The first thing people ask me when I say that I’m doing a postgraduate degree in journalism is if I’m going to be on TV. No, there are other forms of journalism, not just the belligerent Arnab Goswami or the reporter from TV9 who thinks we are blind and has the compulsive need to repeat everything we can see on screen.
Not that I have anything against being a broadcast journalist, I just find it amusing that this is the first thing people would ask me. Why not, “Oh, so you’ll be the next P. Sainath” or “hey maybe we can read your piece on blogger or wordpress “?
So, after I politely nod my head and smile and say that I’d probably do more online, they look disappointed and move on. The more persistent ones though, ask me, “Have you met anyone famous yet?”
Now, that is a difficult question. What do you mean by famous? Can self importance, pompousness and extremely uptight attitude be classified as the traits of a famous person? Then yes, I have met famous people— celebrities in their own right, tantrum throwers extraordinaire and basically, people who would put the Queen to shame in matters related to protocol. Move over Beyonce, the sahibs and babus —the bureaucrats are here.
While it may seem that I am exaggerating a bit, I’ve always had a problem with authority and all, but, it is true that bureaucrats have this flair of making life infinitely difficult. Flair I said? Scratch that; make it sole purpose in life.
I now, truly see Douglas Adams’ inspiration when he wrote about Vogons, in his book, the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. Unfortunately, neither is there a guide with the words—“do not panic” written on its cover nor the very helpful Ford Prefect to help me navigate the meandering columns of a parallel universe— a bureaucrat’s office.
For all those of you, who are bored enough to read on, let’s start by classifying the myriad bureaucrats, from the harmless to the extremely vile.
“The Sri Sri Ravishankar”: Can be identified by the presence of an almost beatific smile plastered on the face at all times. The smile is a fake ploy, to trick the said trainee journalist into a false sense of trust and then give out completely misleading information or refuse flat out to give any information, mind you, always with a smile.
The compulsive yeller: The face of a bull dog, and a look that can make children cry. These are the attributes of the compulsive yeller. He/she is also blessed with an amazingly pitched voice, that said trainee journalist can hear from outside the cabin and will spend the rest of the waiting period, twiddling thumbs and biting nails nervously. Trainee journalist must not dare argue with the compulsive yeller, for if he/she does, a tirade on the futility of media shall ensure.
The free advise dispenser: Trainee journalist: “Sir what do you think of increasing rice prices?”
Free advice dispenser: “I think, by the way where are you from?”
FAD: Good biryani. You came so far to study journalism? You left your job at an IT firm? You should get married. Journalism is not a good field for women, get a desk job. Why you are wasting your parents money?
The “generalist”: A generalist will sit you down, offer you a tea and then tell you how messed up your field is and how you haven’t done your back ground research, there by failing as a “generalist”. No, he isn’t inducting you into his cult, but for reasons, mostly unknown, even to him, he will call a journalist a generalist.
The busy-bee: Classified by the indiscriminate use of “I am busy”. Indiscriminate because, whenever you go to meet him, just as he steps in, lunch time, in between meetings, during visitor’s times, he is busy— ALL THE TIME. No amount of, “I’ve made an appointment with you, sir” will persuade him to look up and say anything other than, “I am busy”. His commitment to work will win him a Nobel Prize for world peace one day, or might just kill him.
One might also wonder, if the state actually has enough work to keep him busy through out his officialdom.
The poser: Classified by an intense desire to be photographed. Will chide you if you get the angels wrong of the picture is shaky. Information isn’t important, being photographed is. So, say bureaucrat!
The protocol observer: Is a stickler for rules. Inane, nonsensical and completely irrelevant rules. Exihibit-A:
Trainee journalist: Sir, I’m from this college.
Protocol Observer: Letter?
TJ: *pulls out a letter authenticating him/herself*
PO: What is this? Why has it not been signed in black? I cannot accept a letter signed in black. Please follow rules. This is unacceptable. Get the letter signed in black ink and then come back tomorrow.
TJ: *Stares in dismay*
PO: Ok, since you are saying you are coming from far, I will allow you. But, first, go to my higher up and ask him/her to counter sign the letter that it is ok for me to accept this letter signed in blue ink as proof.
The Phantom: Characterized by his absence. You will never find him at his desk. He is either on vacation or away. You would wonder if such a character exists, but everyone around seems to be talking about him, so he might exist. Again, that’s what people also say about ghosts and God.
There is also the flirt, the door-banger and the rattler. But, I think these categories are self-explanatory. I’ve met all of them. How many have you met?