By RAJ LAKSHMI DUBE
“ We have received a few nominations of office bearers for election to the Society…..and Ms Raj Lakshmi Dube.” This was the announcement being made at the Annual General Body Meeting of the welfare society which was holding its elections. Proposed and seconded I was elected, but the surprise was, for the post of Treasurer. I, a Treasurer, was never interested in Maths even in school. During our school times we had to choose our subjects in 9th standard and I had dropped the subject of Maths like hot coals. Now the coal was back in my hand after 5 decades and 5 years. Before the election, I was called to the apartment of the ex-secretary who assured me all possible help. “Hum hain na” even if I was elected to the post of Treasurer, so very reluctantly I had given my consent. So, it was not exactly a surprise, but I pretended to be shocked. So now Ms Dube was elected Treasurer. “Madam, please come to this side of the table, seats reserved for the office bearers.” Feeling very important with shining eyes and chest out, proud as a peacock, I walked to the other side reserved for office bearers, little realising what I was in for. A round of good wishes and congratulations followed. The next morning, the first thought on waking up was “oh, I am the Treasurer”. Now I will nurture the society holding the purse strings. I had hardly got ready when there was the sound of the door bell. On opening the door, I found the ex-Treasurer with a smirk on his face. He proceeded to hand over the day book and an amount of Rs 5,222 along with a huge sack full of account books, receipt books, vouchers, etc. Even before I could fathom what it was, ‘he was gone with the wind’. This was the handing over and taking over ceremony. With the daybook, I rushed to the ex-secretary’s apartment and asked him what I was supposed to do. The only guidance I got was – enter all receipts on the left side and expenditure on the right side of the register. So, if that was all, I could deal with it in a jiffy, what was the whole hullabaloo about? Now started my first stint as an important office-bearer of the society! Come December and massive works started – first of all the waterproofing of the roof which was left incomplete by the builder because he had the ulterior motive of building another floor on the top. A consultant was hired and an estimate prepared. A contractor was appointed. Whose responsibility was it to disburse the amount? Of course, yours truly! While this work was on, the Secretary of the society resigned on some minor issue – now what? Once again I was cajoled and advised and convinced to take over the responsibility as the secretary as well. Oh my poor delicate shoulders loaded. A crown of thorns I wore with pride. Now started the fun! First of all, Secretary and Treasurer – two designations and one person, a woman, at that; she is expected to do a perfect job plus be a good hostess to the committee when a meeting is conducted (oh, the Indian male mind) serve goodies and hot tea, etc. Also, prepare the minutes and circulate them. Nevertheless, she required all the trimmings, first of all an office for madam. A small room near the entrance of the society was lying vacant – only used as a control room for CCTVs. It was cleaned, the spiders and cockroaches killed or swept away, cobwebs removed, the spare table was dusted and cleaned and, of course, a filing cabinet was purchased and installed in the corner. I pulled out an old laptop and the office became operational ‘aur office ban gaya mera’! Sitting in the office, I diligently started the work of making entries in the day book – Receipts on the left and expenditure on the right. After filling the pages, I had to total the amount on both the pages but somehow every time the total differed depending on whether I was using my calculator or my mobile or a physical counting on fingers, magically 779 would become 881 or 775, but never the same. Oh God, wish I had paid more attention in school. In the meantime, work on the sewerage system of the society started. Some payments were made in cash and others by self cheques. Later, it was pointed out that I was supposed to get vouchers signed for them. No idea what are vouchers? New words in my vocabulary, they are kind of receipts for the payments received by the contractor, all the details were in the day book as well as the cheque books but madam vouchers are very important, another learning. The Budget was prepared and Annual Maintenance charges and Development charges placed before the General Body were passed unanimously, so far, so good. End of the financial year and all documents were required to be sent to the CA. “Just send all the records and papers and vouchers” – we did. A call from the CA’s office, “We need to sort out some small problems, please make it convenient to visit, small problems, OK? An appointment was scheduled and we walked in with the ex-secretary. The thought was we would just have samosas that we carried with us, and tea, and clear any confusion. But we were there for two hours with confusions galore. “Why were vouchers not punched and filed date wise?” Well, nobody told us to. “Two days’ bank statements are missing, where are TDS details?” “Why did you give self cheques to the contractor?” Etc, etc. Find a way out, brought back all the records, hunched over them daily for more than two weeks, finally handed them over to the CA with, “This is all that we have”. A heavy load off my head. Once the winters were over and, come summer, the telephone started ringing incessantly, “Madam no water.” Now madam inspects the water supply line and overhead tanks but no let up in the phone calls. Balconies are being washed – “How can madam expect us to sit on dirty balconies?” So, make arrangements for water. Summer had reduced the water flow. Now, as a last resort, tankers were called. This became an everyday affair for a few weeks. Day and night water checks, do we have water, guard please check the overhead tanks, supervisor please call tankers. We did not know where he was filling water from whether it was the waste water of a village or a mountain stream or from a bore well? When asked, lo and behold, he took a glass and drank the water – “See? Pure for sure.” As long as it was water, it would suffice. Once the payment for tankers crossed Rs 30,000, the finances of the society were shaken to the core – had to request for cash from the residents as it was beyond our budget. Some residents even came out with a classic statement, “We did not ask you to call the tankers.” So, where was I supposed to produce water from? I was not Arjun, who would strike an arrow into the earth and a fountain of water would erupt and form a perpetual lake – ‘paani hi paani’. Summer over, seepage from bathrooms was noticed. The builder had not fixed ‘naanhi’ traps. The down pipes in the toilets were left open and now the water started seeping through to the floors below. The president worried that the structure of the society building would collapse, so he visited every apartment and requested them to do the needful. “Madam, I just got my whole house painted. See what happened, huge map like patches on the ceiling.” “Ok dear, why did you get it done when you knew that the floor above was not getting their toilet repaired?” No logic, “But I have already spent more than a lakh of rupees.” The work of bathroom repairs is still on. I have now had the taste of the thankless job along with the stress, ‘once is enough’. Now, I am dying to place the crown of thorns on another head. Amen, may God bless us.