It is a quiet afternoon. There is a strange stillness outside. The air, it seems has held its breath, in fear or dismay. There are dry leaves on the ground. But the trees are full, laden with leaves and fruits too. There are not too many people outside. There is heaviness in the surroundings. It is not light and breezy. It is a quiet, sad afternoon.
Piercing the stillness is a sound, which can be heard distinctly. it is loud and clear. It is that of a cuckoo, perched somewhere on one of these trees. She cannot be seen. But when she speaks, she makes her presence felt. Her voice is doubtless sweet. While being impressed with the strength, sweetness of the quality of the voice, I find a little oddity in her song. Is she not affected by what is going around, to the leaves that have fallen, to the air that is stifled, to the minds and bodies that are affected by death, disease and misery. Unmindful of all that, she sings, full throated, celebrating her melodious strain with full strength. I do not know what she sings. I cannot decipher the notes, the strain, the voice. I do not even know if it really is happy. But to me and to others like me, her voice feels good, sweet and comforting. If it can pierce through the pall of sadness, it must have transcended the limits of joy and sorrow. She does what she ought to-sing- in spite of what is inside or outside and she does it really well. What is striking is the meditative trance of the voice and the desire of the bird to remain unseen.
As I type these thoughts, I am greeted by many on the civil services day, the day, which celebrates the place and contribution of the countless civil servants, who do their duty, silently, honestly and diligently, amidst difficulties, constraints and challenges. I find the bird’s song so timely, apt and meaningful today. It is not that I do not get affected by what is happening, inside or outside, or the praise, sneer or scorn that I receive as I continue to do my duty, without fear or favour, to the service of the nation and its people, my fellow countrymen. Even as a civil servant, I remain an ordinary human being, full of follies and foibles, but charged with the inspiration to sing in meditative trance, without being seen, with no desire of being heard too. But if what I do can cheer one heart or help heal one soul or free the air of some of its heaviness, I would have proved worthy of my inspiration.
Let us keep doing our duty with faith, resolve and dedication, singing the songs of hope and cheer, fighting gloom, darkness and despair. A single swallow may not make a summer but many swallows, joined by faith and purpose, can definitely brighten the sky! Happy Civil Services Day.
Ashutosh Agnihotri, IAS,
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)