Of pomp and pompousness

Judgment restricting the use of red beacon lights comes as a jolt to civil servants.

Recently the Supreme Court  passed a land-mark judgment restricting the use of red beacon lights on the top of the vehicles to high dignitaries holding constitutional posts only ‘while they are on duty and not otherwise.’ This must have come as a rude jolt to many of those public representatives and civil servants who were freely flaunting their red beacon-mounted vehicles both on and off duties.

I narrate here an incident that happened when my father was serving as a young amildar in the early 1900s in T Narasipur. The amildar those days, vested with administrative and judicial powers was the live link between the people of the taluk and the State Governing Council headed by the Maharaja. As one of the mandatory honours attached to this post, the amildar always had a bugler called ‘Kombinalu’ in attendance. This Kombu was a crescent –shaped brass bugle which was the proud possession of the bugler. Besides being used as a trumpet, this bugle served as a container as well to collect free toddy as ‘maamool’ with its blowing end closed with the palm of the hand. 

The prescribed duty of the bugler was to blow the kombu to herald the presence of the amildar whenever he left for office on his horse-back, blowing all the way down the street till the amildar reached his office and again on his return journey till he reached home after duty hours. 

Once it so happened that father had to be on leave due to some pressing personal work and as per the prevailing system he handed over charge to his assistant shirastedar, to act in his leave vacancy. This chap had harboured a grouse all along that he was not entitled to the ‘bugle honour’ which his boss enjoyed and he at once seized this much-awaited opportunity to make the best use of the bugler. 

Father, who was well aware of this, instructed his bugler to do everything to meet the expectations of the new boss and warned him against any complaint in this regard. The bugler, an intelligent chap, understanding the instructions in his own way, assured father that he would do accordingly. 

Two days later father was surprised to see the acting amildar rushing to meet him, his face flushed with anger, closely followed by the bugler who kept the bugle blaring in full pitch, while the people watched this scene in great amusement! 

Before father could react, the visibly agitated acting amildar bitterly complained that he was being deliberately subjected to humiliating situations by the bugler. “Tell me sir”, he pleaded desperately, “Should the whole taluk come to know what I am doing? When I wake up he blows the bugle; When I go to toilet he blows it louder; When I go to the river to bathe he follows me blaring the bugle till I finish my bath and like this he keeps blowing all day long. He seems to be doing it intentionally to humiliate me. Please withdraw this fellow and save me from this embarrassment!”

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