By Swap Dutta Deka
Madam, I have earlier visited Kalakshetra(Sankardev Kalaksetra). Will it be okay if I don’t go today?” Ira asked me. I said, “ Since you visited earlier, it’s okay for me,…but my problem will arise if others also follow you…since I cannot suggest the Director of the institute to allow exemption of many from the trip…,”Ira smiled and told me, “…Don’t worry ma’m…nobody follows me…haven’t you noticed…?” she told me in a lighter note. But yes,…she is the one, who never gets late in arrival for classes, she never misses session, she never misses a single point the resource persons want to project for them….above all she never distracts even for a while (as I noticed),…so many things she does….what perhaps many of us don’t do…It is a question for me whether people ‘do not’ follow her…or people ‘can not’ follow her!...may be people do not ‘want’ to follow her.
It is a story of September 2016 afternoon in Administrative Staff College, Guwahati, the premier training institute for Govt. officers, where a one-week training programme for IAS probationers of 2015 batch of Northeast and AGMUT cadre was going on followed by Northeast Darshan. The institute organizes many tiol level programmes including such training programme throughout the year in addition to regular training activities for the state government officers and various other workshop, semirs and training for developing trainers. This course was supposed to be coordited by a colleague of mine, but due to some reason it came to me at the last hour. So I got the opportunity to meet Ira…Ira Singhal. Most of the readers are perhaps by now recognizing Ira… yes, she was recently in news not for a single reason…by topping the most prestigious and toughest competitive examition of the country for getting into IAS, but also by it she opened the door for flow of information regarding her struggle against injustice to her. She had to file a case in Central Administrative Tribul when she was denied posting in Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 2010 on the ground that she is uble to ‘push, pull and lift …’ Further it was stated that she is not even eligible to apply for a sweeper job… She, however, got a favourable order along with strong note against those who denied her posting. She got her posting as Assistant Commissioner in Customs and Excise department of IRS after a four-year long legal battle. But for Ira it was not the end and to be contented with. She had to be in IAS and that too being the topper beating disability and discrimition. She appeared the examition again to improve her rank and in the fourth attempt she created history by topping the list being first differently able to do such wonder! Well, this information is available in newspaper, magazine and Google…Then why I am writing it again? Is it because I persolly met her? …No, not at all. I met her as a part of my duty only, which has no reason to passiote me to write. The reasons for my writing will be clear from the story hereafter.
During the training, I make it a point to take the opportunity to listen to sessions as many as possible from the enlightened resource persons visiting our institute. Our participants, all being IAS probationers in this course, have come after cracking a very tough competitive examition after a long time in depth study and therefore there is no need to mention about their level of knowledge in each and every matter.
Interactions between such participants and resource persons, therefore, become very enlightening and refreshing. But from amongst the best also sometimes some shine and draw attention of all. One has no other way than to acknowledge such difference. This time each day, in each session my attraction was none other than Ira. She was always highly inquisitive, went to the depth of the matters, and passiote about the field of work waiting for her. The great philosophers always say about ‘attentiveness’ and suggest people to be in ‘now’, where distraction has got no place .Perhaps Ira is the one, who is in possession of that quality in my observation of one week programme. People find it difficult to accept themselves to be distracted or of lacking attentiveness. But, if one looks deep inside, one will find how much preoccupied one is, either living in the past or future, but not in the present. But happiness and success lie in present only, to realize which, high level of attention is required, which we miss unfortutely due to ignorance and perhaps Ira knows the key to success in spite of having reasons more than many like us to be ittentive,…if she wished,…but she never does…Ira is differently able due to a disease called Scoliosis, where patient has lateral curvature to the straight vertical line of spine, which results in disruption of the arm movement along with bending of the body. In her fight for justice, she had to prove that she is not uble to lift, push and pull…by way of medical examition…Ira was born in Meerut and studied in Sophia Girls’ School, Meerut, Loreto Convent School, Delhi and Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan. She is an Engineering graduate from Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology, Delhi and a dual MBA in Marketing and Fince from Faculty of Magement Studies, University of Delhi…She worked as Strategy Mager in Cadbury India and as Marketing Intern at Coca Cola Company. She also taught Spanish for a year. She has a brilliant academic career since school days. She likes football. She is supported by Engineer father and Insurance Adviser & homemaker mother. When her parents came to know about her differently able status during her childhood, they decided to fully concentrate on her, so that the best care they could offer to her. They even didn’t think of a second child, so that she can get their full attention. She was never allowed to think as a disable. Ira never took the benefit of reservation of her status as physically handicapped and always competed as a general category candidate. Ira would like to work for women and differently able person in her career as an IAS officer. Ira is from Delhi, posted as Assistant Commissioner, in Delhi and from AGMUT cadre. During her visit to Sualkuchi as part of field visit of our training programme she also enjoyed buying small things…which were specialties of Sualkuchi. She put lots of innovative ideas in their group presentation regarding growth of the Industry after their visit to Sualkuchi.
In many other occasions, whenever necessity came to place something of collective interest of all, all trainee officers of the group used to unimously forward this 31-year-old 4 feet 5 inches high lady for her excellent presentation.
“You should have been in our cadre,” I told Ira. (At that moment I really wished it. In my mind I also recalled my experience in working for the differently able in my home town Dibrugarh long back. It would have been great to work with Ira in this field). She smiled. Perhaps, place and many other things do not matter for her… being in possession of extraordiry level of confidence and clarity about life and clear perception of everything whatever comes on her way, she is an extraordiry and ‘Perfect’ gift of ture to the world…Ira, we will have to learn a lot…to follow you…But be sure, many are waiting to follow you in the outside world…Just you keep on leading…You can ‘pull’ much people to come forward , you can ‘push’ much people who remained in the back, you can ‘lift’ the society…
The entire batch was an excellent one…from whom I picked up the story of Ira.