Suchitra was typing away furiously at her computer.  These were the top line findings  of the social audit. She would work on the main report later. For now she wanted Mr. Deepak Mukherjee , IAS , Secretary – Animal husbandry and livestock development, Government of Tamil Nadu to some idea of what his officers were up to!!  A storm seemed to be raging her mind and coming out through her fingers!  Her findings would surely turn the animal husbandry department upside down.. she was sure of that! She finished the concluding paragraph and ran a spell check on the document before saving it. She then opened her email , attached the document and started typing out the message to Mr. Mukherjee.

“ Dear Mr. Mukherjee. Please find attached the top line findings from my field visit. I would be happy to discuss them  with you in person before beginning work on
the final document. Looking forward to hearing from you. Suchitra Iype”  . She pressed the “ send” button , disconnected the internet and shut down her system!

Waiting to hear from someone is not easy as Suchitra soon realized . A day passed, then a week and then two weeks but no calls from Mr. Mukherjee’s office! She kept checking her outbox  to see if the mail had  indeed been sent and looked at her inbox to see if it had bounced back. She even resent the mail to be doubly sure ! What
was wrong with these people..?

It was nearly three weeks later that she received a call- not from Mr. Mukherjee but from her brother Sanjay!

“ Hi Suchi.. how have you been?” began Sanjay. “ Oh fine.. and you? How are Rekha and kids?”  “ All okay. Iype in station or travelling?”  he asked.

“ No he is in station. Tell me why this sudden call in the middle of the day? Don’t tell me you are on leave” she said.

“ No I am in the office. Umm Suchi.. have you finished that study with the Animal husbandry department?”  asked Sanjay cautiously

“ Yes. I sent them the report three weeks ago. There has been no acknowledgement from them. Do you think I should courier a hard copy to them?”  she

“ No no don’t do that. Deepak has received your mail and read your findings” said Sanjay.

“ Then why hasn’t he responded? “  asked Suchitra.

“ Well.. Suchi it is a bit complicated. You see , this scheme is part of the  Chief Minister’s  election manifesto and Deepak is one of her favorites” began Sanjay

“ So…?” asked Suchitra

“ Well, it is like this Suchi, your findings will have an adverse impact on everyone concerned!” said Suchitra

“ You mean your friend will be shunted out into Department for disciplinary proceedings or something?” asked Suchitra angrily

“ Suchi don’t be so stubborn! Look, Deepak is a close friend. He has helped me a lot. Remember when he was the collector Kanchipuram, he helped us to get the encumbrance certificate for that land? And besides, he gave you an opportunity for a consultancy- your first with the government if I may add. So you must be practical. If you proceed with writing out that report and putting in all those negative findings, it wont be just him who will be affected. The department will try to discredit you by getting someone else to repeat the study and then you will never be taken seriously by anyone within the government. Your career as an independent consultant will be over!” said Sanjay

Suchitra was breathing heavily! She could not believe what her brother was telling her! “ You mean I should support corruption?” she asked in a hard voice. “ No I am not saying that. All I am saying is to take a balanced view with respect to the situation. You are behaving like Appa now.  It was his stubborn honesty that came in the way of his career. No wonder, he retired as Joint Secretary when he had the potential to go further up the ranks” said Sanjay.

Suchitra could not believe what she was hearing. Her father was her hero and here was her brother being so negative about Appa’s  honesty!

“ I am your brother and your well wisher. Please Suchi think about it calmly and take the right decision” said Sanjay before disconnecting!

Suchitra put the phone down and started pacing up and down the room. She needed to talk to Iype about this when he returned home in the evening.

A week later..

The conference room in the Secretary’s room was packed. Mr Mukherjee was listening keenly to the presentation made by Dr. Suchitra Iype. Mr. Veluchamy, Mr. Selvaraj and Mr. Marimuthu too were all ears!

“ The people have been given  goats without providing them with proper training on their care. Therefore, I would recommend that the department organize a series of training on animal care for all the beneficiaries immediately. Besides, it was also found that the grazing grounds were very far away making it difficult for villagers to take them out grazing everyday.  Therefore my second recommendation is stall feeding. It would be good if the government could work out some scheme around fodder supply for the poor families with goats”

Mr.  Veluchamy and his team were making copious notes. Mr. Mukherjee was nodding and saying              ” What you say is so true Madam. We had not thought about this earlier. We were concerned initially only about the transfer of assets. But thanks to your study we now know how to strengthen this scheme. I am really grateful to you! “   Suchitra gave an enigmatic smile!

