A recent trip to a Mumbai metropolitan Municipal office has fuelled my losing faith in this enigmatic creature, one that has assumed several characteristics but hardly any character over the years. The chaos and mayhem of these places is as rampant as it were before our economic liberalization. Here’s a sad summary:
People report late to office, a ritual not for the sake of duty but a rigour only in anticipation of next pay cheque. Rude replies and impolite gestures are part of normal code of conduct. The state of infrastructure - tables, chairs, stools, fans, window sills, doors, mats, water coolers - remind you of those hilarious Amol Palekar movies of the seventies. And looking at the forms stacked away in a mountain of a heap, one fails to figure out how they manage to take them to fruition.
Entry and exits are a scary maze sans any sense of direction, an ordeal that would only make one sing the popular Essel World jingle “Bhool Bhoolaiyaa mein Khoya hai Patkar”. The distribution of application forms and collection of payment, for some strange reason, is made as tedious as possible. If the forms are allotted on the 6th floor, the payment is on the ground floor.
The form reads like one of those Satyam bulky balance sheets...I saw one man pouring over it with the devotion of a weary scientist who’s miles away from his discovery. When you spot the lift door, you are in for some comic relief. As soon as the rusty door is slammed hard, the Liftman turns Bruce Almighty....passing his heavenly judgement on office colleagues, choosing to drop people on floors as if they were heaven or hell, and pressing buttons and indicators hard like they were instruments of terror and destruction.
In the payment section, there are several counters but hardly anyone “servicing” with a smile on the face. After a long wait in my chosen queue, I find the counter guy mercilessly gone in a flash, just when it was my turn... Murphy’s Law perhaps. As I join the next serpentine queue, I am proactively told by the counter female to look for another. Reason: she has so many people to attend to, too many for her comfort, and of course, the fact that there are other counters at my disposal. Even as I curse my luck, I find that many are even more unfortunate... doing the rounds for 3 long months without any luck...
The entry for staff only door is guarded only from one side. Unknowingly, I entered the wrong door but still reached the right place without being stopped. On my way back from the same route, I was stopped by an official and redirected to another exit door. I wonder why there shouldn’t be visible sign boards to direct people correctly.
Finally I pay off my dues...a feat that calls for a thundering applause. If only our government realises that one simple way of improving collections is by making them as convenient as possible for the consumer to pay fast. This will cheer up scores of those law-abiding people who are invariably willing to pay but still have to run from pillar to post to do so.
My voyage continues, taking me back to the sixth floor, courtesy the friendly liftman again. As I am about to conclude that this place is free of corruption, I overhear a clerk mutter: "I work long hours daily, sometimes even from home. It normally takes 30 days for this certificate but I will try to make it in 15". His smile says it all. Of course, he is not rewarded but the fact remains that the whole sickening system is naturally prone to such tendencies. It’s not just about individual greed but the result of some avoidable loopholes that nourish this gluttony.
After my visit, I don’t think that the popular TV serial called 'Office Office' is one bit exaggerated...it mirrors a glaring truth that’s only a bitter reality for us Indians, day in day out. We talk of India’s so-called super power status, handsome GDP growth and dramatic industrial progress...yet this place speaks volumes about our sub-standard work culture ... Forget intricate systems like TPS, JIT and Kanban, the application of even the most basic common sense will result in 500% improvement at these places. Unfortunately, this sense is still uncommon.