planner. He chimed the bell on his desk. Presently, a very obsequious attendant called Bichu Mal, poked his head in, with eyes agog with curiosity, which were already trying to predict, who it was that Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji would ask for, this time.

    "Call, Savitri. Savitri Devi, if you please, Bichu Mal.", said Rai Saheb, in his very usual terse manner.And then he returned to his brooding.

    Bichu Mal's ears popped-out of their sockets by about a mile. Seeing and fully convinced that this short and sharp communication was over, Bichu Mal, retreated a few steps and in his very usual manner very obsequiously drew the curtains to Rai Saheb's office to where they were and then turned a ninety degrees to his left and sped down the corridors of his office. Duty Ka Time Ho gaya.

    Savitri Devi. Savitri Devi, of all people in the office, Rai Saheb Chiraunji could have called, and calling whom, for Bichu, would have been a great pleasure.
     
    As he sped towards this Lower Division Clerk’s office, his very intelligent mind was afire. That good for nothing battle-axe, a complete virago, who did nothing all-day except knitting sweaters, and now and then, scrawling onto the steel-grey official note-sheets he supplied her with, with Chiraunji Das Ji's notes to her, her enormously illiterate of signatures. Seen Thanks. Kindly Sir. Yes, Sir. In most cases, though. What ever on earth for?

    ...........

    As Bichu Mal neared Savitri Devi's office, on the same floor as that of his Boss, he could already overhear, the cackle of mad laughter emanating from her office.

    "Hanh. Hanh. Bhai sahab. Aapne Kitnee Achee baat Kahee...Heee heee heee Heee Hee Hee. han to aur batayiye. gaon mein aur sab kuch kaisa hai?"

    Bhai Sahab. Evidently an Insurance Salesman hailing from her place of rural origins one Chausa-Himmatpur Tehsil had his face fully smeared in a completely self-confident and satiated smile. As Bichu Mal had to poke his head into Savitri Devi's office. And, deliver the missive, from their boss, Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji.
    "Bichu Ji. Aap do minute rukiye. Bhai Saheb hamare sambandhi hain aur hamare apne gaon se aaye hain. Main do minute mein aayi."

    Bichu Mal stood quietly outside her office taking a break now and over-hearing the conversation.

    Bhai Saheb, "Suna ahi, Behen Ji, ki aapke office ko Phorwa Ded main kontrakt mila hai...."

    Savitri Devi, "Hanh. kitnee achi baat hai. hai na?"

    Bhai Saheb, "Hai to sahi...heh, heh, heh...."

    Savitri Devi, 'Hanh. main to bhool hi gayi. Vahan to naye insurance policy ka bhi bahut skope hoga. Acha jara thahariye. main abhi aayi."

    .................

    As she neared her Boss's office, she took a moment to smarten-up, to erase the very sleepy look she always wore, and in a moment she wore the look of the brightest and the hardest working person in the world. The pride of the Bhitargaon-upon-Sone. A legend no less in her time.

    ......

    Then she knocked and entered Chiraunji Das Ji's office and with the correct deference due to him she greeted him and then took a seat across the table from Chiraunji Das.

    Savitri, "Good Afternoon, Sir. Apne mujhe bulwaya?"

    Chiraunji Das, 'Good Afternoon, Madam. Kripaya Baithiye."

    Savitri, "Congratulations, Sir. Itna bara kontrakt aap hi ke chalte to hamare department ko mila. Itihaas mein yeh to sabse apratyashit uplabhdiyon mein gina jaega.."

    Chiraunji Das, "Madam. Aap kripaya yeh batlaiye ki apki posting Phorwa Ded mein kar di jai?"

    Savitri, "Anh! Aap mujhe videsha bhejane ki baat kar rahen hain? Par main to kabhi videsha nahin gayee."

    Chiraunji Das, "Heh. Heh. Phorwa Ded aapko mubarak ho. Kripaya aaj hi prasthan karne ki taiyari shuru keejiye. Aapki yaatra pani ke jahaz se hogi. Yatra mein kam se kam ek aadh mahine jahaz par gujarne honge. Mein aasha karta hun ki aapki yatra sukhad hogi."

    As Savitri Devi sat pulverized by this most unexpected of offers, lost in her thoughts of madly crashing waves whippeting a tiny vessel in the Indian Ocean and then getting the better of it, the very much more experienced Chiraunji Das Ji extricated her from her frightening reverie of sorts with these words.

    "Savitri Ji. Ab aap apne kabin vapas ja sakti hain. Hanh voh latest clogged-sewer vali file jara jaldi se onward submission kar deejiye. Theek hai?"

    "Theek hai Sir. jaisa aap kahiye."

    ..................

    Savitri was very quick to retrace her very wobbly steps back to her cabin where Bhai Sahab sat very still like Buddha in meditation staring at a wall-calender which showed the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, lush green valleys abounding with flowers. New vistas for selling his insurance policies no doubt gripped his imagination.

    Savitri's sudden and a crashing sort of entry quite jarred him out of his meditation.

    Bhai Sahab, "Kya Hua Behen Ji. Kuch hua kya?"

    Savitri, "Are kya bataoon! Ek ajeeb si baat sunne ko mili.."

