Treish Tamouk Or Chaai- Paani is a work of pure fiction . The names and characters appearing in this story have no connection whatsoever with any person either living or dead.
BY AVTAR MOTA
Today executive engineer Bhat Sahib was in his office and had to sign some bills. Every employee in the division knew the importance of his signatures. For them, it was simply a movement of funds. And when funds move, they also leave a trail of some happiness for every connected employee. If greater and in good measurement, this happiness is also known as commission else it is simply “Chai Paani” or what is known as ‘Treish Tamouk’ in Kashmiri. Accordingly, unusual Smiles were visible on every face. The contractors, the stenographer, the storekeeper, senior assistant Ghulam Hassan, junior engineers, office accountant Moti Lal and peon Nazir Ahmed. The canteen contractor had his reasons to be happy. Tea was ordered like water. Five cups, seven cups, nine cups and fifteen cups. Tray loads of biscuits, cigarettes, butter toasts and Cold drinks moved to the rooms from the office canteen.
To proceed further with this story, I need to tell something more about three persons; peon Nazir Ahmed, junior assistant Farooq Ahmed and driver Pal Singh.
Office peon Nazir Ahmed was almost illiterate but sharp and submissive. He always kept the official seal of the executive engineer in his coat pocket. For this, he would wear a multi-pocket coarse cotton coat even during summers. Once a document or some paper was signed by the executive engineer, everyone looked for Nazir Ahmed who would carefully bring the ink pad and the seal out of his coat pocket, look up towards the person and smilingly say:
“ Kyaa sa treish tamouk chhunnaa “
“ Don’t you want to give me something for the tea and cigarettes ”
Perhaps Bhat Sahib too knew what peon Nazir was doing with his official seal. But then he had some purpose in ignoring and overlooking it. And then he also knew that even if Nazir affixed his official stamp on any paper, it had no value. The value addition accrued only if he had put his signatures.
Nazir Ahmed would always rush to attend bell calls of Bhat Sahib. Apart from carrying files in and out, Nazir Ahmed was supposed to filter people inside Bhat Sahib’s room.
As and when some A-Class contractor like Ali Mohd Khanday, Noor-Ud-Din Tantray, Mohammad Sultan Bhat, Bansi Lal Peshin or Sardar Kikar Singh would come to the office, Nazir Ahmed would show due respect to them. He would stand up and offer his Salaam and good wishes. For this simple act, a hundred rupee note would be thrust in his coat pocket. Sometimes the contractors would ask him:
“How is Sahib’s mood?”
To this Nazir would generally say :
“Please go in. Do you need to ask such things?”
Now and then, Nazir Ahmed would also visit Bhat Sahib’s residence and help his wife in dusting furniture, buying vegetables and groceries from the market. Quite often, Nazir Ahmed would also be sent to supervise the construction of the family’s new house at Bagh-e-Mehtaab colony. This arrangement brought some domestic comfort to Bhat Sahib and made him free from some of his routine family worries.
Nazir Ahmed had also managed to get his stepbrother appointed as a daily wager in the division. This stepbrother served as domestic help in the house of the assistant engineer of the subdivision while drawing a salary from the government exchequer.
The other person worth mentioning is junior Assistant Farooq Ahmed. Farooq was appointed on compassionate grounds after his father died in a road accident. He was studying in S P college when the tragedy struck the family. Initially, he found himself a misfit in the office. He disliked peon Nazir Ahmed and the storekeeper. He knew what Nazir Ahmed did with the official seal of the executive engineer. He also knew about an instance when the storekeeper had sold half a truckload of the cement meant for the government store to some outsiders in connivance with the concerned junior engineer. He also disliked the way some employees always demanded ‘Kharach ‘ or ‘ Teish Tamouk ‘ from contractors as and when they visited the office. But then he respected office accountant Moti Lal whom he never saw asking for money from the contractors. Moti Lal would bring his tea in a thermos flask. To Farooq Ahmed, Moti Lal had told that the canteen tea was only ‘Treish Tamouk’ or ‘ Chai Paani ‘ as the payments were made by contractors. He also taught Farooq the art of drafting official letters. Quite often he would advise Farooq to complete his graduation as a private candidate and then try for some better job in some bank, Insurance company, A. G.’s office or Post Office. Office accountant Moti Lal was skilled in handling audit parties from A.G.’s office. His written communication skills, especially letter drafting, earned him a respectable place in the office. He had a ready reply for any audit para or objection. Had Moti Lal not provided fatherly support to Farooq in the office, he would have left the job. But then Farooq also knew that he had no other alternative and leaving this job would mean starvation for his family.
Driver Pal Singh is the third person whom I want to introduce to you. He is the official driver of Bhat Sahib. Unless Bhat Sahib had to proceed on some tour or go to direction office, Pal Singh would be busy with family work of Bhat Sahib. Sometimes dropping children to school. Sometimes bringing them back from their school. Sometimes carrying Mrs Bhat to market for shopping. Sometimes taking Mrs Bhat to her parental home. Some times taking her to relations and quite often bringing and dropping guests in the Bhat household. That made him quite popular with most of the relations of Bhat Sahib.
When there was no work in Bhat Sahib’s house, Pal Singh would sit in the office and complete the official logbook of the vehicle or go to the workshop for repairs of the official vehicle. On this logbook completion work by of Pal Singh, senior assistant Ghulam Hassan and the storekeeper would comment :
“Pal Singh, You have also to die one day. Remember that also. “
Senior assistant Ghulam Hassan had once seen Pal Singh selling a gallon full of petrol to the office canteen contractor. It was also believed by some employees in the office that canteen contractor was regularly buying petrol from Pal Singh for his second-hand scooter.
Senior assistant Ghulam Hassan and the storekeeper would generally gossip with Pal Singh and say:
“Pal Singh you are a perfect government driver. You can siphon away petrol from even moving vehicles. Why do you always keep that 3 feet long rubber pipe and the plastic mug in your vehicle? Wherefrom have you managed your fake date of birth certificate? You do not look like a young boy of 26 years. If you go to some doctor, he will easily prove that your biological age is above 40 years. Everybody from this office shall have retired and died but you shall be still serving and siphoning Petrol from newer and newer models of Government Vehicles.”
…….to be continued
Avtar Mota is a blogger and writes for local and national papers and journals.