On a certain side of the thirties, the life and times of Bridget Jones may begin to resonate with your own life. And times. With appropriate gender inversions. Do not panic, though. To quote but Jane Austen, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."
Needless to say, the good fortune that one possesses is a rank in the CSE. Upon possession, one moves in to the bureaucracy neighbourhood, hallowed precincts. Apart from control over one's privacy, one also loses the agency of free choice in marriage. But when was marriage ever left to the choice of children by Indian parents? They will remain seized of the matter, while relatives, family friends, sundry well-wishers will besiege you with offers galore.
The CSE rank list is a UPSC shortlist for brides and grooms for a tribe of parents. The CSE rank halo shines a mellow light on the heads of the rankers. It smooths over blemishes such as caste, class and creed. More often than not it does not. Caste is still the primary filter through which much of India looks at others. And what is better than endogamy to promote and nurture caste?
So, keep one's head on, especially now that one is past the eye of the needle. Life in The Service can be lonely and demanding. It is better navigated with the help of an able partner. Now there may be various criteria to decide the suitability of that partner. Should he/she be from the services? If from the service, the default preference seems to be for the All-India Services. Cadres change based on marriage. Marriages also happen based on need for cadre change. Either way, one wins some, loses some. C'est la vie and all that.
Since pointed Google search queries with search strings as "author's full name + wife" and other such combinations land on this blog, one feels bemused. Eligible lady enquirers, do not lose heart! There is hope still. Just follow due process and communication channels, approach competent authorities, swathe yourself in red tape. May be, who knows, you will be the answer to the Google query!
Anyway, on with the survival guide after that convoluted matrimonial pep talk.
Sometime after you have qualified and before you receive communication from the powers that be informing you that they were directed by Honourable President of India and so on and so forth, you will receive a curious mail from a tailor and draper from Mussoorie. Apart from congratulating on your success in the CSE, the mailer proposes to drape you in a bandhgala, the last suit you will ever wear, for you are now a celebrated bureaucrat. Very well. A bandhgala is a must have, for you will be wearing it on ceremonial occasions and not wearing one earns a show cause notice, censure and assorted opprobria.You can take up the offer of the mailer or better still, get one stitched at a tailor near your place. The ladies may want to augment their saree collection.
There is something to be said about being clothed like a bureaucrat. While a bandhgala automatically sets one apart from the crowd (except at restaurants where the waiters also wear a bandhgala, and they do at fancy places), one is well advised to be dressed in smart formals as often as possible. Clothes do make a man and women, in the services. To state but the obvious, one can not have state power draped in shabby clothes. One is no expert on fashion or chic dressing, but time spent observing the sartorial choices of senior bureaucrats over the year leads one to believe that a bureaucrat is an actor-acting in public interest, acting for the state. The costumes therefore must be appropriate, reflective of the status of the bureaucrat.
However, do not fuss over the bandhgalas and starched sarees too much. The laundry services are first rate at the Academy. So are housekeeping services. In fact, one's creature comforts are taken care of at the hostel. Can not start a day without a cup of tea? No problem, the room bearer will wake you up 45 minutes before the morning PT and serve a hot cup of tea. Feel famished post the PT? No problem, the Home Turf, the OT canteen, opens at 8 am. And there are the two dhabas near the Ganga hostel anyway. In fact, your monetary interactions with the two dhabas will be first rate lessons in micro-economics. They are attuned to the demand and supply situation and the FC, Phase 1, Phase 2 seasonality cycles so well that brokerages and stock exchanges can learn a trick or two from them. However, one could never figure out if the inflation rate they tracked was that of Zimbabwe or good old India. How else would one explain the sky rocketing prices of Maggi? The price of a plate of runny Maggi zoomed from Rs.35 at the beginning of FC to Rs. 3 zillion at the end of Phase 1, not including value additions such as lead, cheese and egg.
Unless there is an urgent need for purchasing quilts (Mussoorie Septembers are super pleasant and there is never a need for a quilt) or other such seemingly exotic materials, hold your shopping horses and unleash them at the shops on Mall Road. Save yourself the usurious (but Economics-wise spot on) prices. The Mall Road, if not over run by plains tourists, is a nice enough place to stroll on most evenings. Provided the OTs have evenings for themselves. Which they normally would not. Because FC OTs do not own their time. They are marionettes in the hands of a clock that ticks of its own will.A hand that beats enormous seconds from the space-time continuum, deafening the OTs. They will wonder if the strings that animate them are from the String Theory and if they themselves are one-dimensional particles. They will not even get time to wonder. Time to wonder is for Alice. Whereas the OTs are just White Rabbits, forever running late, creatures of the clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. *Evil laugh.*