"Half of the government departments in this place are headless and are looked after by someone who has been given an 'additional charge'. This trend is really spoiling our institutions," my friend uttered these words while he and some other friends of mine were having a discussion during our get-together recently. I was not interested in the discussion so I just sat there listening absently, busy with my own thoughts. Little did I imagine at the time that I would recall these words some days later as I did when this incident about Mir sa'ab occurred.
Mir sa'ab, a senior employee in our office, belongs to the now almost extinct class of employees who believe in being regular and punctual about their duties. In fact he is so punctual that one can accurately set one's watch by his arrival in the office. That's why everybody was surprised as well as worried when one day Mir sa'ab was not to be seen well beyond his usual reporting time. Now it was unthinkable that he would remain absent without any information and a proper leave. With this background it is easy to understand why Mir sa'ab absence became the 'breaking news' in our office that day. In fact the matter was still being enthusiastically discussed when Mir sa'ab entered the office exactly two hours later than the official reporting time, embarrassment evident on his face. The office folk immediately surrounded him and made solicitous enquiries about his absence.
"I just got held up," Mir sa'ab mumbled sheepishly and asked for a piece of paper, "I will put in a first half day leave."
His colleagues protested that it was not required (because of course for them coming late is a routine affair!) but he went on to write it. He was writing the leave when the Boss summoned him to his office.
I was there when an apologetic Mir sa'ab presented himself in Boss's office. "Sir I am sorry I was late today…" he started explaining but Boss waved him to a chair and interrupted him saying,
"It is alright Mir sa'ab. We all know you for the punctual employee that you are. It is just that everybody was worried whether you are alright. In fact I was thinking of sending someone to your home to check." Mir sa'ab lives by old-fashioned ways and shuns the appurtenances of modern living and that's why he never equipped himself with a mobile phone.
"I am sorry sir! It is just that I…er…overslept today," a red faced Mir sa'ab explained.
Boss laughed heartily, "You make it sound like a calamity! But then of course it might appear like that to you. As for mere mortals like me it is a routine especially in these cold wintery days. The warm blanket hugs you and refuses to let go!"
"Actually I always wake up when the muezzin (a person who recites Azan the muslim call for prayers) calls for the morning prayer but today I did not hear him…"
"Happens! You must have been in deep sleep," Boss said with a smile and a shrug.
"No sir! Initially I too thought that I must have missed the call but then it turned out that the muezzin hadn't called out the Azan," Mir sa'ab explained.
"Now that's strange!"
"When I woke up it was already past morning. I leaned out of my bedroom window and immediately ducked back in because a few of my mosque companions were standing in the lane outside. You see I was ashamed to face them in my just-woken-up state. But they must have seen me for one of them called out, 'Mir sa'ab no need to feel abashed for all of us are in the same boat today! We too woke up late today and we missed the prayers in the mosque. I am sure you are also thinking like us that only you did not hear the muezzin but the fact is that there was no Azan today!'
"'Really,' I asked them, 'but why?'"
"'That's what we are going to find out. Come join us if you will,' one of the fellows said. I hurriedly made ablutions and joined them. Once we reached the mosque we found Moulvi sa'ab almost in a state of collapse! We thought he was sick but then when we talked to him it was just that he was mortified that no Azan had issued forth from his mosque and that everybody had missed his prayers."
"But it was not his fault…," I said.
Mir sa'ab cleared his throat and said, "Well actually it was his fault. You see our regular muezzin left two days back. So Moulvi sa'ab was given the 'additional charge' of the Muezzin. Now he did call the Azan on the first day but the next day true to his ingrained habit he was waiting for the Muezzin to call the Azan and when there was no Azan he did not wake up! So there was no Azan!"
"This 'additional charge' business is really a pain," Boss said wryly.
"Jenab wait till you hear the rest of it," Mir sa'ab said shaking his head, "While I was there in the mosque I remembered that Moulvi sa'ab had a rooster which would promptly crow before dawn acting as an alarm clock for the Moulvi sa'ab. When I asked him whether the rooster too had failed to wake him up Moulvi sa'ab struck his forehead with his palm and said, 'My wife has got it into her head to hatch some eggs but since we only had this rooster and no hen she has given the 'additional charge' of incubating the eggs to the rooster! The poor fellow has been so overwhelmed by this 'additional charge' that he has forgotten his primary duty of crowing!'"
Well it does seem that my friend is right in asserting that the 'additional charge' business is detrimental for any system!
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at email@example.com)