The Indian Foreign Service, more popular as the IFS, is undoubtedly the foremost among the elite central services in India. It draws some of the best brains in the country and its members have on many occasions made the country proud by serving the nation under extremely trying, even dangerous, situations far from the glare of publicity.
However, it is not rare to find, among this generally brilliant team of men and women of superb calibre, an occasional crackpot or two who provide the much needed comic relief in the midst of the otherwise serious official business. The IFS, more than any other Service, scrupulously guards its secrets, among them the less savoury sides of its fraternity. Therefore, the stories about its eccentric members hardly ever permeate the solid walls of the South Block. I am tempted to share one such anecdote which, but for a hapless tabletop, could have been quite a painful experience for a junior functionary.
Soon after lunch one day, my boss summoned me to his office to discuss a file I had sent him earlier. As we were going through the document and exchanging views about the best possible course of action in the matter, the heavy wooden door of the room was flung open and in came a familiar figure yelling at top blast “I say, where the hell is my file?” We were taken aback by this sudden attack but my boss tried to maintain his composure. He remained calm and offered a seat to the furiously charged up ‘victim of the wrath of some superiors’.
At this point, in spite of all my efforts to make myself inconspicuous, the enraged person recognised my presence. Perhaps recalling several of our encounters when both soft and hardcore diplomacy had failed to elicit any “guidance” from me on how to loosen the knot in which this senior colleague was badly entangled, the massive frame of the person came dangerously close to the boss’s table. For a moment I feared the fist was aimed at me and ducked. To my great relief, however, the raised hand came to be rested with a thud on the slanted desk with a glass top – used by some officers for the ease of reading and writing – and it cracked with a loud sound. Forgetting everything about fraternity the boss cried out, “what the f@*#”!
Pacified by breaking the glass, the madcap apologised, but still wanted to know, “why this delay in resolving my case?” The case, I knew, was quite complicated as it involved deserting of one’s post without permission, gross dereliction of duty on several occasions and even an attempt to offer inducements at a very high level to “settle” the matter. Naturally, it was taking time to probe such an exciting case. Sensing that neither of us was amused by the latest bout of hysteria and that the “case” could get more complicated, the storm passed as suddenly as it had come.
But since then the episode livened up many an evening when some of us gleefully remembered the outstanding performance of this genius for which the wag was promoted to the Grade I of the Indian Foreign Service, if a bit late in life!