    Bhai Sahab, "Are kya hua, Behen Ji, kuch to bataiye. Aisee kya vipada aan padi? Sari samasyaon ka koi na koi vikalp to hota hi hai. Kinchit dam dhariye aur khul ke batayiye."

    Savitri, "Are Bhai Sahab. Sir mujhe phoren-trip par jane ko kehe rahe hain. Voh bhi panee ke jahaz se. Main marne se bahut hi darti hun, aur voh bhi hind mahasagar. Baap re Baap."

    Bhai Sahab, "Thahariye. Shant Ho Jayiye. Main Sab Kuch Samajh gaya."

    Savitri, 'Kya samajh gaye??? Kya Thahar Jayiye aur Shant ho jayiye..."

    Bhai Sahab, 'Aisa hai Behen Ji ki aapke office mein koi Albela bhi hai?"

    Savitri, 'Kya bak rahen hai aap. Albela. Ye office hai ya koi Film-Show?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Naheen Naheen Behen Ji. Mere Kehene ka matlab hai ki aapke office mein koi Albela naam ka aadmi hai? han?"

    Savitri, now a bit puzzled says, "Han. Aise hain to bohot log. Chunki Chachi, Chimchim Didi, Pinto Albela. Han. Mil gaya. Aap Pinto Albela ke bare mein puch rahe hain?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Heh, heh. Bilkul."

    Savitri, "Kyun. Aap hans kyu rahe hain?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Ab ayega uoont pahar ke niche."

    Savitri, "Matlab?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Sama, Dama, Danda, Bhed. Rajneeti."

    Savitri, "Rajneeti. Voh kya hota hai?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Rajneeti arthata Rajya Niti...apne kaam ko seedha karne to kahate hain."

    Savitri, "To ab kya kiya jaye?"

    Bhai Sahab, "Vahi To....Main Soch raha hun ki aap isi kaam main Pinto Albele ko phansa deejiye. Phir aap chutkiyon main Phorwa Ded jaisi jungli jagah ke, araam se hamare gaon ja sakengee..."

    Savitri Devi, "Are! Kamal. Yeh To Bahut Hi acha idea hai."

    She bites her nails vigorously for a minute.

    "Lekin, Pinto Aleble ko is kaam main phansaiya jaye to kaise? Yeh to apne suggest nahin kiya, Bhai Sahab! Jaldi kariye. Iske pahile ki mere jane ka order pass ho jaye."

    Bhai Sahab, "Aisa Kariyan. Jaldi se Chirauji Das ko ek ek ek....chota sa note likh deejiye.... Hmmmmmm...Ghantaghar ke pas das naye sewer aur bhi jam ho gaye hain...urgent meeting ij caalled phaar"
    Savitri, "Phir kya hoga? Ayen?"

    "Phir Pinto Bi Ayega us meeting main, aur phir ho jayega apki jeet ka khel shuru..."
    Savitri, "Voh kaise?"

    ............................

    Savitri, now quite convinced, dashes-off a note to Shri Chirauji Das Ji.

    Dear Sir,

    Kindly.

    I have just been informed through the line-men at the Ghantaghar Field-office that four sewers in that area are badly-clogged and the public is creating an outcry for their rapid clearing and un-blocking.

    Kindly.

    Thus, and therefore, it is my most humble request, Sir, that a staff meeting may kindly be journed.

    Needful may kindly be done.

    Thanking you.

    Savitri Devi
    (Lower Division Clerk)
    Sewer Clearing Division
    Privilege Works Department
    Municipal Department
    Bhitargaon-upon-Sone

    ...........................

    Bichu Mal was sitting in his rather broken and most uncomfortable chair in the department office staring at nothing in particular and thinking about nothing in particular. At the time he had joined his service he had been advised by gangly and old peons of this department and others that a peons job was not easy. That he would necessarily have to learn this state of mind. of doing nothing whatsoever for the most of a working day. That is what we get paid for the wise old peons had told him. Don't even try to read a book. The most unworthy clerks count that as wasting time, whilst on duty! However, if you learn to sit with a vacant look and an equally vacant mind that indicates to the clerks that you are waiting for orders and are therefore one who works with alacrity.

    Thus when the buzzer beeped and he looked up at the switch-board on the wall and surmised that it was Savitri Devi no less who was summoning his presence, he knew that another godforsaken grey-note-sheet with her most illiterate jottings needed to be purveyed from her office to Boss's.

    He plucked himself out of his reverie. Sighed. Then got-up and as was his style speeded toward Savitri's office.

    ................

