If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Change in the air?

In the long-distance state transport bus my seat was behind the conductor’s. As it hit the highway, I tapped the conductor on the shoulder and asked him to stop in front of the college where I work three days a week. I always do that and fall asleep for the remaining two hours of the journey.

‘Do you teach there?’ Asked the conductor.

‘Yes, I do.’

‘Sir, please take this seat.’ So saying, he moved away from the window seat next to the door and offered the place of honour to me. It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t say no.

My father often quoted a Sanskrit adage: Swadeshe pujyate raja, vidwan sarvatra pujyate. The king is worshipped in his own kingdom, but the scholar is revered everywhere. It was dad’s way of inspiring me to take studies seriously. Values have changed since I was a child. One’s worth no longer depends on how much knowledge one has, but on how much one has in bank. But the delusion that teachers are scholars has survived. The bus conductor obviously believes both.

‘Sir, what time do you return?’

‘Shortly after five thirty in the evening.’

‘While returning, I should reach the college around that time. Please note my phone number. When you are free, give me a call and check where I am. You know, buses don’t sometimes stop at that place.’

I was amazed. In West Bengal, you are delighted if government employees do what they are paid to do. Extension of such courtesies is unheard of. As I called his number to save it, I came to know his name is Tridib Datta. An enlightening conversation followed.

I asked, ‘How are the long-distance routes doing? I heard they are profitable?’

‘That depends on how we run them. We have screwed up the corporation. People used to run buses when they felt like. But things are changing.’

Well, the flavour of the season in West Bengal is parivantan, change. We have just shown the door to a supremely inefficient, corrupt and self-serving regime and brought in a brand-new yet-to-be-tested government. I got interested.

‘What exactly is changing?’

‘You know, drivers and conductors would take buses on long routes. Instead of coming back the next day, they would take a day off and return the next day. No one would question. Such things have stopped.’


‘Yes. We get fat pay packets these days. We have no excuse not to do our work.’

‘It is a pleasure meeting you, Tridib Babu, but do many of your colleagues share your views? Is it becoming the norm?’

‘I have just heard this from a colleague in CTC (Calcutta Tramways Company). A conductor had been promoted to the officer’s cadre. Over time, he became a key man. No purchase order would go out without his approval. Last week, he was handed back his conductor’s bag. His promotion had been illegal. He is trying to protest, but he can’t escape.’

Later, in the evening, my phone rang while I was packing up. It was Tridib Babu. He called up to check if I had finished.

Those who write on current affairs like I do, have written thousands of articles on how incorrigibly evil government servants are. Through this true story, I salute a wonderful government employee and a fine gentleman. He gives us hope that things might actually change!

Saturday, 03 September 2011


  1. Dear Santanuda,

    Your post certainly instills hope and confidence in the mind of the reader.

    I appreciate your effort to highlight the fact that not all government employees are like the one that we always believe them to be. There surely are a few good men around. I sincerely hope that their count increases every day.
    Though I am not sure really if at all the new government is making any 'actual' change in the way the government and its employees work. Most of its actions have been more of a 'gimmick' to me.

    Probably it is too early to judge. Over three decades of absolute anarchy cannot be changed in three months. But does the new government really have capable men leading from the front to do it? I am sorry but I have serious doubts...

    But for the moment let’s applaud people like Tridib Babu and encourage them in their honest and sincere endeavours.



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  3. thakns for sharing such a wonderful experience of your's with us sir!
    like any common citizen i also feel that people like "tridib babu" come forward and show the way....and really make the "parivartan" justified n satisfying....
    so that after a few more years down the the lane....we can look back n say.....20110 the year of Bengal renaissance....

    2nd year,ELECTRICAL DEPT.

  4. Thanks, Anirban and Deepayan.

    Anirban, I share your apprehensions about the new government. But as Alexander Pope said, Hope springs eternal in the human breast ….

    Let us salute Tridib Babu for now. Time will tell if he is alone or part of a pattern.

    Deepayan, I am delighted that you like my story.

  5. Santanu, I have noticed that there is another "motivating factor" which is contributing to "lazy" employees pepping up. It is the influence of their children and wards of Gen-Y. A vast majority of the young men and women are ambitious about their career, and work hard, very hard. I have found this factor unwittingly rubbing off on their parents, relatives, neighbours and friends. The average Indian now works much more than he used to, say, 20-30 years back. I think we are moving towards the optimum level now. There is a risk of overdoing it and tipping over like the Japanese, though. I am convinced that India has a future - Netas and Babus notwithstanding.

  6. This is new thought for me, although I did notice what you said about Gen-Y. They are indeed a lot more focused and hard-working than their parents. If they are also influencing their parents in a positive way, it would be great. I'll try to study this aspect.


I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.