The League of Extraordinary Colleagues

What makes a workplace workable? Colleagues.You may work in the glitziest of buldings,you may have the most important job profile ever granted to a human being,you may have the poshest cabin in the entire office,but without colleagues around,all that comes to naught.

Colleagues come in a wide variety of sizes,attitudes and preferences.Though most of them safely fall under the dome of the normal distribution curve,some swing to extremes.I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being acquainted with some such people.

During a team dinner some months ago,as we gathered around the long mahogany table,its surface reflecting the brilliance of the chandelier above,a portly guy walked in with a bowed head,unshaven face and measured step.Much like a poet brooding over the meter of his latest poem,he quietly took his place.He stared at his shoelaces for a while and then looked at the floor pattern.As everyone broke the  ice with the usual jovial banter,this guy just sat with the same bowed head and looked reverentially at the dinner menu.Only a few words of introduction could be squeezed out of him.Months later,when we regrouped in a new place to start a project,hoots of laughter could be heard from somewhere.Every two minutes of this laughter would be interspersed with a two second silence.We wondered who the perpetrator was.Out comes the poet,clean shaven,bursting with energy from an unknown source and practically hopping from one place to another.Turns out,he was a fish out of water in the team dinner.This guy cannot go farther than three words without letting loose a barrel of highly infectious laughter.He also happens to know a lot of statistics and facts about government jobs.One of the team members had just secured a government posting and when a fellow  colleague innocently miscalculated the remuneration,he jumped up and down,waved indignantly and rattled off all the latest policies with regards to the pay scale.While the two battled it out in the boardroom,the appointee looked hopelessly lost.(What was the remuneration anyway?)

Moving along the spectrum,we also have the fitness enthusiasts.These are people who will give you a smug smile as they virtuously sip on their carrot juice and watch you guzzle coffee every hour,spreading the wonderful nutrition all through your body.They are the ones who creep up behind you in the cafeteria,as you’re balancing your plate and palate with some greasy looking fries and a gallon of ice cream,and munch cucumber and watermelon slices with aplomb,while you valiantly try to digest the saturated fats rushing through your arteries.They are the ones who,when you make the bad decision to climb stairs for the first time in your office life,demonstrate their marathoner skills without a second thought and throw pearls of wisdom along the way.You,on the other hand,huff and puff your way around the stupid staircase,which never seems to end,while cursing everything within a fifty feet vicinity.

One such guy I know lives in the badminton court.The swimming pool is his summer home.He occasionally goes home,says hi to his folks and rushes back to  his beloved court.He plays every sport known to mankind with the same dogged determination and tries to inflict the same to other hapless souls.A crusader of walking,he first baits you with the promise of an enriching journey.Your tired mind tries to stave off the threat,but you’re much too genial to say no.There,you start walking together.Nice trees pass you by,as do friendly earthworms and an occasional rabbit.You take a deep breath and start appreciating Mother Nature and feel sorry for not doing so before.You turn to your right and realize your companion is nowhere to be found.You panic and look hither and thither.Oh there he is.About fifty yards ahead of you,jauntily striding along the path.He looks at you with his piercing eyes and shakes his head in pity.You mumble apologies for being slow and try to keep pace with him.When the destination appears,he smiles in all his glory,cheeks infused with blood and healthy muscles in all their crowning glory.You wheeze and pant and smile weakly,hoping never to cross paths with the crusader again.

I have to hide now.The fitness people are passing by.

Life As I Knew It- Part One

So,here I am,in Mohali,far far away from Hyderabad.We’re a part of a huge team working relentlessly to build a new Indian School of Business in Punjab.

Living in a city completely alien to you does different things to different people.Some take to the change like a fish takes to water,some hit a few road bumps and dawdle around and some,like me,arrive with enthusiasm bursting at the seams and as reality hits,sag into a sorry lump of humanity,hoping and praying for their senses to return from their extended vacation and help them enjoy the experience.

The first week of my stay at Chandigarh was spent staring at the hotel room ceiling.Occasionally,the window too.A fever had somehow found my address and had quite overstayed its welcome.The hotel we were put up at was one of the very best.Superb hospitality,fantastic cuisines and soft,warm beds,extremely inviting and cozily made up.The hotel stay taught me irony in a cruel fashion.All those succulent dishes to eat,but a massive stomach upset ensured I could only gulp hot soup with pepper and watch my colleagues devour one tasty dish after another.

The house hunt,which began in the middle of the week,soon sapped us of the last vestiges of energy left.The houses were either too small or too dark or way beyond our means.We almost decided to build one ourselves and use some exercise,but God intervened and saved us the trouble.We got a house.The interrogation we went through and the number of identification papers we had to produce was at par with international standards.Movie wise,I mean.

A huge,empty house welcomed us with wide open windows and doors,letting in all the sunlight,dust and friendly bacteria and viruses.Just to say hello to the new tenants.To buy a bed was the next thing on our checklist and off we went to a second hand furniture store.We haggled and pleaded with the dealer into selling two rickety beds and a couple of lumpy mattresses.Getting them all the way up to the second floor was a noteworthy achievement,given that the staircase was built to topple human beings.

I am scared of my bed.I’m afraid if I put just the tiniest bit of pressure more than what is currently being applied,it will give way.I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to ensure that my bed is on four legs.The mattress will flatten before I do,and will soon merge with the wood of the bed before the end of the month,I’m sure of that.

New mathematics.A mug equals a bucket.How, you ask.Lacking a bucket,we each bought a huge mug and now stand in front of the tap,waiting for the mug to fill and then bathe.It’s a very stimulating exercise,one that gives a perspective on what’s important in life.

Food.We recall our hotel days with a fond nostalgia,with a lot of wistfulness thrown in.Sandwiches are a staple food item in our diet,as are Lays chips ( baked,not fried) and biscuits.Several hours of mind numbness later,we hit upon the idea of hiring a tiffin service for our dinners.Sometimes it’s rajma as a vegetable,sometimes it’s rajma as a dal.But it’s always there,glaring at you,challenging you to finish it till the last drop.

This is Week One of our settling in.More updates as the weeks go by.

Hope my bed lives to see the dawn of another day.