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IAS officers - a "catch" in India for whom "high prices" in the form of dowry are offered - and paid
The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie (LBSNAA, or the Academy for short), is just that- an academy where probationers of the IAS (also called the Indian Administrative Service or the Indian Arrogant Service, depending on how you look at it) are trained. There’s nothing at all to see there, and that’s why the spectacle I am about to describe is something that took time for me to figure out.
Every afternoon during lunch break we would go up to our lockers to check for notices and mail, and we would find hordes of outsiders standing around the main lawn gawking at nothing in particular. Well, the Academy is neither a tourist spot nor a shrine, so this did defy logic till I realized these hordes were not actually gawking at nothing, they were gawking at us- the probationers. Mercifully, outsiders were not allowed beyond this locker-reception-lawn area or I’m sure they would have overrun our hostels like an invading army.
These people – men and women, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, many a time accompanied by daughters of ‘marriageable age’ (whatever that means) would stand, stare and fidget; making us probationers fidget in response. One such afternoon I was accosted by one of the more enterprising guardians of a daughter of marriageable age. Are you a probationer here, he asked. It’s rather obvious that I am, I said.
Without much ado he wanted to know my name, caste, creed, residence and the history of my life. I mumbled incomprehensible mumblings and escaped, but some of my less fortunate colleagues were at one time or the other trapped into lengthier conversations, proposals of marriages and offers of dowries made on the spot. We are aloo ke bore – sacks of potatoes waiting to be auctioned- was how a colleague put it after he had barely managed to escape one such inquisition.
By and by I, like many other probationers, learnt to make a wide detour from this danger zone, little realizing that the more enterprising parents of daughters of ‘marriageable age’ would not let things rest. One sunny afternoon I had navigated myself away from this crowd to find a letter in my locker. It began, “Sunil beta, I am Dr. so and so, you’ll remember me, I am a close friend of your father…I need your help…will you be so kind as to send me a list of all your batch-mates who are Kayasthas from UP, MP or Rajasthan, who are in the age group 25 to 29, ideally at least 5’ 7” tall……I’ll be so grateful beta, you remember my daughters don’t you?”
This was incredible! What was I supposed to do? Pick out my batch-mates by state of domicile, find out their castes, measure their heights, confirm their ages, perhaps interview them for good measure, and send the list so compiled to the good doctor? Thankfully, the doctor did not want the list also by skin tone, colour of eyes, body weight, sexual preferences, number of siblings and previous marriages if any.
I did nothing finally, but as I sat down to wonder at these assaults on us hapless probationers, one of my colleagues suggested that I put up the doctor’s letter on the notice board, and possibly some colleague matching the doctor’s requirements would reply. Better still, another recommended, invite him to stand among the daily hordes, and he could just pounce on the first eligible Kayastha who happened to walk by.
And yes, many of my colleagues, Kayasthas, Brahmins, Thakurs and those of every other hue imaginable, did mutate over time into sacks of potatoes, and auctioned themselves off.
Finally, lest I forget to mention, some bright soul has put up a dowry calculator on the WWW, and has dedicated it to “all the matchmaking aunties of India”. Try it; it includes calculating dowries for IAS officers (I must say it is rather outdated, though. I was offered at least ten times more than what I calculated on this calculator!).
Pic credit: The Justified Sinner (Used under a Creative Commons license)
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...
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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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