My friend Subudhi is probably one of the greatest busybees of this decade. He was busy when he was on the job and he is busier now that he is out of it.
He was working as an Assistant in the Commercial Department of one of the public sectors. In these Temples of Modern India the priests who perform the rites are usually more busy off the job than on it. Subudhi was no exception. He was sought after by superiors, subordinates, colleagues, customers and suppliers in equal measure. There was hardly anyone in the organisation who had not sought his help one time or the other.
In this highly specialised age, differentiation is the marketing buzzword. You have a specialist for the right ear lobe, the left nostril and the belly button. Subudhi specialised in associations. In his entire career spanning more than three decades there had not been a single day when he had not attended the annual day or the launching ceremony or the silver jubilee or the disbanding or the amalgamation, of some association or the other. He was the executive member of numerous associations which catered to almost every activity/interest one's imagination can conjure up; from run-of-the mill ones like 'Lawn Mowers Association' to esoteric ones like TATA - 'Tips and Toes Association' - an organisation devoted to the art and science of nail polishing.
As a result of this specialisation Subudhi's services were a must for anyone who wanted anything done. For instance, if you wanted to get your son admitted to 'You Must be Kidding' - the best kindergarten in the city - then how would you go about it? You would just approach Subudhi and request him to bail you out. Subudhi would then unleash his quite formidable association machinery. He would first find out what the principal of the kindergarten was most interested in. If her obsession was collecting chalk pieces, Subudhi would form 'The Chalk-piece Collectors Association' - CCA. He would become the secretary and make the principal the president of CCA. Getting twenty-odd members would obviously be no problem and soon there would be a grand function to celebrate the launching of CCA. The principal would be conferred the title 'Chalk Colossus' and presented an attractive memento. The very next day your kid would be kidding along in "You Must be Kidding" and in a month's time would be nominated the monitor of his class by the principal herself. Of course by this time your wallet would have shed its adipose to quite some extent and would be sporting a lean and hungry look. Subudhi's wallet, on the other hand, would be bulging at the seams, causing sleepless nights to the tax collectors.
The day Subudhi retired, I happened to run into him at a friend's place.
"You must be quite relieved now. After the scorching pace you set for yourself these last few decades it's now time for peace and tranquillity - a period of quiet introspection and solitude," I said.
"Don't be silly," he said. "You are as usual completely off the mark. Can you imagine Napoleon or Alexander or even our own Shivaji retiring? When those campaigners never thought of hanging their boots, how the hell can I ? In fact, now I'm going to be busier than ever before. I've decided to form an umbrella organisation - my most ambitious project till date."
"An association of tireless campaigners," I asked.
"Don't be stupid. Nothing as unimaginative as that. I'm going to form an Association of Associations - AOA. Only those people who are in the executive body of a recognised association can be its members," Subudhi said.
"And pray what is this association going to do ? Print visiting cards ?" I asked.
He gave me a typical 'Bush looking at Osama' or rather 'Sharif looking at Musharraf' look and continued, "AOA is going to have regional chapters all over the world and it will function like a business conglomerate. It will have several divisions like 'Creative Resume Analysis and Preparation' - CRAP, and 'Strength, Happiness Investment Technique' - SHIT."
"And what are CRAP and SHIT going to do apart from soiling the atmosphere?" I asked.
"SHIT will be totally devoted to the task of building personalities. We will be teaching the members how to use their inner strength and invest in happiness. The divisions will be headed by eminent philosophers, psychiatrists and psychologists, who will of course be members of AOA."
"CRAP will be devoted to career counselling. Most organisations today lack persons who have a great academic as well as a terrific extra-curricular record. Anyone who wants to climb the ladder should know something more than Drucker's principles, Murphy's laws and Tom Peter's commandments. CRAP will provide all aspiring yuppies the means to give their resumes an emphatic face-lift. For instance, if an AY's curriculum vitae looks under-nourished we will make him the chairperson of the 'Veteran Kabaddi Players' Association' and the president of the 'Association for the Preservation of Urban Culture', for the token amount of a couple of grand. We will organise a seminar on 'The Promotion of Kabaddi in the Concrete Jungles', in which the AY would present a paper on 'The Ethics, aesthetics and metaphysics of Kabaddi as an art form'. The AY will continue to hold these offices till he stops aspiring or the next eligible one comes along."
Subudhi stopped his discourse and stared at me for a full minute. Suddenly his face lit up and he cried, "Ramen, I've got a great idea. Why don't you take advantage of this golden opportunity? I will even give you a discount. You have been a struggling satirist for the last ten years, I can make you ......"
That, dear reader, was a year ago. Today yours sincerely is the Chairman of the 'Association of Rejection Slip Collectors' and the Secretary of the 'Struggling Satirists and Hapless Humourists Club'. My future prospects include : President of the 'Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Writers' and the Advisor of WRY - 'Writers' Relief and You'.