    Bichu's guts turned absolutely bilious when he saw the selfsame grey sheet of notepaper which even an Indian Owl might have blinded himself looking at during the day or the night. A note written in green-ink? How strange, he thought. From whence, and why, did the battle-axe, perform this sleight of the mind? He quickly glanced at the matter noted in Savitri Devi's letter. Shock and Awe. Vallah! Another meeting. the Boss, Shri Chiraunji Das Ji had already made himself into a legend for the number of absolutely point-less meetings he had called in the past year. It seems he absolutely hated sitting alone in his chambers. Hence he would call a meeting of all the staff at the drop of a hat, whether anything significant had to be discussed or not was quite another issue. At least these meetings were a chance for some official gossip and banter. And, of course Chiraunji das Ji could assert hinself as the Boss, in these meetings, as he could not do as effectively by merely sitting in his office like the solitary reaper. But that was not what got Bichu Mal's goat. He had to fetch tea and samosa's for each and every meeting. That is what got his goat. He had seen the perfectly useless banter that went-on in these meetings and his bile turned that so much samosa and tea should be going down the gullets of these officers, so-called, who did absolutely nothing for the nation. And, of course, he had to walk all the way to the canteen with the thermos flask. Dreadful! What is the world coming to? Thought, Bichu, as he paced his steps swiftly toward Chiraunji Das's office.

    ...........................

    Such long years of service are not done for nothing. As Chiraunji Das Ji, the Boss of this section of the P.W.D., sat in his office, he had become a very good recognizer of foot-steps. he could without fail identify which of his employees was about to approach his rooms.

    In this instance too, he predicted this event of Bichu Mal's arrival quite accurately, and quickly opened a file and started poring into it. In a moment completely lost to work.

    ..........

    Bichu stood awhile outside the curtains and yet again his mind was quick to pick-up the anomaly that his Boss did not have a pen or pencil in his hand. Then he cast aside such subaltern thoughts. For there is a limit to how much material a human person may gather in a day which are of such type.

    As he stood outside the curtains he cleared his throat rather audibly to alert his Boss of his presence. And when Chiraunji das Ji finally looked up, Bichu walked smartly into his chambers and lay down this new note from Savitri Devi along the margins of his Boss's rather large desk. And then stood erect waiting for further orders.

    Chiraunji Das Ji, the Zamindar of Jhakkajhumar-Mithapur Pargana, took a royal five minutes to peruse this note. Then his cheeks spread into a wide grin. He looked-up at Bichu Mal and then reached for his golden office pen.

    He wrote very swiftly, in red ink. Pinto Albela. For Necessary Action. And then very slowly signed his initials and then put the date on it. Then he handed it to Bichu and said:

    "Yeh note Mr. Pinto Albela Ji ko de Aaiye. Shighratishighra."

    Bichu Mal, "Sir. Meeting Hai?"

    Chiraunji, "Hanh."

    ............................

    Pinto Albela, as was his custom, on any working day, at the P.W.D., was poring into his computer, using the Pc.Arc.Info program to look at the general spread of sewers in the town of Bhitargaon-Upon-Sone. It was his belief that it was technology which was the panacea for all our modern ills. So with the sewer-jams of Bhitargoan-upon-Sone.

    As was usual Bichu Mal took him by storm, as Pinto was just an underling and after-all Bichu was acting on orders received from high-ups. he marched into his office with the grey-note-sheet glanced at its contents once more before extending to Pinto Albela the peon-book into which Pintu had necessarily place his initials as evidence of the receipt of this new missive from his Boss. Pinto took a quick look at the letter, and then giving Bichu a look like any lamb being taken to slaugter, he quite resignedly placed his initials, on the right margin, of a very ancient looking Peon-Book.

    Then, having thanked him for bringing this most important of letters to him, he told Bihcu Mal to leave.
    Then he placed the letter on his table squarely before him and at a fair distance for him to give it a good read and to understand all its implications, before, as clearly instructed by his Boss, Shri Chiraunji Lal Ji, he would take the `necessary action'.

    .............

    Then, without further delay, he left his swivel chair, next to the computer, and slid out of his chambers, and into the PWDs, departmental office, which was the fountainhead of all such missives. This was the think-tank. Fifteen Hercules-like clerks occupied this office with separate filing cabinets, desks etc. They were named variously as: P.J. (or Poor Joker or Pucca Jallad) Singh, as previous office legend had it!), Vidhayak Singh, Manager Singh, Dhritarashtra Singh, Phulan Singh, Captain Singh, Colonel Singh, Vichitravirya Singh, Som Singh, Mangal Singh, Buddha Singh, Ajodhya Singh, Ramesar Singh, Kanchuki Singh, Mittha Singh and Khatta Singh. There were a few vacancies to be filled among them still and the PWD, particularly Pinto Albela, who took particular interest in names, waited with bated breath as to which sort of literary harvest that would usher-in. However, this sort of multiple-choice, of no less than fifteen choices, and but one or two correct answers, about which one of the Singh's he must share his curiosity, but mostly angst generated by these sorts of mindless missives, which always confounded his better judgement. As they say: truth is strange, stranger than fiction.

    In his off-time he had often wondered if all the employees of the P.W.D. that is the non-Peon, non-Clerical Grade, had like him, little expert systems like parts to their brains, which was really a means to a simulation model of the thinking process of each of the Singh's, and for that matter for that of his superiors and colleagues, process of reasoning. For that would make life very convenient. Instead of having to leave his office, and warm comfort of his swivel-chair and the motherly gaze of his computer, he could then just as well typed his reply to the letter from his Boss, his computer would instantaneously have locked the letter into feedback loops with the expert systems simulating all the clerks, his boss, the peons, his colleagues, and looking at the total output of feedback to his proposed input, he could have, just as well, in the comfort of his own office have decided which sort of input or letter to draft and put-up.

