Brig PS Gothra
“That is your office,” said the civilian clerk, who had accompanied Major Kabir, from the main gate. Kabir was recently awarded Tagma-i -Jurat for his bravery against the terrorists. As he entered, a couple of rats scurried away, he saw five sacks of documents on the right. In front he could see an old wooden table with a steel revolving chair. Through the window he could see the beautiful Harding Road. The tight rusty grill on the window gave a feeling that one was in a dungeon. A layer of dust prompted him to take out his handkerchief and dust everything. He saw someone walking in.
“Welcome to the X Directorate. I am Major Smart,” said a tall and handsome officer.
“Good Morning Sir,” said Kabir, as they shook hands.
“Are you comfortable?”
Even in the most uncomfortable circumstances, Kabir was conditioned to involuntarily say ‘yes’ to that question. But today that ‘yes’ got stuck somewhere in his throat.
“I am sorry sir, I don’t have a chair for you to sit on,” said Kabir.
“Chairs in the DDG’s office have been sent for repair, so the chairs from our offices were placed in his office.”
“Why this grill on the windows? It is masking a beautiful view. I am sure fear of theft cannot be the reason.”
“It is because of the monkey menace.”
“So, the apes have put the humans behind bars.”
They had a laugh.
“I will ask the head clerk to issue you a dusting cloth. Keep it in your drawer. The peon deputed to this office is always late by an hour.”
“Sir, what is this pile of documents?”
“These are the demands of the units for washing machines. Two years ago, the washing machines were authorised to the units. So, the units placed their demands on the depot. Since the machines were not provisioned the depot commander despatched these demands to our office. Our office is responsible for provisioning. Since this office was vacant, we used the space to store these sacks. Now, we will shift these to the ‘Y’ block where we have got some extra space.”
“What happens if we have to refer to these documents.”
“Don’t worry, the earliest we will require these documents is after three years.”
“Because, that is the kind of time it will take to procure washing machines.”
“But if the washing machines are authorised why can’t we procure these immediately?” Said Kabir in a state of confusion.
“Well to procure we need the item to be introduced.”
Kabir was feeling totally lost. Smart explained, “see, it took us six months to decide which capacity and which type of machine and so on.”
“What is the hitch after that?”
“The proposal will have to go through fifteen odd offices for standardisation or engineering support or quality assurance or…….”
“Still, it should not take that kind of time.”
“There are several bright people here, you don’t know who will give it another spin. Come let me show you a file as to how the washing machines got authorised to the units.”
Smart had a stool for his visitor to sit on in an equally bad office. Kabir was wondering that all these years he had worked from a tent, an op work shelter, a Basha and even a thatched hut but had never felt so miserable as today. Maybe his expectations were too high from the apex headquarters. Smart, pulled out a fat file and put it on the table. He said, “the story started when a forward-thinking officer thought of dispensing with the provisioning of charcoal as it is not environment friendly. The proposal moved a couple of ladders but someone who was very fond of bar-be-que saw it as a conspiracy and shot down the proposal. But the forward-looking officer won’t give up. He mooted another proposal. That the electric iron box should replace the obsolete charcoal iron box in units. Another bright officer said that charcoal iron can be stopped only after all units have regular electricity supply even in the field. The ping pong took three years and finally electric iron was authorised.
“But how is it connected to the washing machine?”
“When that file was moving around another bright spark suggested that if we are introducing the electric iron, why not have washing machines also. The idea gained momentum and someone renewing the equipment table for the washing points included washing machines for the units. So, the responsibility landed on us for provisioning the washing machine. It took us six months to do some spade work, but when we sent this file to other directorates the file moved at snail’s pace due to some vested interest. Hence it will be your task to carry this file around and get approvals.”
“What vested interests?”
“The officer who liked his bar-be-que has risen higher so he gave another spin to the file that if the washing machine is authorised there should be a corresponding decrease in the authorisation of the washer men. Now the people who use the washer men for their personal use also don’t want this proposal to go through. Just read the file and start making a strategy to take it forward. Best of luck.”
The whole day Kabir kept reading the file. His frustration kept increasing. In the evening he asked his wife, “Have you got the kids admitted to the school?”
“No, the admission process starts after fifteen days.”
“Thank God. I can ask them to post me out to some place far away from Rawalpindi.”
“I have assessed that I am not brave enough to work in this place.”