December 2011. I landed at Nagpur to a very royal welcome at the National Academy of Direct Taxes. Contrary to my welcome at college way back in 2002 when it was all about 'kholo', 'ragging' and 'bakaiti', here it was with a rose bud, a gift hamper and smiles from the senior batch. We, the 65th Batch of the Indian Revenue Services (Income Tax) seemed to have arrived.
Soon, we were to get into a frenzy of wardrobe management. First of all there was that black Bandgala and as the name suggests, it chokes your throat badly, more so if you are endowed with a double chin like mine. Then there was the formal/lounge suit which by the way could not be called so, as there was no lounge in the academy. So to make sure that lounge suits are not left without a use, the classrooms were the places that were to be entered in a lounge suit. Ha! This was amazing. In college, we were lamented for wearing shorts, t-shirts (with Black Sabbath or Pink Floyd on it) and bathroom chappals into classes and here I was going to class in a lounge suit. Then there was the academy track suit along with a set of white shorts and white t-shirts to be worn for Morning Activity. The name is misleading. Morning Activity sounds so benign as if we would wake up to do some saheb-type stroll in a lawn with a pet dog accompanying us. However, it should be renamed as 'extremely physical activity that is the birthplace of all Memos'. (More about what and who is that animal called Memo after a couple of paragraphs). There were also days when we were supposed to wear traditional Indian dresses like the kurta pyjama and the like.
Having stuffed our wardrobe with enough number of shirts and ties and suits, we went to our first class after the inauguration lecture. We were introduced to characters called the DG, ADG-1, ADG-2 and also the CD, ACD-1, ACD-2. We also came to know that we are called the OT. I wondered why there weren't any AOT-1 and AOT-2!!. Never Mind. The "Oh-Tea" was more than just a name. It signified two of the most used terms in our lives. At each lecture, we would exhale "Oh", either at the sheer sleepiness of them or at the immense amount of hyper-divine taxation knowledge that moved past us like dangerous missiles. And at the end of each lecture, we would crave for Tea. I was soon to learn that Tea forms the most integral and basic ingredient in a Civil Servants life.
Alas, I do not take tea. But that didn't matter. Because in government, the Tea is never about the tea. It is about what accompanies the tea. It is either a cookie, a biscuit, a pastry, a pakoda or any other innovation. In fact, when bigger officials or guests arrive, there is always a High-Tea that is organized. While the name might mislead people to expecting liquor or grass, it actually means that the tea will be accompanied by so many snacks that you can actually get high on cholesterol. For someone like me, I just waited for days when a High Tea would be organized.
By the way, what were be being trained at? Oh, we were being trained to collect income tax. Simple isn't it? Ha! Not even close. The Income Tax Act which is one of the zillion Acts that India has takes pride in boasting that it is the most complex act and looks bulkier than even the Constitution of India. The Income Tax Rules, however beats even the Act in its bulkiness. First I thought that these were given to be used during the Morning Activity where these shall be used as dumb-bells to flex some muscles. To my horror, I realized these were to be read. Reading the IT Act is not, truly speaking, reading. It is actually Textual Harassment. My feelings on the legal language of the Act has already been expressed here http://cmt-lekhnise.blogspot.in/2012/01/legal-bullshit.html
But the most MEMOrable part of the training is the MEMO. It is that small piece of paper which lands at you like a bomb, if you are found missing from the Morning PT or in any class or even in any cultural function. Then you submit a reply and then get a moral lecture from the faculty and then forget about it. That reminds me of the Cultural functions. Oh there were too many of them and the most scary part was that our CD himself was an accomplished artist. A flute player of repute. That only meant that all cultural programmes had to be of the level to match his and that left many of us trying hard to come up with a show that he would approve of. I saw many innocent OT's burning midnight oil with a dance or a song and waiting in anticipation at the auditions of cultural programmes conducted by the CD himself. Poor souls.
However, NADT remains in my memories my baptism centre in the government and a place where I spent my enjoyable time. As luck would have it, I moved out from the academy to join another service but I still am fond of my NADT day's introduction - "Hello, I am CMT, an OT in IRS(IT), who lives at NADT and loves High Tea"