Friday, July 3, 2015

The lost file

****The lost file****

It was a cold winter evening in the small city of Nayakpur, Raghav sat near a brook & unremittingly scrubbed the bark of a maple tree. The shards of the bark would fall listlessly on the pavement before being swept away by the easterly wind. Meera sat next to Raghav. They had been married for almost 4 years now; however, he just behaved differently today.
‘There are a few days which are impressed in your mind for a lifetime. One such day for me was the day when my UPSC results were announced. Life just changed overnight,’ Raghav said gazing at the river water.
He continued with a grim face, ‘Sometimes when I would wake up in the morning, I had to pinch myself to realize that it was real. The hangover lasted for many months. An average middle class commerce graduate had become an IAS.’ 
The birds had started scurrying their way back home as the sun was about to set. Meera supped tea from an earthenware cup. She looked a little puzzled as she had never seen Raghav reminiscing the past before.
‘I did not know how to handle it initially. I still remember the chair on which I sat in my first office was slightly broken. It would make that strange creaking sound when you turn it. When I asked the office clerk to replace it, he told me that it would take a few months as the protocol mandates a formal bidding procedure for ordering any office furniture. Alternatively, he could just inform any vendor & they would come & replace it within a few minutes. I told him to start the bidding procedure. That day when I met a few college friends, they treated me like a demigod. I also put on a fa├žade of an NRI who fakes his life in the other country. You know I sat on that broken chair for almost 3 months after that,’ Raghav laughed as Meera looked at him in amazement.
Raghav had come across as an extremely intelligent person to Meera when they first met some seven years back in the college canteen. He had a strange flair to identify the right thing and stand by it against all odds. When Meera contested for the post of college president, Raghav individually steered the entire election campaign which finally resulted in her victory. They were a perfect team.
Raghav looked at the radiant sun setting in the river as he continued, ‘In the initial few years I did not have any role clarity. My parents were on virtual cloud nine by distributing vegetables & ghee produced in my bungalow to their relatives. My peers & colleagues had transformed into a bunch of sycophants who would spend all their time flattering the senior officers. Nobody around me was discussing ideas & innovation. It was at that juncture that I met Dr Shastri & my life underwent a huge transformation.’
There was a spark in his eyes as he started again, ‘It was some 2 years back that Dr Shastri & I started working on the project to centralize the operations of all primary schools in the state. You know there are more than 300 primary schools in the state and now we can track the pedagogy in all these schools through a uniform cloud-based learning mechanism. So sitting here I can see what is being taught in a primary school 300 miles away. The teachers will be more punctual now & we can actually see what the children are learning. It is a project which has become my dream now. Tomorrow when we officially launch this project, my dream will come true. I can now connect the dots Meera, my life- my education- my goal are interconnecting now.’
There was a mysterious tranquillity on Raghav’s face as they both walked back towards their home. 
Next day was quite hectic as Raghav geared up for the launch ceremony & press conference which had to happen in the next few hours. 
As Raghav was driving towards the press conference venue, he received a call from his office.
‘Raghav here’
‘Hello Raghav Ji, this is Shyam from office’
‘Yes Shayam, anything important?’
‘Raghav Ji, I want to tell you that the inquiry report for the lost land tax files has just come. The report mentions your name as well & there is a court notice which directs you to be present in the court next week.’
Raghav felt a little light-headed as he was completely startled by the report. He was not even posted in that department when the first report of missing files was filed. His mind was occupied with umpteen questions. Is this a conspiracy or just some sloppy work by the inquiry committee?
As he reached the press conference venue, he met a senior official who asked him to take it easy as there might be some slip-up in processing the report. 
Raghav decided to focus on the press conference. He walked up to the lectern to address the media. The entire launch was an exhilarating experience with magnificent reviews pouring in from the audience. The media described it as a quantum leap in the history of Indian education system. Raghav & his entire team looked extremely upbeat & confident.
That evening when Meera & Raghav tuned in the television, they were quite surprised as there was virtually no coverage on any channel.
