During my long years in bureaucracy, I have always found it intriguing how the basic attributes of a person can change overnight with a change in portfolio. I have seen how people who were at junior and middle levels so sociable and accessible, show sudden change on the same parameters in senior appointments that surprises some of their own colleagues. Overnight they become inaccessible seeking excuses and reluctance to meet very people with whom they were so informal and friendly at a time. Many of us tend to forget that nothing in this world is permanent and lasting forever.
However senior position you hold, you are there for a given period only to relinquish it and pave way to next incumbent in line. If at all anything that matters and stays with us is our own sense of ethics and value system, and how we present self or deal with the environment and surroundings. In my opinion, during our active service, or for that matter life as a whole, our two biggest enemies are ego and arrogance. If we could overcome them we could sure be reasonable worth to self and surroundings.
This reminds me of my stint as Deputy Secretary during the mid-nineties in the South Block, New Delhi, a seat of few key Ministries in the Government of India. We had our boss, the Secretary, who was known to be a hard task master. He was a competent and knowledgeable officer but at the same time was very arrogant and egoist too. Ordinarily, he would not see or call an officer below the level of a joint secretary to his office. Somehow over a period of time, he had developed some fondness towards me obviously due to my professional knowledge and competence and, off and on, he used to call me for official work in the absence of the Joint Secretary (under whom I was working) - a practice contrary to his nature and habit of seeing officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above level only.
Later he retired on attaining the age of superannuation and started writing a book on a sensitive subject. For this, he was in need of relevant data and information. Due to his temperament and rough dealings while in service, the most of senior officers avoided him or he himself chose not to reach them considering his strained relations while working in office. In these circumstances, I remember he visited my office on quite a few occasions for certain petty personal assistance and professional support seeking relevant data and information. I tried to help him to the extent it was feasible and later he acknowledged this in his book. It was obvious that, in the changed scenario, he was visiting me because of our comfortable relationship that was evolved while he was still in office.
I could never forget this incident. The lesson I learnt from this was that any position, including any high office, is temporary and only for a certain period, and undoubtedly, arrogance and ego are our worst enemies in the public and personal life. Ultimately what matters is our own demeanour and relationship which we share with people working around irrespective of the hierarchy. Therefore, we should be polite, open, well meaning and helpful while dealing with people in any environment.