Special China for the Queen

This incident took place a few years ago.

My son was in engineering college then. His college had arranged a meeting to enable parents to meet the various professors and project guides. I was not in the best of health at the time, but this was the first time such a meeting was being held, so I was determined to attend. My husband was out of town that day, so he could not come with me.

I reached the college a few minutes before the meeting was to start, and went around to the rear entrance. The entrance was locked. I found a college employee and asked him to open it. He refused, saying that he did not have permission to do so.

My son had told me that in order to qualify for ISO certification, a lift had been recently installed at the back entrance which started at the ground floor level (as opposed to the other lifts which started at the first floor level).

However, it seemed that the entrance leading to the lift was unlocked only when the ISO inspectors came, and not when anyone wanted to actually use the lift.

Now the college building had a huge entrance at the first floor level, with very wide steps leading up to it. Aesthetically appealing, no doubt, but designed to be used only by athletic types. NO divider in the centre. And NO banisters or railings to hold on to.

At the time, I was having balance problems, and could not climb stairs without steadying myself by holding onto a railing . However, having no alternative, I climbed up very carefully, one step at a time. I reached the top without any mishap, and thankfully sank down on the top step.

While coming home after the meeting was over, I related everything to my son. He heard me out patiently and then asked why I had not called him on his cellphone- he would have come out of his class to get me.

This was, of course, a very logical question. I could only say that I had not thought of doing that!

India is not a rich country and I would quite understand if the problem was one of insufficient funds to provide such facilities. But that was not the problem in this case. The facilities were available, but not to be used, they were just to satisfy the ISO inspectors!

This type of mentality is quite common, though. I have a friend who will not let family members disturb even a cushion in the living room, in case guests drop by unexpectedly. Maybe someone should tell her that a living room is for living in, not just for show!

When my children were in school, there was a librarian there who would not let the students touch the books. They were not even allowed to see which books were on the shelves. She was convinced that the students would mess up the books she had arranged so neatly. When they went to exchange their books, they had to take the one she gave them.

Not a procedure which would encourage children to enjoy reading!

I have read that in earlier times, some families in England owned expensive china tea-sets, which were kept locked in a cupboard. They were to be taken out and used only if the Queen came for tea. Since Royalty did not visit many homes, some sets were never used at all!

Anything is useful only to the extent that it is actually used! I think we would do well to remember that.



  1. These audits and procedures are sometimes carried on to such ridiculous heights that they beat the purpose for which they are there in the first place!and yes, living rooms are for living. And libraries are for reading ! the means have to be looked at as means. Not as ends. And this is exactly what happens when the means become the ends. And the ends dont appear at all ! Sigh.brilliant post Manju. Looking forward to catch up with you.


  2. brilliant Manju :))LOL @ keeping elevators for inspection… seems to be the educated heads in the college couldn't figure out the actual purpose of an elevator.. pity them 😛 :Pand for library… what a way of maintaining… hail her!!!!I will say stupidest things in this world, these are..


  3. This reminds me about some medical colleges on Mumbai's outskirts, who have no associated teaching hospital as such, only the necessary buildings; and everytime some Medical Council of India or someone is scheduled to come for checking, they actually import patients to come from somewhere and lie down there. MCI would probably certify, but Hippocrates would have run away ….My daughters college, which probably doesnt have ISO or NAAC or whatever high accreditaion they seek, has a lift on their ground floor, and it is restricted to faculty, staff , guests, and PTA ! Usage is restricted by the size of the lift. I hope someone from your son's college is reading your blog…..


  4. Great observations Manju. Obviously the problem is universal. It is not just living rooms, libraries and china that sometimes remain unused. Many of us similarly never live the life we should….for various reasons.A friend of mine often used to say: "Use it or lose it". Of course his logic was a bit different. A thing which is not used blocks good energy. That is what he believed. Was he right?


  5. Untill 1990 we lived with the inspector raj.We all realise that it meant pleasing the inspector and still be correct in the file because in the Govt only the file moves and not the Babus.Our tendency of inspector raj still remains and we want to be right in the file.Just to put on record…after 1962 Chinese aggression,it was said in the parliament that the file was right but decision may have been wrong.We still want the file to be right and it will be time before we change our attitude towards safety and other related issues.


