Probably a good 60 percent of this week was spent in Babudom and the intricacies of Babuspeak. Yes, I am talking of the bureaucrats in DC that are absolutely no different from those of Delhi. In Delhi, whether it was the old and dilapidated Shastri Bhawan (Ministry of Coal) or the swanky new corridors of Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan (Ministry of Civil Aviation), the same type of clerks pushed files, carried chais and played teen patti on the lawns. It’s a bit different here but you can’t help noticing some similarities: the same old bored security guards to the person who issues the visitor pass.
Basically I had gone to procure some public documents at the Department of Education for a story I was co-writing with someone. On Day 1, I managed to get a pass and went to the specific room where said documents would be. Of course, there was this long corridor with the sterile cubicles on both ends. The room was there but the babu was missing. He was on vacation. A nice lady tried to help me but no luck. Totally unacceptable. On Day 2, I decided to show up but there was nobody even to issue me the damn pass. I was also told that I needed to make an “appointment” to get such information! My co-writer and I were livid and since he was up in Boston he couldn’t really help. But he was a pro and having also worked in Delhi as a Post correspondent, he knew the dealings of Babuland. In other words, he pulled some strings. Talked to the man upstairs. Whatever.
And suddenly I got a phone call from some contact who very sweetly and promptly offered to help in every possible way. So third time was a charm. On Day 3, I went there with the “appointment” and got a decent treatment… a nice quiet space to work, use of phone, computer, loo, soda machine, etc. Except when I wanted to make copies of the documents, this lazy ass babu told his boss (my contact) that it was “almost lunch time” (it was only 11:55 a.m., I swear) and he was working on “something else” (yeah, his personal e-mails/blog I bet). So after shooting looks of death at him, I made the copies myself. It's another story how i got the copy machine to work in my favor. But i finally left the confines of Babudom to return to the confines of my cubicle.