Civil Position or one's Conceit

The incident took place almost sixty years earlier in 1945. This happened when the British were ruling India and every officer of the government considered himself to be the lord and master. He thought that it was his birthright to humiliate others who were in a lower position. He was often rude and obnoxious in his dealings with others. He, however, behaved differently with those in a superior position, when he was prepared even to lick their boots.

What I narrate took place when I had been in service for a few years and was posted as Assistant Executive Engineer in charge of a railway construction in the Province of Sindh of undivided India, now in Pakistan. I enjoyed the status of a class I officer and was entitled to certain privileges. It was summer and only mornings were cool, when inspections could be carried out. Afternoons were burning hot and so after the inspection one would go into a rest house, take a shower and after lunch, have a nap.

One day, after my inspection, I came to the rest house and found another gentleman also staying there. As usual after the shower, I took my meals. But before taking my nap, I called my staff to witness labor payments and thus got busy in my work. I saw the other gentleman going to take his shower.

I had almost finished my work and the last man was being paid when I heard someone shout loudly, "Would you please stop this nonsense?"

I looked up and saw that the gentleman had returned after his shower and meals. I told him that I had almost finished. and asked the labor to leave.

Thereafter, I took my meals and went to my bed to take my nap. (There were two beds in the room). Hardly had I closed my eyes, when I heard a lot of noise and noticed that the gentleman had collected a number of people and was talking loudly to them. My nap was naturally disturbed and I said, "May I ask you something?"

"You may. But I am not duty bound to reply." was his answer.

This annoyed me all the more and I said, "Yes I know you are not duty bound to reply. I only wanted to ask that you made me stop my nonsense and you have started the same yourself."

"But you did not stop."

"I did. The last man was being paid. Thereafter I did no other work."

"No you did not." And then he added in the form of a question. "Do you know who I am and what my civil position is?"

"No I don't, but I would like very much to know."

"Well my civil position is such that if you come to see me, I could make you wait for half an hour." He replied.

I was amazed at such an audacity, and to make him realize of his rudeness, I said "I did not know that the civil position of a person was measured by the amount of time one makes others wait. It only measures one's breed. But now that question has arisen, I do not know who you are, but I know that my civil position is such that if you come to see me, I will not only make you wait for an hour, but then tell my peon to turn you out."

This completely stunned him. He came to his senses and asked, " May I know who you are?"

"No. Now you have ceased the right to know me." I replied.

"You must be a class I officer,"

"Yes I am. May I know what you are?"

"I am a Tehsildar, working as a Railway Magistrate (a very much inferior position to that of mine). I am sorry. I was tired working during the night and that is why I lost my temper. "

"Well it is O.K. But one should not get conceited of one's civil position. One should always be polite and modest."

Even today I cannot forget the embarrassment writ on his face.   


More by :  Arya Bhushan

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