The Sanitary Inspector.

Many of my friends and members of my extended family are on facebook and quite a bit of information is shared there some of major import and most trivial. Yesterday, one of my friends, a fellow alumnus of the business school that I went to, shared an article with a great amount of pride. Only people who have been to Varanasi on a number of occasions spread over a few decades would be able to understand the impressive achievements in terms of getting the town and the river cleaned up. There are many other success stories like this coming out from different parts of the country and we are naturally very happy to share such stories.

Among the same group of alumni, we have a sceptic who loathes our Prime Minister, as he is perfectly entitled to in our democracy, who on reading the post on Varanasi, instead of sharing our joy promptly called our Prime Minister The Sanitary Inspector who is fit only for that job. He is entitled to that opinion and I have little to offer as a retort, but that description sent me off on a tangent which is what this post is about.

During the recent reunion that I attended at Mumbai with my colleagues from over a quarter of a century ago, we were recollecting how I used to be called the sanitary inspector, a badge that I wore with a great deal of pride. There was only one person in that group who could recall the reasoning behind that sobriquet for me and I had to explain that to the others. Let me share my story with my readers as well.

When I joined the company as a Management Trainee in Mumbai, I was expected to report to work much before anyone else to learn all about how the set up came alive by assisting in the opening of the gates, doors etc and other attendant routines. The Warehouse staff were expected to report fifteen minutes before the office staff and that is where I learnt my first lesson about an aspect of living in Mumbai that I had not been aware of earlier.

The warehouse staff were company employees who were supported by Mathadi workers who would unload trucks that arrived with goods and also transport repacked goods to local customers and to transport companies for upcountry despatch.

Mathadi workers as well as our company employees would hope that the Warehouse in charge would come on time if not earlier so that they could use the company toilets. They would come from distant suburbs forgoing the use of their local public toilets to come to our company premises where the queues were shorter because there were more number of toilets and also the total population using the facilities were much less. This one single aspect of our providing a facility that most of us would take for granted made such an impression on me that once I became a full fledged Manager, I would insist on visiting the toilets regularly to ensure their cleanliness and functionality. I would do this wherever I was posted as well as I grew in the company and went on branch visits at branches. That is how I got the sobriquet The Sanitary Inspector, a title that I cherished more than all the other fancy designations that I eventually got.

A few years ago, my late wife Urmeela and I were shopping in the main shopping area of Pune, much before the advent of malls. I was stopped by someone who looked familiar but who I could not immediately place. He introduced himself as a warehouseman from one of our branches now in retirement. It was a poignant meeting and much to my embarrassment, he informed Urmeela how much my toilet visits used to impress these workers. I shared this story also with my colleagues during the reunion and they too shared similar stories.

So, my dear friend Shekhar, being a Sanitary Inspector can be a highly satisfying occupation too. And with much love and affection, I dedicate this post to you.

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