Typing Hands
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“What are the implications of the short circuit impedance of a transformer on the power supply network?” The question hit Souvik like a sniper’s bullet.

He was appearing in the interview for the post of a part time electrical maintenance engineer at the autonomous body. It was too early in the day, for he was yet unprepared to answer a question of that magnitude immediately on taking the central seat opposite the three interviewers who had sharpened their arsenal well in advance.

Several precious seconds were lost while Souvik tried to size up the question before hazarding an answer. Meanwhile the man at the centre, who appeared to be the senior most and the head of the board volleyed another question at him.

“I find that you are a 2006 pass out B.Tech in Electrical Engineering. Why did you apply for a part time job in the start of your career Mr. Souvik?”

The man who asked the first question, seated on the left of Souvik was not eager to know the answer of his previous question. He was happy to append an add-on to the second one by saying:

“And that too when the qualification required for the post was a mere diploma?”

This was a question Souvik apprehended. But the deadliest one was yet to come. Souvik didn’t have long to wait before the leftist obliged him.

“Why Mr. Souvik are you trying to get a maintenance engineer’s job, that too at a monthly honorarium of Rs. 3000 only, when the likes of you are easily bagging jobs five to six times as remunerative in the IT sector?”

Souvik still kept quiet. A few beads of sweat appeared on his face even on this cold January morning. The man on the right so long kept his cool. Now he too joined in by asking:

“Did you not score seventy per cent or above throughout your academic career? I hear that many software companies fix that as the bottom line.”

Souvik still maintained a stoic silence that was characteristic of him. As an interviewee it was so difficult to find an answer. He was afraid that anything that he said might go against him. This was precisely the reason why he couldn’t succeed in the campus interviews. He was very calculative and preferred to weigh each word before speaking out.

He felt that a question deserved much more than a casual treatment and that required time. How could he convince a panel of three interviewers, taking an inkling of a second to coin an answer to each of their questions? He knew all the answers to the questions asked so far but could not blurt them out instantaneously.

The more he dithered the jitterier the interviewers grew. The head of the board now wanted to know if Souvik was physically okay.

“Are you not feeling well? If you wish we can send for the office doctor. He is around. Do you have any problem? You are well within your rights not to answer any of our questions if you feel so. Have we asked you anything that has hurt you Mr. Souvik?” 

The words of sympathy did the trick that the volley of questions was unable to do till now. Souvik said in a soft voice:

“I am all right sir. I could not answer your questions so far because the time offered to me was very little. Before I could start to answer one, the next one came in. I was baffled. I want this job because I want to pursue higher studies through the distant education mode. Since the National library is nearby I can take advantage of that. I understand that the working hours here are from twelve to four.”

The head realized that the board might have hurried because an important meeting was to be conducted at the same venue in an hour’s time. He felt sorry for Souvik, who was more or less of his son’s age.

“You have explained yourself well. But you are a fresher. How will you tackle a complex maintenance job?”

“That is the challenge I am prepared to take, Sir. I also don’t know how I shall do that.”

“For a paltry sum of Rs.3000 a month?” The leftist interjected. “Okay tell me how is a ‘Point of Supply’ defined?”

“I guess you are asking this with respect to supply utility’s service connection, Sir. I can’t give you the exact details right now but can find that out from the relevant pages of the Indian Electricity Rules.”

The head of the board then declared that the interview was over and Souvik took leave thereafter.

The next man to appear was a sexagenarian. Unlike Souvik, this man was very fond of talking. Before anything could be asked, this man volunteered a lot of information about himself although such details were available in his application.

The board was again informed by him that he was Samir Jana, a B.E of 1964 batch from a premier institute of the state and that he had worked in a host of places including various stints as a self employed man. He further said that he was a living example of a rolling stone that gathered no moss.

The board kept quiet. The previous interviewee had made them jittery by his silence. After his departure the board decided that before asking any question they would allow the candidate sufficient time to answer the previous one.

But Mr. Samir Jana was different. He had unsettled the settled decision of the selection board by his verbal exuberance.

Among the members of the board, the leftist was the first to recover. He was an avowed sniper with his deadly arsenal of questions.

“I would like to ask you one question if you don’t mind, Mr. Jana.”

“Please go ahead by all means.” It appeared that the roles had reversed now.

“If you could not manage your own finances in more than sixty years of your life, how would you manage our maintenance work?”

“A very valid question indeed! But the answer is hidden inside your question, Sir. It usually so happens that those who mismanage their own affairs can perfectly look after others’ problems. There are umpteen numbers of examples. I can furnish many instances if you so desire.”

“No. It’s not required.” The head was quick to stop him for he was not prepared to listen to another bout of lecture on this irrelevant subject. Instead, he requested the leftist, who was obviously the technical man and an expert engineer, to ask a pertinent question.

“You must have worked with transformers, sir, in your long career as a practicing engineer?”

“Yes, I have handled many of them. An electrical engineer without intimate knowledge of a transformer is like a………” Again the head stopped him at this point to save time by mildly reprimanding his colleague.

“Why don’t you ask the question straightway instead of beating about the bush?”

“What is the highest permitted temperature of a transformer winding with class-A insulation, after passing short circuit current through it for two seconds?” The leftist was very precise now.

“Temperature? You make me laugh, Sir. With the work culture that prevails now, no operator logs hourly temperature readings of transformers. The equipment is nicely holed up in its chamber for months. Unless a fault occurs, nobody bothers to even peep in. Small birds build their nests and hatch eggs in the various niches there. Its warm out there you know.”  Jana again tried to revert to his generalizations rather than enter into the hazardous world of specifics.

It appeared that the questioner wanted to know something else. But he was afraid to repeat his question for the head might not like that. Still he tried to raise the matter:

“I wanted to know what does the Indian Standard stipulate regarding maximum permitted temperature of oil filled transformers. It had nothing to do with day to day operation.”

“You can look that up in the Standard. I have a very old copy of the late seventies. I didn’t need any after that.”

“What is the number of the relevant Standard?” The sniper sensed blood at long last.

“You can’t expect me to remember the IS code numbers at this age. Actually I didn’t want to apply for this job. It was my wife who typed out the application for me and almost compelled me to sign on the dotted line. She has just retired from Government service. I sacrificed my career so that she could keep her job. She now tells me that both of us staying at home for twenty-four hours, after all, is not a good idea. One should move out.”

“So you don’t need the job Mr. Jana.” The head was emphatic now.

“Not at all. On the contrary I need it very much to prove to myself that I am still useful to the society. So I thought it worth my salt to apply for the job.”

“That is your problem Mr. Jana. But how much do we stand to gain by employing you?” The head appeared confused now.

“That, Sir, strictly speaking, not within my purview of things. I really cannot take that decision on your behalf. If you select me I can help you in selecting my replacement at a later date, if you permit me. But I can say that you will not regret your decision whomsoever you select out of the two candidates you called today. Before coming inside I had a talk with Souvik. He is a nice boy of my grandson’s age.”

“You can see where modern age has pushed us. You just now interviewed two candidates, one of them younger to the other by 42 years. Unthinkable sir! It’s unthinkable. If I had not applied for this job such a wonderful side of the present era would have remained unknown to me. Thank you all for allowing a glimpse of the modern times.”

Mr. Samir Jana left the place leaving the board in bewilderment. It was now time for the participants of the next meeting to enter the boardroom.

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