    And then there was a retired employee of the Privilege Works Department (hereafter the PWD) called Pagla Muneem. Really, this was a term of great endearment. The younger employees like Savitri Devi, Chunni Chachi, Chimchimi Di, and Pinto Albela both liked him great company for Pagla Muneem was a soothsayer of sorts. He had an uncanny narrative or the knack thereof. He could tell the most uncanny of administrative tales with a knack for narrating complete fibs or lies for complete truths. It was this knack of his, the potency of his narrative which both endeared him to the younger staff as well as earned him this title. However, this was used only behind his back. Otherwise, he was, Shri Arshad Hidayatullah Khan. Nawab of the Riyasat of Kampur. And therefore, in his free time, Pinto Albela who was much given to thinking and learning the secrets of Artificial Intelligence, using his office computer, very often wondered by what sort of chaine' operatoire the government of the day had plied his office, that is the Sewer Clearing Division, with all these most landed of gentries? What indeed, his mind had often asked, is the integral relation between the landed and the filth?
    However, and presently, and although he was very much used to such outlandish notes from his superior, there was this matter of this next confounded and most confusing note which he had to deal with. The subject - having to convene a meeting which he himself was not in any way empowered to do. Clearly then he badly was in need of a complex mesh of advice. Which is why he had walked into the clerical office, encountered Shri Pagla Muneem Ji. And now a fateful choice confronted him much as the proverbial horns of the dilemma: to use the Pagla Muneem's single-window counsel; or to spread it thin with all the fifteen or so Singhs and be none the wiser, as his past experience of fifteen years of service at the PWD had taught him? Savitri, he could sense was already planning her next maneuver while he was still a pace behind, thinking the thoughts he most enjoyed, that is his penchant for seeing a non-existent silver-lining to the clouds. Time was most certainly not on his side. The maths was very simple then, it had to be Muneem Ji, who he would speak with. So he tapped gently on his shoulder until Muneem Ji looked around and up and located the source of that body-signal so common in this part of India.

    "Ah. Pinto Bete. Kaise Ho?"

    "Bas. Sir, chal raha hai..."

    "Bas? Kuch Chal bhi raha hai? Aur chal raha hai to kya chal raha hai?"

    "Vahi Sir. Jam pe Jam!"

    "Jam! Kaisa Jam?"

    Pinto Albela already relaxing quantitatively from this euphoric sort of conversation, "Vah Vah, Sir. Suna naheen hai...Yeh Jam Masatani, Madhosh Kiye Jaye...?"

    Ageing, but quite aware of the use of modulated language and the wondrous and very healthy outcomes thereof, the Pagla Muneem was not one to be left behind in partaking of the very pleasurable outputs, of the verbal cures he had administered to the greatest positive and resounding effect to countless people several times in the past, "Mujhe Dore Koyee Kheeche, Teri Ore Liye Jai...!"

    .................

    Muneem Ji is quite convinced that Pinto Albela, his junior colleague of several years, has not as yet unburdened his tale of woe, as plainly as he had done in the past, so that the Muneem's cure could not have been as effective as the Muneem liked it to be.

    "Achcha Pinto Bete!"

    "Jee, Sir?"

    "Ek Baat Puchoon?"

    "Jee, Sir!"

    "What is your problem?"

    "Sir. Is department mein mere khilaf sazishon ka ambar sa lag rakha hai. Kisiko kuch aur kaam naheen sujhata, to bas mere khilaf ek sazish kar ke unke dil ko kadachit aseem tassly mil jatee hai..."
    "Bete, to usme harz kya hai, ayen?"

    "Huzoor, ye ab Maurya Samrajya ka yug naheen raha jahan Kautilya kehete hain ki Saam Daam Danda Bhed se he kisi Rajya ka Sahi Sanchalan ho sakta hai. Hum log protestant work ethic vale hain.."

    "Protestant Work Ethic? Ye Kya Balaa Hoti Hai, Ayen?"

    "Nishkaam Karma, Aur Kya."

    "Bas. bas. Samaj Gaya. Kabhi Surdas Ji Ko Is Vishaya Par Sunaa hai?

    "Unki Kaun Si Ukti, Sir? Aapka ingit kidhar hai, Sir?"

    "Khar ko Kahan Aargaja Lepan, Markat Bhushan Ang, Surdas Khal Kaali Kamria Chadat Na Dujo Rang."

    "Achcha Voh! heh, heh, heh. Iska yahan kya sandarbh hai, Sir, jara yeh puchoon main, Sir?"

    "Han. han. Kyun Naheen. Abhi Batlata Hoon."

    This is when Shri Vichitravirya Singh, the Head-Clerk, who had been listening ever so patiently until now, intervened.

    "Khudi Ko Kar Bulund Itna Ki Har Takdeer Se Pehle Khuda Bande Se Khud Puche Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai."
    Pagla Muneem, "Vah. Vah, Vichitra Singh Ji. Apne to mano Sone Main Sungandh Bhar Di. Kya Baat Hai. Kya Baat Hai."

