Essentially, he was a loner, driven to despair. His wife and he only daughter had long deserted him to migrate to USA. They kept little contact with him. He was employed in Railways and was posted on a division where I too had served. Apart from a loner and a diehard pessimist, over a period of time he became a shirker also—a classic shirker that is. He was the butt of all kind of jokes in his ‘friends’ circle. One would say ‘Sir! Parikh had once decided to go to USA..he went to the airport also just when his plane was about to take off, this air hostess recognized him and Parikh was thrown out’. Since his family was hardly keeping any contact with him, he was constantly wearing this sham..last night he had a talk with his family ..his daughter wrote a long letter to him etc. However, those who knew him knew that he is making up all these stories as Parikh would lose track as to how many times he has narrated the same story over and over again to the same audience.
One day, his immediate supervisor, a Chief Office Superintendent was on leave, so I had called Parikh—the second in command.
Me : Parikh ! I want to give this special assignment to you
Parikh : Sir ! My Chief OS is on leave, he will be back on Monday. I will ask him to meet you.
Me : (sensing that he is trying to escape) No ! No! I want to give this task to YOU ONLY.
Parikh : Sir ! I am always ready but only thing is I will be leaving for USA as my family is there
(in early 1980s ones’ family being in USA was yet to become a commonplace thing like today, suitably impressed, I offered him to sit—a rare gesture in Railway babudom hierarchy . Nonetheless, Parikh sat with ease he had sensed that he has succeeded in impressing me with his USA story)
Me : When are you leaving for USA ?
Paikh : (cautiously) Sir ! Next month
Me : So what ? This task is hardly of a week
Parikh: (True to his reputation) but sir I will be taking leave off and on…come for few days again take leave for preparation and packing
Me: (By now I was getting annoyed at his unashamed attitude of shirking) OK go!
Parikh : ( While leaving) Sir ! I would have done it but for my ensuing USA trip
It is said Optimism is pretty infectious; in this case, Parikh’s pessimism was quite infectious. One day a young lady staffer, a new recruit who was getting married to a guy in Bombay came to me “Sir! Please guide me I am seeking transfer to Bombay” I assured her of official cooperation. “But sir! Parikh uncle says don’t go to Bombay as the HQ itself is very soon going to be shifted from Bombay to Ahmedabad.. (There was this rumor that Gujarat is demanding to shift Western Railways HQ from Bombay to Ahmedabad) I laughed and assured the lady don’t worry there was no such move in foreseeable future. She was duly transferred to Bombay and in course of time retired from Bombay unshaken and unstirred. HQ remains in Bombay for all these decades.
So Parikh uncle was such a slippery and pessimistic character, took pride for all wrong things in life for example he would boast he opens his pen only for signing muster and receiving pay cheque. Often he would not carry pen and borrow from his colleague seated at the neighboring desk.
I came to know finally Parikh uncle retired and is settled very much in India only. Needless to say that he could never even once board the flight to USA… reason? May be hostile air hostess or unreasonably cruel visa authorities or due o sheer indifference of people whom he referred to as his family throughout his working life.
We all have Parikh uncles in our office, in our neighborhood and at times among our own kith and kins. No?