I am a social worker. I used to do a lot of social work in the remote areas among the poor rural people. The people for whom I worked were very happy with my activities. They said their lives changed for the better due to my help. I felt very happy for them. And they used to entreat me not to leave them.
Then one day I received a call from the Chief Minister (CM) offering me a berth in his ministry! I knew the CM was planning to expand his cabinet. The news was there all over the media. But how come I am invited? I was happy doing social work among these poor people. The CM said he wanted my services in the cabinet. I felt hugely elevated. There are several able and experienced MLAs, and yet he chose to invite me! I reminded him that I was not even an MLA. But he said I need not worry, he could get me elected in the next by-election.
I was convinced my elevation to the Ministry will enhance my status and I shall be able to do a lot more than I have been able to do till now. I prepared myself for the big event. I read a lot on what a legislator and a minister were supposed to do, how to behave among the public, with the press, and among one’s own people.
The swearing-in ceremony was to take place in a week. I prepared a special set of dress befitting the occasion. For my status and habit, any ordinary dress would have been enough, but it is not my status that I should consider here, but the elite status of other ministers and would-be colleagues. My family members were quite enthusiastic and they all felt gratified that my selfless services among the poor have been noticed by the CM.
My wife even asked me, “They are all very highly experienced, elite, and high class society people there in the cabinet. I wonder how you fit in there.”
I replied, “Look at the Moon. It is so beautiful and subject of fascination of poets for centuries. And yet, there is a black spot on it, right? You consider me as that black spot among the others in the cabinet.”
As the day for the swearing-in neared, I was increasingly tense. Is it really happening? Or did the CM make a mistake? I read his letter again. Yes, he has clearly written that he was impressed with my activities and that he would like to include me in his cabinet. I wondered, ‘Will they send me a car to pick me up?’ I then laughed at the thought. 'Dreaming of a government car before even becoming a minister!' Remember, I was not even an MLA.
The swearing in was scheduled for 11.30 in the morning. It was a six hour drive from my home to the state capital. I arranged for a car to pick us up in early morning. My wife and children accompanied me as well. It was like a festival in the capital. The whole city had been spruced up for the big occasion.
When I was entering the Secretariat, the uniformed guard looked at me and asked politely, “Sir, do you have an invitation?”
I told him, “I have come for the swearing-in. I have been invited by the CM to be a minister.”
The guard was not very convinced. He had seen most of the MLAs during the last several months and probably could not remember me being among them. He allowed us in when I showed him the CM’s letter, which I had carried with me. Once inside I was lost. I saw several ministers, whom I have only seen on the TV. They were all busy talking among themselves. All of them were very senior and have been ministers for several years.
I went and sat in a corner. I tried to catch the attention of the CM, just to apprise him that I have arrived. But he was too busy with all his senior cabinet colleagues that he did not notice me. I waited patiently. I had a couple of glasses of water. I realized I was perspiring due to tension. All these ‘big’ people … and I, without any elite background, or high connections! What should I do to let the CM know that I have arrived? If he did not see me, he would get worried. I was about to go and inform him that I have arrived, when it was announced that the swearing-in would start soon.
The governor arrived and took his seat. The ministers, including the CM, came down and occupied seats in the centre. I was sitting at a distance and nobody had noticed me. I clutched the letter tightly in my hand. In case anybody asked, I should be able to show it to him.
Then the proceedings began.
The Secretary announced the names of each nominee, he or she went to the dais, took oath, signed in the register, came down and shook hands with the CM. The first group was that of cabinet ministers. After each name, I thought next could be mine. I wondered how people will react seeing me, who has never been in the limelight and who has not even been an MLA, taking oath as a minister! Four cabinet ministers had taken oath. I had heard that there were only five new cabinet ministers. Therefore, the next name could be mine. I cleared my throat, straightened my shirt, and was ready to get up from my chair when the name of another MLA was announced. I was confused and disappointed. I was told by the CM’s office on phone that I would be made a cabinet minister. But my name has not been announced. Maybe there are more cabinet ministers.
Next, the Secretary started to announce the names of ministers of state. I was aghast. I wanted to tell the Secretary that he was probably making a mistake and he missed out my name. I looked eagerly at the CM who I thought would stand up and tell the Secretary that my name had not been announced. But it seemed that he had not even noticed it!
I thought may be the CM’s office must have made a mistake. Maybe I am to be sworn in as a minister of state. I was slightly disappointed that I had not been made a cabinet minister. I reprimanded myself, “Hey you, you have been content serving the poor rural people in that remote village for many years without anybody noticing! And now you are disappointed at not being made a cabinet minister! How arrogant are you!”
The names of the ministers of state were being announced. I concentrated on the function. I didn’t want to miss out my name. There were seven ministers of state. And my name was not among them. There were four deputy ministers. My name did not appear in that list too.
I was stunned. I was devastated. I wanted to ask CM why he made a fool of me. I was content doing social service among the poor people and it was he who invited me to become a minister in his cabinet. Why should he have done that? Once the function was over I returned home with my family. I did not partake in the reception. I never wanted to be anywhere where I was not welcome.
Nobody said anything during the return journey. My wife mumbled to herself, “I had an intuition that something like this would happen”. I wanted an answer from the CM as to why he did this to me. I, however, chose to remain silent.
A week later I got a letter from the CM which read, “I owe you a personal apology for having omitted your name from the list of prospective ministers. I had requested for your inclusion. Last minute decisions to include more experienced and elite and high status ministers meant that there was no space for a couple of ministers, including you. And the decision was taken without consulting me.”
I wanted to ask him several questions. If it is not him, then who takes decisions? Didn’t he know about the other high society members before inviting me? Why did he deliberately pull me into the midst of a feast and then tell that no food was left? If it were some elite ministers who took the decision, why did he invite me without consulting them?
Maybe he believes in the proverb, ‘Poor people’s lives and feelings are things to be played with for the entertainment of elites.’
I started involving myself more vigorously in activities for the betterment of the poor people’s lives in the villages and in a few weeks forgot the incident as a bad dream. Or so I thought. But is it really possible to forget such deliberate humiliation so easily?