When I was a young boy, my father often used to ask me to buy some postcards on my way back from school. We lived in a small dusty town in West Bengal. The man behind the counter in the post office was the slowest human I have ever seen in my life. There would be no flicker of expression on his face on seeing me coming to the other side of his table, obviously asking for postcards. He would talk to the woman in the next table about Sunil Gavaskar's dazzling performance and how Bengali cricketers were discriminated and politically excluded from the team. After a straight 10 minutes, he would see me, open his table drawer and fish out, not the postcard, but a betel nut and paan, elaborately design it with buntings and put it in his mouth. Only after the full taste of paan had reached his central nervous system would he look at me and ask ummm? Invariably he would not have small change, and would tell me how bad government made such problems before I was permitted to leave.
On Saturday evenings, I used to accompany my mother to the ration shop for our quota of sugar and rice. It would be a long queue. Once, the post office man was just behind us. He was so perturbed by the process that he was venting his anger by telling people close to him in the line about the problems of the rationing system, till he was loud enough to be heard by the ration assistant who made it clear that anyone not liking to stand in the queue could go home. After all, he never asked us to come and queue up. It was funny. It all depends on which side of counter you are — in life, in post-office or in the ration shop. The Congress tries to pass a bill and the BJP is against it. The CPI (M) government tries to set up industry and the Trinamool fights tooth and nail. I think it all boils down to which side of the counter you are.
That, according to me is the first law of counter. Your authority depends on which side of counter you are. And that obviously leads you to the second law. The subject continues to be on the same side of counter till disturbed by an extraneous force like retirement or election, as the case may be. But once you are pushed out to the other side of counter, life changes, often drastically. I know of a police officer who became depressed, needing psychiatry support and finally committed suicide. Not lack of money, not family problems, but he could not do with the lack of power, the absence of police car, the missing uniformed driver and the salutes. All that comes as long as you are on the inside of the counter.
And one last thing. It may not be logical and always true, cannot be put forward as a law, but just a belief I have. Every action, done when you are on the inside of the counter, has an equal and opposite reaction once you are out on the other side, today or tomorrow. The laws have been proven and validated umpteen number of times. Well, why is it then that they are not in the textbooks? It took decades before my predecessor's laws were accepted. And if Newton could wait, why not me?
(The writer is Head of the Department of Cardiology, PRS Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram. His email id is: firstname.lastname@example.org) (The Hindu, Open Page, 18:12:2011)
Labels: Humour, Management