    And then as our interlocutors were still in a world full of metaphysics and epistemology, Bichu Mal entered with a most triumphant smile, and announced:

    "Saab Koyee Chaliye. Head Sahab Ne Kaha Hai Ki Meeting Ka Time Ho Gaya..."

    ..................

    The hum of the air-conditioners in the central meeting room of the PWD was the most prominent sound and this room was now home to some fifty employees of the PWD, for an undisclosed period of time. This included the clerks too, and the occasional visiting retired employees. Bichu Mal entered the room, much before the arrival of Rai saheb Chirauji Das Ji, and gave the assembled workers a general sort of look, and then very quickly started distributing writing-pads and pencils.

    .................

    Then adopting a very royal-gait, Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji entered the conference room. he walked straight to his chair at the head of the table and therefore the conference room and sat down.

    "Bhaiyon Aur Aur Behenon. Apar harsh ki suchna hai ki is meeting mein hum anya vishyon ki vivechana karne ke saath-saath hi yeh bhi nirnaya karne ke liye ekatrit huye hain, ki hum mein se voh kaun sabse lucky person hai, jise Phorwa Ded ki posting par bhejana uchit hoga. Madam Savitri Ji aap kripaya apne khayal hamare samaksh prastut karne ki kripa karen. Savitri Ji?"

    Savitri, "Sir, Shri Pinto Albela Ji bahut achi angrezi main bolte hain."

    Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji, "Acha? Yeh to hamare vibhag ke liye bahut Acha hai...Pinto Ji, Jara Yeh Bataiye ki aaj-kal aap kis vishaya ya samsya par karya kar rahe hain?"

    Pinto, "Sir. Artificial Intelligence Approach to the Sewer problem of Bhitargaon-upon-Sone."

    Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji, "Vah. Yeh to hamare vibhag ke liye bahut hi Garv ka vishaya hai. Aapko badhaeeyan. Lekin jara yeh batane ka kasht karen ki is approach se yeh jo vastavikta hai...matlab hamare shahar Bhitargaon-upon-Sone...ki sewerage aur sewer system ki vastavik samasyen kya vakayee saalve ho jayengee?"
    And then a cheerful and absolutely elated hush fell upon the assembled employees of the PWD Department. Quick and absolutely furtive looks of glee were quickly exchanged as Pinto Albela fretted and sweated a bit. Glanced around the hall and could not detect a single pair of eyes which would be called even remotely sympathetic, even in the remotest sort of way. he pondered over the sort of simple answer which would save his face.
    Meanwhile, Bichu Mal walked in with steaming hot tea, pakoras, and ladoos for everybody.

    As Pinto Albela partook of all these very very nice eats and drinks he mind was still racing to find a suitable answer to this very calculated move made by his associates through the medium of their Boss Rai Saheb Chiraunji Das Ji.

    ...................

    "Sir, Sir. Choke Points Aur Aur Sluice gates!!!"

    "Choke points aur aur Sluice gates!? Yeh kaisa Jawab hai? Hain? Choke points aur aur sluice gates ko ya ka, kya?!"

    "Sir, main yeh kahane ki ki ki koshish kar raha hoon ki artificial intelligence ke dwara hum in dono choke point aur aur aur sluice gates to yeheen baithe-baithe operate kar sakte hain."

    "Pinto Jee. Isi Kaanference Haaal Se? Tanik gabharayiye kam aur boliye zyada!"

    "Jee hahn Sir...ekdum yaheen se."

    "Vah! Tab to Phorwa Ded jane ke liye aapse uttam pratibhagee aur kaun ho sakta hai."

    Then Shri Arshad Hidayatullah Khan, Nawab of the Riyasat of Kampur, who had been a most silent spectator to the proceedings until now suddenly interjected.

    "Lekin Bete Chiraunji. Iski theory abhi tak to matra drawing-board pe hai?"

    Chiraunji Das, "Sir. To Kya Hua. It is well said that the It iz Aaal in The Mind! Kaam to voh kar heee legaaa! Kyon Pinto?"
    Pinto Albela, "heh. heh. Sirjee, jab aap ne swayam yeh nischit kar hi liya hai, to hum is satya ko kaise nakaar sakte hain?"
    Nawab Sahab was taken by total and quite an unprecedented surprise at this strangest and swiftest of compromises he had ever seen.

    "Wah. Wah. Kya Baat hai. Sach Kaha Gaya Hai Kee Every Inaction Has an Equal and Opposite Inaction to it."
    "Hah. Apko Ab Yeh Pata Chal Raha hai, Bhai Sahab?" Said the Insurance Salesman who was also included in this formal and informal meeting of the P.W.D.

    "Hamare Saare Insurance Policy Ka Khel To Isee Principal Pe Tika Hua Hai. Hah Hah Hah!"

    Rai Sahab Chiraunji Das Ji, the Zaminadar of Bhitargaon-Upon-Sone, then spoke with a conviviality which was also suggestive of a decision in the making, "Okay Friends. Then the decision, in the context of finding an employee, suitable for the purpose, of posting to Phorwa Ded, to repair the sewage systems there, shall we say, and in a manner of speaking, should now be finally declared?"

    "Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Yes Sir!", the members of this meeting chimed in unison.

