A ‘Happy’ Anniversary indeed!
That was Mr A on the phone and then it was Mr X and then Mr Y and then Mr Z,” he reeled off the names of a few cabinet ministers.
I would have forgotten that the anniversary of the Great Flood that submerged almost all of the Srinagar city last year was coming had I not met this middle-rung-bureaucrat a couple of days back. The middle-rung-bureaucrat happens to be a brother-in-law of my friend's brother's brother-in-law which is quite a close relationship if the person in question happens to be well placed in the state official machinery. I met this fellow near a famed bakery outlet in Srinagar. He was talking on phone when I greeted him and the good fellow held my hand while he continued his conversation on the phone and then attended four more calls.
"That was Mr A on the phone and then it was Mr X and then Mr Y and then Mr Z," he reeled off the names of a few cabinet ministers.
Duly impressed I said, "You must be working on some really important project."
The middle-rung-bureaucrat said in a confidential whisper, "It is this celebration of the first anniversary of last year's devastating flood."
"So the authorities are celebrating the anniversary in a big way? How are they going about it?" I said.
"Well," the middle-rung-bureaucrat's brow furrowed into a score of creases, "I don't really know. There are several proposals that are being worked out but there's nothing final as yet."
"Like?" I said not able to suppress my curiosity.
The middle-rung-bureaucrat puffed up his chest and said, "Can't divulge official secrets you see." Then probably seeing the disappointment on my face he laughed and slapping my back said, "But then you are a buddy so I can tell you in confidence.
"Initially there was this proposal of filling the stadium with water so that we could have a flood parade to be inspected from a circling chopper. Initial work on the stadium was done which included water-proofing of the stadium walls so that the water stays in. The cost ran into several crores but once we attempted to fill in the stadium with water it just leaked out. The proposal was quietly shelved to avoid a scandal.
"Then there was this idea about the public representatives staging a reality show on the river Jhelum itself which would be beamed live all over the country. The ruling parties would play the 'rescuers' and the opposition would be in the water thrashing about and waiting for the 'rescue'. The opposition members, who are always scuttling the ruling parties' sincere efforts, however refused to be the 'drowning side'. And they claim to represent the people who have suffered the floods in reality!"
I murmured appropriate comments.
"Then of course there will be speeches by 'leaders' in which they will speak of their own sacrifices during the flood including the supreme sacrifice of leaving the comfort of their homes and taking the first plane out so that they remain alive for their people, to pray for all those who died in the deluge and come back to comfort those who survived. A list of promises will be issued on the occasion and it has been decided that the promises will be a yearly affair.
"There will be an award ceremony to felicitate the never-say-die spirit of the local people. The awardees include this engineer who had only two houses before the flood but within a year' span has managed to add four more and a flat in Delhi too. There is also this minor official responsible for distribution of free rations whose zeal has earned him the pleasure of not only his superior officers but also of the Lord Almighty who in some mysterious way has bestowed the resourceful guy with a fleet of trucks within a year after the floods."
"What about the common man?" I asked him.
"There are going to be quite a few announcements for the public on the occasion," he said emphatically.
"All the districts of the state will get one boat each. The embankments of the river Jhelum will be raised by at least two and a half inches. A program will be launched to educate people about throwing their garbage on the river embankments rather than into the river itself so that the embankments and not the river bed are raised. The center will be asked to augment the security forces in the state by sending the Navy as well. Moreover, pictures and videos of the flood will be showcased in various states of the country as well as abroad to promote Kashmir as the ultimate adventure tourism destination."
At that moment our conversation was interrupted by a salesman of the bakery shop, "Sir, your order is ready," he respectfully informed my illustrious acquaintance.
"Come with me," the middle-rung-bureaucrat wrapped his arm around my shoulders, "I will show you something."
Inside the shop there was this huge cake covering the whole of a big table. Last year's flood had been showcased beautifully on the cake's icing along with ornate lettering in purple jam which read 'Happy Birthday Great Flood!' in three languages.
"That's 100 pounds of cake and the 'design' on top is from a celebrated French landscape artist. Cost a fortune in fees!"
"What will they do with all this cake?" I said.
"Why of course the cake will be cut on Sailaab Jayanti and the slices distributed among the flood affected as relief!"
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