“ Mr Veluchamy,  I hope you have authorized release of the payment of the first two installments of her consultancy fees?” asked Mr.Mukherjee

“ No sir. Not yet” mumbled Mr. Veluchamy.

“ Please do that quickly. And Madam, we would be happy to have you on board as a consultant for the content development for the animal care training modules” said Mr. Mukherjee to Suchitra with a smile.

“ Oh.. let me see.. I am a bit busy. ! “ she said trying to evade the offer.

“ No Madam, please accept. We will not have anyone else. We now have a close rapport with you ” said Mr. Veluchamy with a smile.

He was feeling extremely pleased with himself . The goat “ distribution”  had helped finance his older daughter’s marriage. Now, with these recommendations around fodder “distribution” he was sure he would be able to see his younger daughter’s marriage through! Lady luck was definitely with him.

( concluded)


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anilkumar Kurup
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:41:40

    Crisp, and well narrated easy read. The plot- did something inspire you?I enjoyed reading all three posts .
    Typically the sad state of affairs in the land where every one are pliable.
    I wonder what Ms Suchitra would have felt standing in that room and lecturing on the subject of educating people before offering live stock.

    The short description of them stranded in the wrong station and its ambience too were good…

    Keep it up enjoyable.
    I wrote a post on similar lines named ,”The Jack Fruit Tree”.


    • Meera
      Oct 28, 2011 @ 10:05:13

      Thanks Anil for your comments. About the inspiration behind the story.. you could say that some of my experience of working with government programs may have triggered it off- I have met so many Veluchamys, Marimuthus et al- at one level they get on my; nerves and on a lighter vein I must say that I find them all very comic! I will certainly read the post you have mentioned.


  2. KP
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 04:32:42

    It is a good and sad story bringing out the malaise in the system with gentle sarcasm and how difficult it is to inject an honesty of purpose in the several schemes introduced apparently for the benefit of the poor,What gets my goat is how even honest people like Suchitra are b(r)ought around to be a part of the corrupt system.
    Hopefully such things are not happening in real these days.
    I liked your style of writing with an eye for details but the story tends to become long.It is actually suited for a novel where you are not constrained by the need to be short as in short stories.I do hope writing a novel is on your cards.


    • Meera
      Oct 28, 2011 @ 10:07:43

      KP you have a point there. May be I should seriously look at editing the story before putting it up! Yeah sure I have always wanted to write a novel. But I just dont have the time for it just now. Maybe when I retire 🙂 I have promised myself that I will never do these stories in parts- they put a lot of pressure on me.. the writer because I have to think how to take it forward. In this case I really struggled..! I wonder how people who write 7 part stories manage 🙂


  3. Krishnapriya
    Oct 31, 2011 @ 15:39:25

    Hi Meera,
    I like continuity and so read all the 3 at a stretch.. Your effort that you have put here, the eye for details, the humor in the natural raw fashion as it happens in real life.. I am not sure which one to applaud the most..

    More than that, your writings reminded me of RK.Narayan, I read his short works long ago, and loved it coz they were so close to reality and descriptive, the same sincerity I feel here. A different kind of village, the train scene, river crossing in part 2, the shock and characterization in part 1 were too good.

    The way you ended it, in the helpless way rather than making her a superwomen was commanding! Loved every bit of it!


    • Meera
      Oct 31, 2011 @ 15:59:38

      Thanks Krishnapriya for your kind comments. You have honored me by comparing me to RK Narayan because he is my favorite author.


  4. Sharmila
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 21:09:06

    Hi Meera !

    That’s so true … ur writing is very similar to RK Narayan, if u keep on writing like this … u surely will find a publiser who would eagerly be ready to publise u posts as a short stories book …. no i m not exaggrating !!

    Story telling is an art n u do it effortlessly ! …. waiting for the next post – hope will post it soon 🙂


  5. R.Ramakrishnan
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 23:12:31

    Read all three parts in one go. Kept my interest unabated. Great stuff ! Looks like corruption has become a way of life. .And even those who want to be honest find it difficult to survive and ultimately get sucked into the system


  6. Deepa
    Nov 13, 2011 @ 07:57:33

    Poor Suchitra having to compromise her principles like that. Parts 1 & 2 were of course funnier, constituting the meat of the story. This being the culmination I guess could not be as much. But if read at a go its rather hilarious! I specially liked the one about being forced off the train at the wrong station and losing chappals in the bargain. Not to mention stepping on someone’s face!


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