    Chiraunji Das, "Achcha...Aap logon Ne Bada Jaldi Apne Minds Ko Make-Up Kar Liya!!! Are Wahan Jane Ke Liye Paise Kahan Se Ayenge? Pinto Jayenge Ya Minto, Ayen?"

    Savitri, "Sir, Sir! Paise To Sarkar Degee Na?"

    Chiraunji Das, "Kis Department Se? Jara us se sambamdhit file ko mere samne rakhiye tab to baat aage badhegee?"

    Savitri Devi then looked at Bichu Mal for that slight second, and just as Bichu Mal caught her icy glare, he turned in a split-second and was out of the meeting-room, like an arrow shot from a very large and sturdy bow, and then it was clear to all those present there, that he, that is Bichu Mal, after-all did leave to fetch the relevant file.

    Meanwhile, the air-conditioners of this most well-lit meeting room hummed very pleasantly and the other employees...chit-chatted in low tones revelling in the entirely hidden and collectively camouflaged glee that their very own meritocratic Mr. Pinto Albela was now sure to be skewered again by the management. Yet again, because it was an open secret that their management avowed fully their very old policy of skewering for administrative lapses only of those employees of theirs who could be thus skewered, and had thus repeatedly been skewered in the past. The privilego-crats had to be left well alone. For they, the privilegocrats did no more than affixing their signatures to the most limp or limpest of letters, which would cause no controversy, and would thus not rock any boats any which way. The younger and the newer recruits were quick to learn this thumb rule for their survival and to make full use of it to their great advantage. Talk a lot about Parivartan, engage full-sale in corridor lumpenism, and board-room politics, which is to heckle and browbeat all and sundry, sign the attendance register, do a minimum of the non-controversial work, be making good investments in land and in property, take the full advantage of the L.T.C. the Overtime and the H.R.A. etc., and in turn be completely servile towards Chiraunji Das Ji.

    Yes, this last was the mandatory condition extended by the management to all would be sycophants: Don't Work and Don't Ask Us to Work! There were other precepts too.

    If you were a proclaimed sycophant then you may please feel free to disappear completely or periodically from the corridors of this department, and from their private chambers, for weeks at a time, or indeed months at a time, with no fear or worry about being asked uneasy questions by your colleagues.

    Be sure to be placed on and included in all the committees which were existing more or less only on paper, however, as that would bring extra-points to the sycophants for their annual assessment, it was expected that they would comply. Never mind that the workers as a whole would be completely foxed as to when where and how had these committees been formed and why were their names not on it. Even if they actually were completely effete, a semblance of Pardarshita was expected in a democratic setup. Pardarshita, however, had long since become as redundant a phrase a Baten Kam Kaam Jyada!

    These were a few time-tested formulas for survival within the P.W.D.

    One last thing, they were also the mafia which carried-out all of Chiraunji Das Ji's witch-hunts, most of which, as per the management's resolution, were to be aimed at the meritocracy.

    .......

    Bichu Mal nearly collided into a handful of the Baboos of that office's filing department as they were busy making a feast of some Murhi and Chana, as the meeting within the boardroom seemed to be shaping into one which would extend for a while longer than the usual ones. Struck squarely by an icey missile from Savitri Devi's permafrost bow, which really meant that she would no longer fork-out the usual twenty rupees per day to him, on the sly, for some knick-knacks, a visibly shaken Bichu entered the filing office on the run and rammed into Vichitravirya Singh spilling all his chana-murhi onto the floor.

    "Arey. Kya kar rahe ho Bichu. Ye kya tehzeeb hai?", hollered Vichitravirya.

    "Sir, Pinto ka file Sir manng rahe hain", he said with a twinkle in his eyes and glee writ large upon his face.

    "Hanh. So theek hai. Lekin iska matlab prthivi ka ant to nahi hai, ayen? Chalo mera murhi-chana uthao. Abhi, turat, jhapat ke. Nahin to main tumhe hi lunch ke liye khaa jaoonga."

    "Sir, gira hua naheeen khate hain. Main aapko naya la doonga. Sir, lekin pehle jara voh file to ho jaye. Meeting room main pahuncha ke main chana-murhi lene chala jaoonga."

    "Theek hai, Theek hai. Yeh lo uske sare karnaamon ki puree file! Bahut Tey Tey Karta Hai. Iska koi proper bandobast ho tab na. File to iski hajar baar palti jaa chuki hai. Nuks to isme ek hajar hain, lekin jab voh daleel pe daleel dene lagta hai to Sir Jee file ko patak dete hain."

    "Kyun Sir? Ye Batayen ki isme koi objection-vobjection hai ki naheen?"

    "Objection. Objection. Objection. Kam se kam teen lakh! Jab is sasure ka appointment hua usi vakhta ek senior member ne yeh objection lagaya tha ki isko to Sewage ke bare mein kuch aata hi naheen hai, to iska appointment is department meain awwal hua kaise tha."

    "Kya?"

    "hanh. lekin is sasure ne aisi daleel di ki sab kiye karaye par pani phir gaya."

    "Kya daleel di, Sir?"

