“Sir, There is an urgent message from the head office. You have to meet the Director immediately”, informed my clerk.
I took the word as a command and rushed to the head office. I told the door-peon (one who is guarding the door of an officer. He allows visitors into the officer’s room) that I had been instructed to meet the director immediately. “Don’t you see so many people waiting to see him? Wait for your turn”, he barked. I sat in a corner of the room on an old rickety chair. One by one (not necessarily as per their time of arrival, but as per the whims and fancies of the door-peon. I learnt later that his whims and fancies were available for a consideration) the waiting people were sent into the officer’s room. My turn came an hour later. I thought that the director would rebuke me for being late. But he said nothing. He went on talking in the phone. Some five minutes later, he looked in my direction with a question mark in his eyes. “Sir, I received an urgent message to meet you in person”, I told him in a humble tone. Nodding his head, he asked me to wait in the hall till he called me back. To make the story short, he left the office a half hour later.
Now I knew the meaning of the word “urgent” in the official jargon.
Have you seen an official file-pad? It has two flaps. One is marked ‘urgent’ and the other marked ‘ordinary’. Both in the same pad. You are supposed to tie the string in such a way that one of the flaps is facing up – depending on the nature of the file in question. There also, the whims and fancies of the clerk who handles it matter. Now I believe you understand how a government office works.
But, some times, ignoring an urgent call from your top boss may save your life. A German military officer learnt the lesson in a hard way. Once, in the war field, he received a message from Berlin that Hitler wanted to see him. It was towards the last few days of the war and Hitler was behaving irrationally. When the officer got into the jeep, one of his subordinates leaned towards him and whispered in his ears, “Sir, you need not be in a hurry”. The officer called him near and asked him what he meant. “If you want to avoid the fate of Rommel”, the subordinate completed his terse message. “But I thought Field Marshall Irwin Rommel died because of the wounds he received in the war?”, the officer asked. “No, he was murdered as per the orders of the Fuhrer”. The officer took the cue and whispered in the ears of his driver “There is no urgency”. The driver understood and drove the vehicle slowly. Later the officer learnt that the Fuhrer had passed an order sentencing him to death.