To tell or not to tell on your boss?

In the 1980s, my mother worked at a real estate agent’s office in New Delhi, India. (Though Daljit [name changed], her boss, had claimed it would be a challenging role and that he would get her involved fully in the business, it turned out to be a stenographer’s job.) Daljit was a 35-year old guy who had taken premature retirement from the Indian Army, on “extreme compassionate grounds” or ECG, by faking a crippling injury—he was, of course, hale and hearty.

After retirement, he received a bill from the Army Officers’ Mess, for food and drink consumed after his retirement date. A furious Daljit dictated a letter to my mom to type out. In it, he lambasted them for being so unprofessional and callous as to seek dues from a man who was forced to retire on ECG—that too, after he had left the place! The administrators guys at the mess, stunned at such an outburst, beat a hasty retreat and never pressed the point again. (Daljit later admitted to my mom that he had indeed partaken of all those meals and drinks! My mom felt rather embarrassed that she had been asked to type out that letter—she was glad she was not asked to sign it!

Liar_liarDaljit’s family lived in a sprawling three-storey house. He and his wife and kids occupied a floor, and his two siblings (and their respective families) occupied a floor each. The basement housed the office where Daljit and my mom sat. The entire family constantly ran the air conditioner in the Delhi heat, and the heater in the Delhi winter. Interestingly, the electricity bill always used to be a paltry amount, because they bribed the guy from the utilities company to report a low consumption.

Daljit also owned at least one other (commercial) property, on which he never paid taxes; he bribed someone every year. One day, an investigating officer from the property tax department called Daljit and fixed up an appointment. A few minutes before the appointed hour, Daljit disappeared. The officer waited and waited. Daljit then called the office from somewhere (no mobile phones and no caller ID back then), saying he was stuck elsewhere and would not be able to get back for at least 3-4 hours. The officer lamented to my mother that this seemed to happen all the time. Of course, he left after a few minutes.

Daljit had been calling from a neighbour’s place and, once his wife had confirmed that the coast was clear, he returned to the office!

When the story repeated itself a few weeks later, my mother felt sorry for the officer, but she was caught between her loyalty to her boss and her loyalty to the law. The officer asked her, “Is Daljit’s schedule like this every day?” She said no. He asked her, “Then how come this happens to me all the time?” My mom did not want to say, “My boss is dodging you; you should drop in unannounced“! Therefore, as he was leaving, she told him subtly, “I’m sorry you had to wait so long. As I told you, this is not typical; maybe you can just try dropping in sometime.”

So, dear reader: What is your take on this? Does the law come first, or your loyalty to your boss?

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3 thoughts on “To tell or not to tell on your boss?

  1. Ha ha….a typical Delhi-ite 🙂

    With possibly 25% folks of Delhi owning properties n not wanting to pay their electricity or water bills or property tax at the correct rate, and maybe another 25% of the population being in various positions to enable this desire….we can understand why corruption will not go away anytime soon.

    I recollect from my student days that a classmate from Delhi who had rented a house in Mysore tried fixing their electricity meter with the help of an electrician. He got caught n along with his friends got hauled to the police station. Maybe the KEB officials were miffed at not having been offered the chance to do the job themselves! 🙂

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    • Yes, Ravi; sadly, we all know such people. I somehow believed that people of the older generation were more ‘conscientious’, but alas–I came across my relative, a lady in her eighties (also in Delhi) who still bribes the guy to bill her only Rs. 500 per month for electricity, when she runs the air conditioner and heater practically all day.
      (Aside: Because my post was about loyalty to the boss/ law, I did not think it relevant to mention that Daljit used to cheat on his wife regularly, but would get furious if any man made a pass at his wife!)

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