    "Isne kaha ki iska appointment uske computer-merit par hua hai. Jab ek computer das logon ke barabar kaam kar sakta hai, to is ground par use to rakhna hi chahiye, aur saath saath is department se das purane logon ko nikala de dena chahiye."

    "Phir kya hua, Sir?"

    "Phir kya. Chiraunji Das Ji ne use adjust karna hi para aur uska parinaam hum aaj tak bhugat rahe hain..."
    "Kya Parinam, Sir?"

    .......

    Even as this last minute briefing of Bichu Mal was afoot, Dulari Srivastava, a Senior Sewage Officer of this Privilege Works Department, and seeing the lull in the board-room, and having studied each of her quarries, including Chiraunji Das Ji, very carefully over the past half-hour or so, decided to intervene, with a few ideas of her own.

    "Sir", she now addressed Chiraunji, "Main Ek Sawal Puch Sakti Hoon?"

    "Ha.Ha.Ha.Ha. Of course!", said Chiraunji Das Ji, who was no newcomer to sudden developments in a meeting.

    "Kahiye. Jo Jee Mein Aaye Kahiye. Bharat aaj swatantra hain na?"

    "Thank you, Sir. Main soch rahi thi ki foreign travel sambandhit rule and regulation talika bhi mangayi jaye!"
    "Acha?" said a visibly surprised Chirauji. "Us Se Kya Hoga?"

    "Nahin Sir. Aise hi soch rahi thi ki...kahin isne French Leave to Nahin Mara Hai...Samjha Gaye Sir!?"

    The Pagla Muneem was quick to intervene.

    "Bete Chiraunji Das. Tumne Elias Canetti drvara rachit pustak Crowds and Power ka adhyayan kiya hai, ayen?"
    Two most fundamental questions: one academic the other administrative, both one after the other.

    Chiraunji Das Ji's brain was quick to super heat. He took a quick hit from a bottle of Bisleri which bore the name Rail Neer. Wiped his very expansive face and a very much verdant mustache and then he smiled at the assembled gathering.

    "Hanh.", he said.

    "Achcha! Usme aapko kya achcha laga. Jara main aapse yeh poochoon."

    "Yehi Sir. Main Hoon Aur Samne Logon Ki Bheed Hai. Main Hoon aur Samne Logon Ki Bheed Hai. Phir Main Kuch Unse Kahata Hoon. Tarah Tarah Ki Cheezen. Tarah Tarah Ki Cheezen. Aur Phir Meri Jayjaykaar...Prachand."

    Pagla Muneem, "Hanh. To Phir Uske Baad Kya Hota Hai?"

    Even as Chiraunjidas Ji could drift further and deeper into this sublime narrative, Bhogendra Sondhi, another employee of the PWD, and as one belonging to Chiraunji's favoured coterie of workers in that office, decided to intervene. Addressing the Nawab of Kampur, he said:

    "Sir. Main ek baat kahoon..."

    "Hanh Beta, Bolo..."

    "Sir, Sir, Rai Sahab ne mujh se kayee baar is dristanth ka zikr kiya hai. Isi liye unkee jagah par main unke andaz ka bayan de sakta hoon. Heh.Heh. Aapkee agya ho to, Sir?"

    "Hanh Bete Bhogender Sondhi Ji, please boliye kee uske aage kya kaha Rai Sahab Ne? Kya hai voh drishtanth?"
    Mr. Sondhi, "Sir, arthat Nawab Sahab Ji Sir, Chiraunji Sir Ji kee yeh soch hai, ki sirf Bhitargaon mein hee naheen, apitu sarvatra, arthat sare vishwa mein, arthat sare vishwa kee nalee vyavastha durust ho jaye. Yehi chinta aur usase jude din aur ratri ke swapnon mein, voh khoye khoye se rahte hain. Yehi voh dristanth hai."
    Pagla Muneem, "Acha. To hame isase kya seekh miltee hai? Ayen?"

    As a sudden chill crawled up Chiraunji Das Ji's spine, and as he was no newcomer to such chills, he launched a sudden query of his own at his senior-former colleague, the Nawab of Kampur.

    "Sir, Aapbhi aajkal kuch likh padh rahe hain, ayen?"

    "Jee hanh. Baudhik Bauono Ka Rahasya. Yeh ek kahani hai jo main aaj kal likh raha hoon. The Secret of the Intellectual Midgets."

    "Sir, kya mein pooch sakta hun ki is kisse ka kya dristant hai?"

    "Ek Aisa Shahar hai jiska naam Baunapur hai aur voh is liye kee vahan sare ke sare bahudhik baune hee paye jate hain. Ek din jo ek bauno ka mukhiya tha, aur unpar raj karta tha, jab use yeh mahsoos hua, ki Baunapur ke karobaro se aaj-kal amdani kuch khas achi nahee lag rahee hai, tab usne apne baune anuyayion se, aur behetar kamyee karwane ki ek achi tarkeeb sochee...Usne ek naya firman zaree kiya ke adhinast Baune, sare ke sare, ab Baunapur ki seemaon par ye nigrani sthatha rakhenge ki baunapur ke khestra main koi bhi, matlab ek bhi nahin, lambe kad ka shakhs pravesh na kar paye...Rajya main tab kuhraam mach gaya...Raja Ji, Raja Ji...yeh apne kaisa firman zaree kar diya...Maharaj Ji is se to hamari sari rozy-roty ko khatara ho jayega gar koyi bahut hi lambe kad ka admi ya aurat hamare is shahar Baunapur ki sarhadon mein chupke-chupke pravesh kar Jaye, Maharaj...Raham, Raham...!"

