This is a six months update on my office life for all those who’ll bother to read.
When I first walked in, after being treated like a queen at a five star hotel for a week, the first thing that hit me was that the office is purple!!…the tables, the chairs, the wall skirting et all. I too was given a tiny purple corner and no specific work...so as usual I started my favourite sport since I was six – detective me!
It didn’t take long to figure out the purple mystery…out of 45 in the research team, 40 were women! It was my worst nightmare coming true! In my whole life, the only time I went ‘Gandhian’ was when my parents wanted me to attend a girl’s college (one of Kolkata’s best). I went the theatre way…when hunger strikes didn’t work…stern ‘I can’t believe you can even think of making me do this’ gaze, big sad puppy eyes and finally the ‘it’s my life’ fiasco. Anyway, the whole point of this diversion is that – I CAN’T handle too many women! But I was trapped…nothing to do, so I decided to try and be invisible. Everyone reading this probably knows me well and can imagine how horribly I failed. For the others, here goes,
Incident 1: We had just closed a report and so were allowed to out for lunch anywhere and burn office money. Super excited me and some a little less excited others piled into a ‘way out of my dad’s budget’ car- destination DLF Emporio.
Until now, I had blended quite well into invisibility, my stock of new ‘office’ clothes were still holding and the Garihat footpath bag still looked decent. As I cat-waked in with the group, consciously tucking my tummy in and chin up… ‘
May we check your bag maam?’
‘um..sure’ (faking total nonchalance)…
So she did.
While my colleagues waited with impatient tapping of expensive footwear...out came my dirty secrets… a dirty comb with missing tooth, a half eaten 5 star, a sock (no no..not a pair), an army of age old chloromints, lost earrings and lots of loose sugar. (In my defence, I had picked sachets from the last conference… how was I to know that the lost earings would be territorial??)
Needless to say, I was invisible no more
Incident 2: I had finished lunch early (we have a strict 40 minute lunch break...1.41 strikes and say bye bye to a quarter day’s leave), so I decided to be adventurous. Our office is on the first floor of a building owned by the Archeological Survey of India and the ground floor is a pseudo-museum where they basically store the not so fancy fossils. Since nobody ever comes here, there is no security or barrier to entry. So daring little me took a trip. I gazed at the stone utensils, the dug out coins and lost myself in an era of forgotten history classes. Suddenly I realised that I would be late. I hurried out…but the door wouldn’t open! I panicked. Not only was my scanty leave balance at risk but I could very well be stuck here long enough to cook the coins in the utensils! I pressed my weight against the huge glass doors until my breath left moist patches…but it was hopeless. Just when I was about to give up, I saw my boss walk in to go up. I banged my palms against the door to attract attention (not that it was needed...imagine me, nose pressed against glass…get the picture?) So he walked up and let me out. Thank you! I said flashing the best smile I had…You’re welcome, he said…but next time, just try pulling…
As I blushed crimson, I realised I was not only visible now, but under glaring spotlight.
Incident 3: It was another conference, at another fancy five star. I was already late as it was raining so no auto was ready to go by meter, and I would rather walk 20 km than pay 20 extra. Just as I was about to get up in the auto, I tripped and broke one heel of my new cute shoes (that I had so proudly haggled and bought at half price from a man who thought it was his birth right to scan me leg up).
No problem, thought confident little me, I’ll just break the other one. So all the way I pushed and tugged and twisted, but the satanic stupid stiletto didn’t budge. I finally reached the hotel and before I could even get down, a giant man in a black suit came running to help me with a huge umbrella. ‘I can manage’ I said...’It’s my pleasure’ he boomed. So me and giant started walking up the never ending pebbled approach road. Halfway there I realised I was getting soaked, as Mr. Giant was a gentleman and kept his distance. I can run the rest, I said, and started to run. Imagine my horror when he started running after me, with the umbrella, in a perfect suit that was so well ironed that it looked plastic! ‘Madam it’s my job to help you’ said the poor giant. But I was in no mood to listen. I reached the main foyer, breathless, wet and without a heel. So what? Who’ll notice me in this huge fancy place? (I had met John Abraham in this same foyer the last time that I was here). But somehow I felt every eye on me! It was then that I realised that corporate women wear heels for a purpose. It gives a feeling of power. Click..clock..click…clock..kind of like Gabbar in the ‘kitne admi the’ scene. Kind of like dare you cross my path I’ll mash you under these. And here I was walking in a pin drop silent hall, with full attitude going..click..silence…click…silence…
My torment was day long as the entire hotel had wood panel floors to emphasize the click…clocks…afterall, it’s an unsaid rule in my new world…no click clocks meaning no power meaning no card exchange meaning no interview meaning basically you are doomed.
Now that my invisibility plan had failed, I decided to shift gear to plan B…make friends. Now this was more my forte, so I did.
I met M. She’s a hardcore Bengali, loves Rafi songs, political talks, the latest Pulitzer winner, but unfortunately was born into a full blown Punjabi family. Her family thinks she’s abnormal, as she prefers white over hot pink, or wants to read the front page before page 3, or sips cappuccino rather than lassi in huge steel tumblers and the ultimate sin..she prefers amchi Mumbai (where she worked earlier) over saddi dilli!! It’s almost like being a closet gay!
Then, there is S. Typical west Delhi. Pink polka dotted shoes with pink polka dotted bag. She lives almost and hour away from office, reaches on time (9.31 and you lose leaves) but never ever is a hair out of place, or nails not manicured, or lipstick and eyeliner unmatched!! This mystery I couldn’t yet solve. Her life’s aim is to marry someone with a black BMW and leather seats.
There’s N, who has till now never spent a night away from direct family, and R, who is from Kolkata, has been working in Delhi for two years, and makes her poor mother stay with her because she can’t cook! I remember she once told me’ Oh! You can cook! Why didn’t you get married then??’
Of course, there’s my boss, who’s the perfect example of the click clock genre and confidently says ‘I’m a single mom with two kids and a dog’. But then she recently moved to Singapore to open a new branch and we are now led by Mr. H, who is the quietest person I have ever met (he is the star of weakly attempted ‘I’m invisible’ act). He never complains, never takes leave, never says no, never speaks above a whisper, bring lunch in a yellow plastic box and curd in a water bottle. He has a golden temple desktop background. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but on days when our CEO is on leave, the background changes to a Pink Floyd cover.
I have a new strategy now…compartmentalize. I shut off my mind whenever I want, I have the acumen now to stare at a document for 30 minutes straight while all I’m thinking about is should I cook or order in tonight. I can think up a perfect header for my article while nodding compassionately at S when she cries that the pimple on her cheek makes her nose look big. I have learned to read a one page document and type 10 pages about it, I have learned to call men my dad’s age by their first names and not stammer while doing it, I have learned typical key words to use in a conversation to make it seem that you are actually understanding what the other person is saying when you really don’t have a clue. And I have learned to do million to billion, billion to crore, lakh to crore and dollar to rupee conversions so fast, that it would make my high school math teacher proud!