  6. Kavi – Nice way of putting it- "And this is exactly what happens when the means become the ends. And the ends dont appear at all !"Thanks! And same here!Kanagu – I agree, with so many learned professors there, they should have figured out the proper use of an elevator!


  7. Ugich Konitari – Ingenious trick by the medical colleges! Yes, the Medical Council would probably certify…People just don't see the spirit of any rule or law!Vinodji – I had not heard this explanation of "Use it or lose it" before. Maybe it is correct! Chowlaji – Well, it would be better if we learned quickly that just correct files are of no importance.


  8. So very true Manju. I remember in the school library all the books I wanted were in a cupboard that was locked. The same mentality exists in bigger institutions too. ISO procedures in many cases are a hogwash.


  9. That was an amazing post, Manju! And we see examples of this everywhere! We were once being audited, for a quality certification and some projects who did not have the documents in place, were busy 'creating' back dated documents to show the inspector..That lift in your son's college is ridiculous! I can't imagine why people do this! I have heard about that china for queen anecdote here:)


  10. When you said "Anything is useful only to the extent that it is actually used!" I remembered how many things are stored on our attick in the fond belief that it will come handy one day. I once found a utensil which my mother got in her marriage, and when I found it, her marrige was forty years old!Vivek


  11. ManjuYour posting was food for thought.A good idea to have, but if only to show an inspector but not for actual use is silly and frustrating for those that need it.It is like the extra wide handicapped parking spaces for offloading wheelchairs here parking lots of grocery stores here in the states. That space is usually clogged with grocery carts, that people were too busy or lazy to wheel back into the store or the coral that is in the middle of the lot to store the carts in.Keep writing, I enjoy your posts.


  12. Radha– It appears that this is true about many school libraries.I wonder that they care more about keeping the book-shelves tidy, when they should be encouraging children to read.Smitha– Creating back-dated documents? – that is even a step further…Vivekji– Forty years is a long time! There may be many attics like this though- unused utensils are seldom given away.:)Beth– Hi!Yes, such situations are certainly frustrating for those who actually need the facility.


  13. Manju, being in the industry there are worse things done for the sake of ISO certification! Even painting a board "Lift Here" would have served the purpose. Anyway I wasnt asked for my advice – was I?


  14. Sunder – Thank you!Yes, we can observe this attitude often.Gopinathji– It is a sad state of things indeed if even a board reading "Lift here" would have been sufficient!


  15. In India we are habitual of storing things for guests etc, my son always used to say why not use the best things for us, and now I take that advice seriously.Lifts and locking them is preposterous, why have them at all?


  16. This reminded me of my quirky habits. I keep special china for guest. :)) I do use it but only for guests. BTW I remember our school had inspections and our teachers used to arrange good students in special rows and asked questions to only the good students.


  17. Renu– You know, my children used to say the same thing! So I also started taking out 'reserved' things for everyday use. 🙂Solilo– I think this is the practice in all schools!


  18. Your post reminds me of a scene in a film where the lady of the house says, this special China is for special occasions, not special people.This was in response to a question by her kids- why did you take out expensive China when there are no guests for dinner.


  19. Manju, somehow I think, no one bothers about others' problems. If they had really felt others' pains, they would have informed the security at the back entrance to open it, at least when they had this 'parents' gatherings' or anyother functions in the college. All the money spent on fixing the lift is wasted, whether it is private money or govt. money…which doesn't fulfill the purpose. ISO is ridiculed in this way, too. No railings, means another blunder. Even some teachers might have used it, if it was there…My school librarian also was like this one! I have got a friend who keeps her house very neat and clean. She had done a course in interior decoration. Her center table is always clean. When we stay there, we have to search for the day's newspaper, because it is on the center table till everyone have their coffee. Then goes to the service verandah!'Anything is useful only to the extent that it is actually used!', nice quote, Manju.


  20. Sandhya– I think that in the view of the college authorities, the only use for the lift was to help get ISO accreditation. Not to carry people up to the higher floors. 🙂


  21. omg – i didn't know school librarians have universal manners !i am the queen and my guests are kings and queens. they enjoy in my house and so do i – that is why it is called living rooms.- talk about documents – ever since 2003 or 2004 – people are back dating and back dating – everybody knows thats the name of the game – everybody is playing cat and mouse and nobody gets caught and even if the cat catches the mice – she will leave him, otherwise the cat will get warned by the mother cat. who wants that ?may be they are keeping the lift only for the queen ?


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