Spice of life: Sound sleep over a pile of wheat | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Spice of life: Sound sleep over a pile of wheat

Thirty-six-years ago, as I completed my engineering, I received a call from a government department to appear for an interview and was appointed as an SDO at the young age of 21.

chandigarh Updated: May 23, 2015 09:48 IST

Thirty-six-years ago, as I completed my engineering, I received a call from a government department to appear for an interview and was appointed as an SDO at the young age of 21. My first posting was in Sirhind. My immediate boss, an executive engineer, sat in Chandigarh and had risen through the ranks. He considered young folks joining as SDOs as immature college brats who couldn’t handle these responsible posts. He threw me a sort of challenge by telling me to leave for Sirhind, set up a new office there and find a good shed there for storage of cement. A cement consignment comprising of thousands of bags was arriving by train. I had to get them unloaded on the platform, transport and stack them in the store safely. ‘And take care. There should be no demurrage or wharfage. If charged, it’ll be recovered from your salary,’ were his parting words.

Demurrage and wharfage were new words to me. I came to know that these were the charges levied by railways if the goods were not got unloaded from the train and removed from the platform within given time. Worried, I left for Sirhind and met the stationmaster there. He judged my anxiety and guided me about the likely timings of arrival of the goods train. He looked surprised that an SDO himself was getting the cement bags unloaded and transported.

I arranged the labourers. Cement bags arrived and were unloaded within the prescribed time. Demurrage was avoided. Now a store had to be found and the cement stored there. ‘Your department should have arranged it in advance’, the stationmaster said. It was not possible for me to leave the cement bags unguarded. Luckily, a junior engineer came to see me. I asked him to stay at the platform and keep a watch over the pile of cement bags. Leaving him there, I set out to look for a suitable store accommodation.

It was night by then. For three hours, I moved around in the city, enquiring about store accommodation. A local workshop offered a goods’ shed lying vacant. I finalised the deal and sent their boy to inform the JE. It was midnight and I was tired. Aching to have some sleep, I entered the grain market where big piles of wheat were seen everywhere. A farmer stood near a heap. I introduced myself to him and asked about a night shelter. ‘I don’t know. We sleep here only’, he replied. Before he said anything further, I pulled a jute bag lying on the side, spread it on the wheat stack and spread myself over it. Soon, I was fast asleep.

A farmer woke me up in the morning. I had a cup of tea and ran to the railway station. The wharfage was to be avoided. A smiling stationmaster greeted me there. ‘Don’t worry. Get your cement bags lifted today. I won’t levy any wharfage,’ he said. I thanked him profusely.

Today, as I toss around in my comfortable bed, waiting for sleep to take me over, I remember the sound sleep I had over a pile of wheat so many years ago.