D.O. & don'ts
Next to a transfer, what government officers dread most is a D.O. ? no. not a deodorant, but a demi-official letter from the boss. D.O.s are written to draw personal attention of an officer to an urgent matter, a lapse or to acknowledge some good work. They are supposed to be brief and polite, and used sparingly.india Updated: Jan 31, 2006 02:06 IST
Next to a transfer, what government officers dread most is a D.O. — no. not a deodorant, but a demi-official letter from the boss. D.O.s are written to draw personal attention of an officer to an urgent matter, a lapse or to acknowledge some good work. They are supposed to be brief and polite, and used sparingly. And some wit, though not necessary, is desirable to drive home the point.
Earlier some officers wrote delightful D.O.s. Reading them you felt that the gentle hint at your lapse was only an aside to the matter at hand, when actually the sender’s intent would be quite to the contrary. Sadly, today most D.O.s are written only to berate and intimidate the subordinates.
One DIG of police in Gujarat wielded this weapon all too often. When posted as district SP under him, I was warned of his habit, which I made light of. However, soon he made me realise that you cannot really know a woman till she is your wife, or a man till he is your boss.
Within a month of my posting, his long D.O. letters — on issues important and unimportant — began to pour in. Their language was bitter and intimidating. As it was my first such experience, I was so terrorised that opening the mail I used to wonder why someone devised a letter bomb.
To each D.O. letter the DIG demanded prompt reply. And the quicker I replied, the quicker came the next. There were no word-processors then, and while the DIGs had English stenos, the SPs had only Gujarati ones. I had to, therefore, draft the replies by myself in long hand.
Not wishing to let my other work suffer, I took to burning midnight oil in my camp-office preparing the replies. My wife was alarmed suspecting I was writing a book and not applying myself to my job. She knew the fate of writers in India too well, and had chosen to marry an IPS officer for good reason. But when I told her my predicament, she felt reassured that after all I was only attending to my work.
When it became unbearable, I tried a subterfuge. I started replying in Gujarati knowing my DIG’s discomfort in it. He, however, objected quoting a rule that letters in English should be replied in it too. So, I started praying for my transfer, or his.
A few months into my ordeal, my prayers were answered. But the transfer was neither his nor mine, but of his English steno, when the government decided that DIGs would have Gujarati stenos only.
First Published: Jan 31, 2006 02:06 IST