Sunday, June 2, 2013

Life Lessons from an Indian Government Employee

Dear Son,

I know I expressed my disappointment over your decision to not take up a government job like the one I was in. I always wished for you to grow up and occupy a seat of great honor behind a desk with two large drawers, somewhere on the top floor of a building, the foundation and stairway of which would be adorned with the betel-crimson that marks service of the Indian government. But, you have finally decided to take up a job at an MNC. I may not think of it as the best decision of your life, but as a father, it is my duty to wish you the best. I would, in addition, like to give you all the life lessons that I have learnt as a respectable government official in the past thirty years of my service to the nation. You will probably not get the opportunity to learn these lessons at your new office, as your experience will be very different from mine. I shall, however, try to sum all of it in this short letter to you.

There was a time when the government could not afford to give all of its employees the access to computers. We would do all our work with our own hands in my first five years at the office. Right from the shuffling of a deck of cards to distributing them fairly among my four colleagues, nothing was computerized as it is today. All of us would sit together and work together. We learned so much about team work. We learned how to place trust in the person who would take responsibility of collecting the money betted on during a game of Flash. We learned how no job is big or small. Even the guy who sits on everyone’s chappals while you are engrossed in your daily ritual of Rummy at the local park has a great role to play in the big scheme of things. Always respect your position, respect your team.

Things changed a bit when these Windows machines occupied spaces on our desks and left little room for Champak, Greh-Shobha and Loat-Poat. We could then see how all of us had to work alone, but instead of being disappointed, we accepted change gracefully.

I promised myself everyday to outperform my previous day’s performance. I would get so engrossed in my job that making a new high score in Tetris everyday became nothing less than a habit. It had a lot to teach me. It made me realize how everyone starts with a clean slate in life. Your longevity and sustenance, all depend on your ability to position all the surprise gifts that the heavens throw towards you in the best possible way. You have to make space for everything that comes your way. By taking the right steps and turning the shapes around, you can convert any disaster into an opportunity that falls perfectly into your scheme of things. The speed with which your life advances again depends on your own efforts. You realize that as you let others become a part of your team and give them positions best suited to their nature, your worries and sorrows vanish away like a row complete with blocks.

Pinball had a lot to offer in terms of workplace lessons, too. Put all the effort that you can at the beginning of your career. This is the time which defines how well you perform later. The harder you hit the ball, the more chances it has of going higher in the playfield and getting points all the way along to the top. You will find yourself being hit over hard circumstances and being cornered sometimes, but remember how every hit changes your course for the better. For as long as you stick around in the playfield, being constantly thrashed over hard metal, you make more and more points along the way. You’ll also learn that it’s always not just hitting hard that matters. Waiting for the ball to reach the perfect point on the edge of the flipping bat, and then giving it just a little push may help you hit the jackpot. Eventually, smart work pays considerably more than just hard work. The game also taught me how there are always going to be some gaps that you may not be able to fill, but even if it all falls down, you should have enough balls to start over again.

For the last few years at my work, I learnt a lot from my experience with Solitaire. It taught me how a lot of times, it may seem like everyone does not start at a level field. You may find others lucky to have got cards better positioned to begin with, but patience and alertness will someday lead you to also build not just one, but four complete houses. You will notice that no matter how much you want to place your heart on a diamond, there will always have to be a “club” or a “spade” between them. You will have to “fight” or “work” if you want to reach your heart’s destination. The process may be tough, but in the end, only he is a winner who balances his hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds at an equal pedestal right at the top of his screen.

I wish you could live all these experiences not just through the means of this letter. I don’t know how much your Excel, Access, C++, Tally or Java has to offer, but I will offer you my best wishes for a successful journey ahead.

Also, please give up on your coffee and start having the good old chai. There is a reason why they call it “chai-paani” at our offices. Haven’t you heard: “Rishwat banaaye baagh-bakri chai”?

Yours sincerely,

K. P. Ghooswale
Inspector of Income Tax
Ward 42(0)
Income Tax Department

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  1. Awesome! :D

    Interning at a government organization, I had numerous reasons for feeling frustrated and angry over how those work. I decided to join the MNC horde too, mostly because I couldn't envision myself doing things "aram se". But hey, this post challenged my thinking! I love it, especially how you've brought about life lessons from games! :)

    1. Thanks, Ashna :D

      Your comment made me really happy. I think most people will find this post really boring, as the humor is so subtle, it's almost non-existent. However, I must share that I loved writing it. It left me with such a happy feeling on completion.

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If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D