    Unki cheekh-pukar se antatogatva paseej kar unke mukhiya ne tab kaha, "Aiye mere Bauno. Ab tanik dyhan se suno. Rajya, Kisee bhi Rajya ka karobaar uski arthik kamaiyon se hi chalta hai...itna to samasta vishwa main is time par, ya is time ke andar... sarvavidit aalready hai...Hah...heh heh...heee...hee...hee..heeeeeheeeheee...hee!"

    Tatkaal hi sare ke sare us rajya ke sare ke sare bauone achanak hi jor jor se attahaas karne lage. Arthata hanse pade, arthata hanse hi naheen apitu jor jor se hoho he he hee hee...arthat khoob jor jor se attahaas karne lage. Tabhi achanak...ek bauna aise bola, "Maharaj, kripaya hame yeh batane ki kripa keejiye ki aakhir Lambe kad ke logon ko aapke rajya mein ghusne se rok kar akhirkar rajya ki aarthik vyavastha kaise sudhregi?...Magar, agar hum unse kuch jyada hi kar vasooly kar le to shayad ye arthik aapada jiska aap zikr kar rahe hain voh...voh kat jayegi?"

    Tab Baunon ka Mukhiya, jo unka Raja bhi tha, ek gaharee soch mein pad gaya. Lekin Subuddhi namak us baune ke sujhaw mein koyee bhi nuks naheen hone ke karan, usne tatkaal hee uske sujhao par apnee razamandee de dee! tab ja kar baunapur ki yah sabha khatm ho gayee aur sare ke sare baune apne apne gharon ko khelte kudate laut gaye. tatpaschaat Raja ne samast baunapur mein apnee nayee soch ki munadee kar va dee.

    Ek din.."

    Savitri Devi, "Sir yeh kahanee nischit hee un me se hai jo matra ek kahanee nahin parantu kahanee main kahanee, kahanee main kahanee, kahanee main kahani...valee kahani lagti hai, Sir."

    Chiraunji Das Ji, "To. Usse Kya Fark Padata Hai, Madam. Kinchit Hame Samjhaiye."

    Savitri, "Sir. Heh. Heh. Heh. Sara mamala to is Pinto ke posting ka hai na Sir. Heh. Heh. heh."
    Chiraunji, "Ayen? To iska matlab ye hai ki Nawab Sahab kee kahanee ka saar aap abhee tak naheen samajh payeen. heh.Heh. heh."

    Savitri, "Nahin Sir"

    Chiraunji Das Ji, "Hah, ha. Mujhe pata tha. Dekhiye iska saar ye tha kee ye government service hai. Hain ki Nahin?"
    Savitri Devi, "Ji Hai to Sir, Magar..."

    Chiraunji, "Agar Magar Kuch bhi nahin yahan sab kuch seniority se hota hai aur hota rahega...aur sach poocha jaye to sabse senior main hi hoon. Hoon Na?"

    Savitri Devi, "Acha! Bahut Acha! Ab us Pinto Ke Bachche ko bhee pata chalega kee government service mein ho kar videsha yatra karna bachchon ka khel nahin hai...Sir." She then clapped her hands madly full of joy for a full fifteen minutes, that is if Chiraunjee Das Jee had not intervened with a timely glare of his eyes. "Pata hai Sir Jee," her excitement unabated and disregarding now her very much senior's glare or no glare, "Upar hi upar to voh dikha raha tha ki ye uske liye uske gale kee bedee hai...magar luk-cheep ke...aur aur apne man hee man mein voh jana chahta tha..."
     
    Chiraunji, "Madam. Kripya Dhyan Aur Kadachit Kuch Shantee Bhee Banaye Rakhne Ki Kripa Keejiye...Borad Meeting Abhi Chaloo Hai aur 'Voh Pinto Ka Bachcha" Jise aap kah raheen hain voh theek aapke hee bagal main biathe huye hain! Service rules bhang ho jayegee to aapke bhee confidential par aafat Aa Saktee Hai...Bcaz Rules Are Rules, Isn't It? Tanik Aur Dhairya Rakhen us Pinto Ke bachche Ko Hum Kaheen Na Kheen aur Kabhee na Kabhee Jaroor Dekh Loonga!"
     
    Savitri Devi, "Heen heen hee...Sir Videsha Yatra Kar Lijeye Pehele...Uske Baad, Theek Hai Sir?"
     
    Chiraunji Das Ji, "Theek!"
     
    (Contd.)

    ...............

    Thank you,

    Ajay

  • Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

    Dear Readers,

    It has been a most usual sort of year for bloggers, with very little happening, except for work, of this and other sorts! However, and since like most years, since 2007, when we set-up, 2014 is also waning, and hence this little-note! Please make it convenient to consult www.academic.edu perchance, you might wish to see my academic sort of writing.

    Thank you.

    Ajay

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