The first one to petition the Boss as the month of Ramadhan started was his own office orderly. "Jenab I have to cook my own iftaari and then of course there are the prayers and all that…"
The Boss looked up at his orderly and took in the humble face, the goatee, and the gentle eyes. He had this habit of sitting long hours in the office, even beyond 'normal' office hours and usually it would be this unassuming and unobtrusive orderly who would keep him company. He smiled and said, "No problem! I will also try to limit my hours and anyway I can always lock up the office myself."
Overcome with gratitude it was but natural that the orderly extolled the Boss's benevolence in presence of other staff members. As a result the next day the Head Assistant came to the Boss's chamber and after half an hour of praising his achievements and passing disparaging comparative remarks about the previous Boss, he said with an ingratiating smile, "Sir, I am sure you will bear with me during the Holy month. I will be leaving early…"
A short while later it was the dispatch clerk, a perennially complaining, corpulent specimen of the female of the species. She greeted the Boss and lowering her bulky mass into a chair, emitted a groan which synchronised perfectly with the groan emitted by the chair. "How is your leg?" the Boss enquired.
"It is better, much better. Thank God!" the lady beamed. Considering that the leg in question had translated into an irregular attendance for nearly a month the Boss heaved a sigh of relief but even before he had finished doing that, she added with a grimace, "It is the other leg now. I can't sleep, or sit or stand or walk or climb up-stairs or for that matter move down-stairs or…" After half an hour of detailed description the lady stopped to take a breath and then said,
"The Holy month…"
"… is upon us by the grace of the Almighty" the Boss completed her sentence for her.
"Exactly," the lady beamed, "and my whole family including myself always observe the fast though with my health problems it is so difficult… I was thinking that I will take some days off… with your permission of course!"
"Sure!" the Boss smiled expansively.
A short while later after the lady had left the office cashier came in. "The Holy month is here…" he started.
"Yes I have been informed," the Boss said, massaging his temples, "Naturally you will be coming a bit late in the mornings…"
"Sir!" the cashier said with an emphatic nod.
"And will be leaving a bit early…" the Boss added with a humourless grin.
"Sir!" the nod was even more emphatic this time.
"Sure!" said the Boss spreading his hands wide.
After pondering over the issue for a while the Boss called his PA and told him. "Draft a circular that everybody in this office will attend only for half day during this month. However, you might add that since they would not like their piety to be subsidized – and hence having its merit decreased – they will be paid only half the salary for the month."
The next day the Boss was surprised to find that all the staff was present in the office beating him to it for the first time in official history. He found a sheaf of papers on his table. "What is all this?" he asked his PA.
"Applications and representations from the staff," the PA said.
The Boss picked up the first one and found that it was an application from the Head Assistant with a medical certificate attached to it certifying that since he had a couple of very active stomach ulcers he had been advised not to fast. The second application was from the lady clerk and stated that since the pain in her legs had become even worse and had now spread to her arms as well she needed to take pain-killers after every two hours making it impossible for her to observe the fast. The application concluded with 'This is for your information and necessary action at your end please.'
He picked up a sealed envelope marked 'Confidential' and opening it found this communication from the cashier: 'Sir, my humble submission is that my yesterday's submission was just a precautionary measure in view of the veiled threats I have been receiving from certain fundamentalist elements. As for religion although in principle I believe in all religions, practically speaking I make it a principle not to follow any of them. Besides the fact that my grandfather's second cousin had once fought – and lost – an election on the Communist party ticket may also be considered in my favour. As such I may be exempted from the special exemption granted to all those who intend to fast in this Holy month. Thanking you in anticipation, etc., etc., etc.'
Other submitted documents included an affidavit from a staff member attested by the patwari stating that the religious affiliation of the applicant's family had been a matter of debate for nearly three generations and since the matter was sub-judice it wouldn't be technically feasible for him to fast. And there was yet another application from another staff member duly forwarded by the local saharkhan that the fellow had never been known to wake up for sehri!
The Boss let out a whistle. "My God! Reminds me of those tax-exemption certificates people submit every year!" he said and then added with a chuckle, "I don't think we will be needing the circular anymore!"
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org)