However, the channels were abuzz with news on Raghav’s name appearing in the inquiry commission report.
Next day when Raghav left for work, a few journalists flocked him on his way to office.
‘What is your take on the inquiry report Mr. Raghav?’
‘I have no take on this. I was not even posted in that department when the incident happened.’
‘So you mean to say that the inquiry commission report is wrong.’
‘I do not want to say anything.’
‘You are not ready to take responsibility for the misdeed which happened in your department Mr. Raghav. Do you accept that that our country is suffering because of bureaucracy and red-tapism? ’ 
Raghav hurriedly entered his office as the guards barricaded the journalists.
Next few weeks were quite turbulent for Raghav as there were non-stop protests against him in different parts of the city.
One day Raghav’s boss called him for a meeting.
‘Hi Raghav! I am quite upset with this entire uproar. The entire matter is now lying with the judicial magistrate and I am confident that it should resolve soon. What do you think?’
‘Yes Sir! I am hopeful. My name has been dragged in this report without any evident rhyme or reason.’
‘I know Raghav, however I am extremely sad to tell you that I have received your suspension order from the CM office. There is no grudge against you but this what the protocol demands.’
A lot of things started appearing meaningless that day to Raghav. He had introduced a cutting-edge technology tool in primary schools; however, there was no provision to scan government files in his own office. He was full of remorse & anger. Even if he filed a case against the inquiry commission, he would receive an apology letter and some inconsequential compensation from them. 
A few weeks later Raghav received a call from Dr Shastri. Dr Shastri was a renowned social scientist who had worked with various bodies all across the globe. He was instrumental in devising the primary education integration project along with Raghav.
‘Hi Raghav, How are you?’
‘I am fine Sir’
‘I am deeply grieved by these unfortunate events. However, I am confident that it will resolve very soon.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Raghav I have called you today to discuss about a wonderful opportunity in the UN. I have already mailed you the details about this opportunity. I would be very happy if you can join us. Please go through my mail & call me.’
‘Sure Sir.’
A few days later, the court announced its verdict & directed the inquiry commission to drop all allegations against Raghav. All the accusations against Raghav were found baseless.
Finally Raghav & Meera heaved a sigh of relief. However, Raghav was still not sure if he actually wanted to go back to his old office. His belief & trust in the entire organization was shaken. After days of contemplation he decided to join Dr Shastri in the UN.
Meera was initially sceptical of Raghav’s decision; however, she was wary of the traumatic experience that he went through in the last few months. Therefore she decided to support him in his new endeavour.
Meera & Raghav were heading towards the airport as they had to board a late night flight to Geneva. The weather was quite pleasant and Gulmohar trees stood in full bloom on both sides of the road. After a long journey they finally reached the airport. They were escorted by the taxi driver Hariprasad until the departure gate. Hariprasad bid them farewell & handed a folded white envelope to Raghav.
‘What is this Hariprasad?’
‘Sirji, my daughter had given me this letter. She asked me to give it to you.’
Raghav kept the letter in his jacket pocket & hurriedly walked inside the airport.
After clearing the emigration, Raghav sat on a chair near his departure gate.
There were long queues of passengers in front of each departure gate. Some of them were emigrating permanently to settle abroad. It was difficult to comprehend if they were happy or sad. It was difficult to know if it was their wish or a mere compulsion. Raghav was lost in these thoughts when unexpectedly he saw the letter in his pocket. He hurriedly opened it started reading.
Dear Raghav Sir,
My name is Namita & I study in class 5 in Vijaynagar Primary school.
Recently I participated in a quiz competition in the nearby city where more than 40 schools participated. There were students from various public & convent schools also in that competition.
I am very happy to tell you that I came first in that competition.
I want to thank you for introducing the new learning platform in our school.
Now Teachers do not skip their classes & more students come to school.
Until last year there were only 8 students in my class but this year my class strength has increased to 35.
I want to tell you that my ambition is to become an IAS officer like you.
You are my role model.
Tears rolled down Raghav’s eyes.
He held Meera’s hands and said, ‘We have to go back.’

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