February 24, 2017. I received a mail from the circle office. I was asked to attend a video conference with the head office. I had been stamped as a non-performing agriculture officer.
The jolt shook me to my core. The first Sunday after that mail, 9 am in the morning, I was still in bed, holding tightly my to-do list that said I was supposed to be on field for recovery. I felt a deeper jolt. I stay in the bed.
Everyone has a background story, hidden behind the veils of our day-to-day lives. And believe me, no one gives a damn about your background story. All they do is judge you.
Soon, the time for the review meeting arrived. The authorities were questioning my short attendance at a specific branch. To conclude the meeting, I had to respond, “Okay, sir. I won’t give you another chance to complain.”
The background story they never got to learn was all about my struggle with the absence of washrooms at that specific branch, the winters that filled one’s bladder frequently, the sulabh shauchalays at bus stops and the evil-eyed stalkers who would accompany me to the filthy complex.
Then it was time for another review meeting. The authorities questioned me on the complaints of a specific manager. He kept complaining that I reached the branch at 11 am. I finally replied, “Okay, sir. I will try to reach the branch early.”
What they didn’t know was the route I had to take to get to that specific branch. It was a daunting task – waking up at 6 am to board a bus at 7 am only to reach a stop after 15 kilometres, from where a local train was to be boarded. Covering 60 kilometres by train, walking another kilometre under a scorching sun to board another bus to travel 20 kilometres to finally reach the branch.
Some are longing hard to get to home, others to get married. A few are working hard just to see their babies smiling. Some are pretending to be confident even though there has been news of kidnapping in their areas of operation. The love, longing and desire to be on the field in order to bring change into this world, no matter how small, is the exclusive feature of an agriculture officer.
Their background stories keep screaming in their heads but they have to keep moving and keep holding their heads high as long as they are breathing. These people are the closest to the soil after the farmer. Agriculture officers are often found shattering conventions, breaking any obstacles and overcoming any problem whatsoever by laughing them off.
For decades, agriculture officers have been judged, and judged ‘wrongly’. They are judged everyday for being away from the branch, for having lesser knowledge about the routine banking chores, for earning travelling allowances, etc. They are given names. But have you heard their background stories?
The million smiles they are spreading among the needy, the plethora of blessings they get and the truly reliable friend circle they make when they finance rural India – the real India. Nevertheless, another working day awaits my efforts. And I am going to let my background story tell that I worked harder when I was stamped a non-performing agriculture officer and was judged continuously. What does your background story say?