It all actually started with Moses, he of the flowing white mane and AMS (Anger Management Syndrome), when he descended form Mount Sinaii clutching the tablet on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. It WAS a tablet, and not an IPad or Notebook, my extensive research has revealed, and the ten edicts were burnt on to it, not downloaded from the Cloud. In fact there was very little of downloading or uploading going on it those hoary days, except the uploading of salt from the Dead Sea (it was very much alive then) onto ships by the Tatas, owned by a patriarch called Cyrus the Great, better known as Cyrus Mystery. In any case, the point I am making in my own befuddled way is that the Commandments laid down a code of conduct by which the Israelis were expected to live and die (mostly the latter in those intolerant days) and which they now use to build settlements on the West bank and Gaza.
Even more important, however, the Ten Commandments of Moses established a trend which has continued to this day. Every organised group of people now are required to have a set of rules (engraved in stone, naturally) by which they are expected to function and through which they retain their distinct identity. The doctors, for example, have the Hippocratic Oath, the Mafia has its Omerta, 18th century Europe had the Code Napoleon, the Freemasons have the peculiar handshake and twitching eyebrows, the BJP has its own dictum (“Who says you cannot fool all of the people all of the time?”), the Congress, notwithstanding all its scams, has a simple credo (“The buck stops here”) ), the Income Tax Dept has also devised one, post demonetisation (“Zindagi ke saath bhi, zindagi ke baad bhi”) and so on. I hope you get the point.
The IAS could not be long exempt from this universal imperative and therefore, after sorting out the initial teething problems (should their dress code be the loin cloth or the safari suit ? should a lady Director be designated a Directory ? does a round of golf or rubber of bridge at lunch-time qualify as public service? etc.), it too has come up with its own code. It is not known when and where the IAS Commandments originated, but it is suspected to have been brewed in Happy Valley of the National Academy at Mussoorie, along with the local hooch known as “chhang”. Happy Valley, incidentally gets its name because of this “chhang”: probationers who go into it every day to face the tortures of horse riding and “shramdan” return happy and elated after imbibing a kettle or two of the concoction, somewhat like the sceptics in Mathew Arnold’s poem who went to church to scoff but stayed to pray. Commandments 3, 4 and 6 do reveal the distinct imprint of “chhang”. Later, when the probationers were dispersed all over India in the manner of Jumlu Devta scattering an assortment of Gods all over Kullu district from the heights of Chanderkhani Pass, these Commandments permeated the entire service and have come to stay. This Code has not yet been notified in the official gazette or included in the Directive Principles of the Constitution, but it has stood the test of time and enabled the service to retain its distinctive style and elan. It has stopped in its tracks latter day reformers who have presumed to “improve” this twice born service by shenanigans such as renaming the Planning Commission as the Nutty Ayog or replacing the Empanelment process with an Impalement process. Coincidentally, it also contains ten edicts or commandments, and is reproduced below for the benefit of those who aspire to be a number on the civil list:
- Thou shall not take My name in vain, except through proper channel.
- Blessed are the meek for they shall never know what hit them.
- Do unto others before they do unto you. Forget that shit about turning the other cheek.
- Love thy neighbour but grab his departments (and his car, house and private secretary). Leave his wife alone, she is not part of the perks but the baggage.
- Thou shalt rest from thy labours on the seventh day, it being the Sabbath – and on the sixth, fourth and third, being second Saturday, public holiday and casual leave.
- Covet not thy colleague’s wife – before ascertaining his seniority.
- Thou shalt be transferred every second year lest thy sins catch up with thee. If they have already caught up with thee then thy shall not be transferred at all, in order that they can be given a proper Christian burial.
- Honour thy father and thy mother but glorify thy Chief Minister and Minister.
- Thou shalt not steal – but the good Lord will turn a blind eye to gifts at Divali and New Year’s.
- Trust only in the Lord – provided He is not in the IPS or IRS.
Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains.
He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls.
He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/
Truly educative (for some subversive) piece on the Ten Commandments refined and distilled over two millenia of pretence and practice. Happy to note that there is room for adulterous misadventure denied in the original version of Moses, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. So, when Moses came down the mount, the impatient crowd of Israelites chanted, “the news! the news?”. And Moses said, “you want the good one or the bad one first?” The Good one! And Moses said, “I brought him down to ten”. The crowd was not very impressed because few could count up to ten in those days! And, the Bad news? Moses sighed and lamented, “Adultery is still in there!”