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Those little houses of many mirrors

Those little houses of many mirrors
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Those little houses of many mirrors

Highlights

My father found Delhi unsuited to his temperament and accepted an assignment as the Chairman of the Wage Boards for Cotton Textile and Sugar Industries with his headquarters at Hyderabad

My father found Delhi unsuited to his temperament and accepted an assignment as the Chairman of the Wage Boards for Cotton Textile and Sugar Industries with his headquarters at Hyderabad. I shifted along with him and joined a post graduate course in mathematics in Osmania University. After standing first in the university in MSc (as a measure of compensation for my earlier failure perhaps!) I had enrolled for pursuing a doctorate in the Theory of Relativity under Dr. Vanajha Iyengar as my guide, when I was offered a job as a Probationary Officer in the State Bank of India. While still serving in my first branch and under training, I got selected for the IAS, returned to Hyderabad and proceeded to Mussoorie.

Coming back to the houses in which my wife and I stayed, there were interesting aspects about the time we spent in some of them. The story begins with an outhouse of a Collector's bungalow (in which we stayed when I was in the training in Krishna district), which originally was meant to be a swimming pool.

An abandoned (and allegedly haunted!) bat-infested swimming pool, an attached bathroom, a dressing room and a hall in which people probably had drinks in the olden days (or played cards), was all that the building comprised of. And one had the occasional giant scorpion to keep one company!

It was during our stay in that house that Dr. C.D. Deshmukh and his wife Durgabai visited the Collector C.S. Sastry and stayed with him for a couple of days. Dr. Deshmukh took a Botany lesson for my wife (which I have referred to elsewhere in this column). Although devoid of creature comforts, it was, after all, our first home. While it certainly did not compare very favourably with Switzerland, (where we had originally planned our honeymoon!), I am glad to be able to record that the time we spent in that house was among the happiest in our married life.

While I have never been obsessed with astrology or palmistry, I am vulnerable to the temptation of seeking advice from practitioners of these disciplines from time to time. Towards the end of my training period an astrologer had predicted that I would get a posting as the sub-collector next to a river. While I was dreaming of the bungalows I had earlier seen my senior colleagues living in at Vijayawada and Rajahmundry, I got posted, of all places, to Ongole! It was only after some diligent search that I finally discovered that there was, after all, a river nearby – called Gundlakamma!

Ongole had been the headquarters of a sub-collector's division until a few months earlier, when a new district (Prakasam) was formed of which the town became the headquarters. Naturally enough, the Collector took over both the office and the bungalow of the sub-collector. I had, therefore, to look for private accommodation. The first one we could locate was a bit like a railway compartment with rooms in a row and practically no ventilation or light. After some effort I was allotted government quarters. The only consolation about that house was that one could see the bungalow which my predecessors had occupied through the window in the bedroom! I spent some exciting times in that house including the management of floods, adverse seasonal conditions in the shape of a severe drought and the worst part of the long drawn separate Andhra agitation.

Upon promotion to the senior scale I was first designated as Sub Collector grade-I, and then posted as District Revenue officer (known these days as Joint Collector), I was continued at Ongole, although I now had the entire district as my jurisdiction. Within a few months thereafter I was posted as Additional Director, Handlooms and Textiles in a newly created post specially meant for managing the allocation of yarn, produced by the spinning mills in the state, to various consumers including textile mills, master weavers and weavers cooperatives. The headquarters was Hyderabad.

I stayed with my parents as Usha had gone home to Ramachandrapuram (her parents' place) for confinement. That posting, however, proved to be a short-lived one as the enactment enabling the allotment of yarn was struck down by a court of law. I was then allotted to the Commercial Taxes Department for an initial stint of training for three months in the Commissioner's Office at Hyderabad. I have mentioned elsewhere in this column how Kuppu Rao, Joint Secretary in charge of Commercial Taxes in (the then) Board of Revenue arranged for me to spend a part of that period at Ramachandrapuram. On duty in my father-in-law's place!

After completion of my training I was posted as Deputy Commissioner, Commercial Taxes, Visakhapatnam. We stayed in two different houses during the stay of one year at Visakhapatnam. It proved to be an interesting stint details of which I have mentioned elsewhere in this column. One notable development was that it was during that stint that I first got obsessed with the idea of selection of options and a certain way addressing them in order of priority or the 'ABC' approach.

We then moved on to Kurnool where I was transferred to as Deputy Commissioner, Commercial Taxes. I once developed an abscess in my hip. One Dr. Krishna Rao, general surgeon in the government hospital, attended to me. He had made meticulous, almost fastidious, arrangements for the surgery, posting it as the first case in a day and taking special steps to keep the Operation Theatre clean. And, promptly, within a week, the wound got infected!

During one of the visits to the hospital at that time B.V. Mohan Reddy, MLA (who subsequently became a Cabinet Minister of the state), took one look at my face, glanced at my palm, and predicted that Usha (who was expecting at that time and was at Ramachandrapuram), would deliver a son. And, sure enough it happened. There were many notable developments on the professional front a detailed account of which I have given elsewhere in this column.

I was next posted as Special Officer Urban Land Ceiling, Hyderabad and chose to live in a small house close to my parents' place. Once again, the legislation that enabled takeover of excess land in urban areas was struck down by a Court, practically the minute I took over. One was able, however, to bring into the exercise of the takeover and allocation of excess government land, a certain amount of method and system, primarily through the use of the ABC approach once again and also using computers. After sometime that then Chief Secretary felt that my hands were not full and decided that I should move to a district.

(To be continued)

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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