Economic Times, 5 November 2014: Retiring central government bureaucrats may be told to write 1,000-word essay on achievements
Here’s a sample: During the long hours I have spent in office, I have not only been able to master the quick crosswords of national newspapers, but have also graduated to solving the cryptic crosswords that appear in the international papers. To young civil servants eager to know my secret, I can only point to gruelling practice.
Some of you may take up knitting, others golf or flying paper planes, but my crosswords often help me at work. For instance, I always write ‘Cabinet maker with state-of-the-art ego’ whenever I refer to Mr Modi. I hope you got the cryptic clue: cabinet maker — PM; Mod — state-of-the-art; I — ego.
It is moments like this that you treasure, especially when you are Assistant Secretary, Washers and Bolts, in the department of central plumbing. However, the highlight of my service life was inventing the ‘However’ clause.
Whenever one has to put up a knotty proposal and particularly one that you may later be called to account for, you have to make the note a fat one. Say you are putting up an important note about the variety of mangoes to order for the canteen. Let’s say you recommend Alphonso. But remember that the Langra, Kesari, Dasehri lovers may stab you in the back.
You may be accused of favouring Alphonso growers. A ticklish issue like this calls for at least a 30-page note. On page 27, in the last paragraph, start with ‘However’ and then deny everything you have recommended elsewhere in the note. Nobody reads the whole note anyway and this way, in case you get into trouble, you can always point to that para.
An important milestone in my office life has been achieving the 500th level in Candy Crush. It’s been tough, but you must have that can-do spirit. I also introduced wearing dark glasses to office, which helps in snatching a snooze or two without people noticing. In a hot climate like ours, a siesta is essential, otherwise the brain gets overheated.
My memo on how to set up a committee to select personnel for various committees has been translated into 23 languages. I am also famous for my work on LATE, or Long-winded and Artful Techniques of Evasion.
The stages include Preliminary Study, Asking for More Data, Expert Opinion, Referring to Committee, Wondering Why We Need It, Asking for Revised Data and so on. But that doesn’t mean I never took decisions.
When my department ran short of screws, the decision to buy new ones was based on my recommendation to ‘evolve a compelling narrative both spatially and temporally, within a new paradigm, to evaluate in a customer-driven, actionable, bottom-up manner with synergistic effects, the proposal to buy screws.’
Do go for as many seminars and junkets as you can. I have learnt a lot from them and am now an expert on the best restaurants in a dozen cities on five continents. But above all, keep a calm and spiritual mind. I, for instance, practised diligently the old Zen saying, ‘Don’t just do something. Sit there.’
I do hope this essay will be inspiring and motivational and will bag me a post-retirement job as head of a committee, preferably one involving international travel.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal