By the water cooler contest

October 31, 2010

I am so late on this, but nevertheless here is my entry for writer and blogger Parul Sharma’s By the Water Cooler contest. I love her blog and look forward to her new book.

Offices bring in so many emotions in us. Sometimes it is a fun place where you make lasting friendships and find life-long confidantes, sometimes it becomes a sentimental place where you find a mentor who holds your hand and pulls you up the ladder, the other times you discover detractors igniting the worst of your fury. No doubt an office then becomes a place we associate bitter-sweet memories with.

In seven years of work life I worked at five offices. The first was located in a two bed room apartment, the second in the basement of a prominent tower, the third a picturesque green space, the fourth a typical corporate floor and the fifth a nostalgic landmark building.

Each office had its share of friends and fun, gossip and goose bumps, accolades and agony. This particular incident happened in the fourth office. In that corporate jungle our department was a small team of five headed by our boss – a middle-aged portly Nawab from Lucknow. Well, he wasn’t technically a nawab but he totally behaved like one. To begin with he was slow in speech — he spoke in pauses, he liked the old life which meant we had to time and again listen to his many tales of yore that began with… in 1970 when I was in school we plucked radishes and carrots for lunch and so on and so forth… , he was really lazy postponing work to the last minute so much so that we had to remind him about deadlines, his mood swings made him really grumpy on some days (those days incidentally happened to be always near a deadline or two :).

He had a poor digestion but that didn’t stop him from indulging in fried and fatty savouries often, the outcome of which was borne by his errant driver who had to hunt for public toilets on several occasions. One such illness took a reported serious turn and he had to be hospitalised for a few days.  Following which there was no sign of him at work for weeks. When we called to enquire about his health we were told by the dutiful Mrs that Sir was resting. There was no sign of him at work for a few more weeks thereafter.  Then out of the blue one mid-afternoon we found Sir in the office lobby in his characteristic slow pace which seemed slower than usual and behind him was his driver holding a rolled mattress and pillow. They made quite a sight – the portly old man who pretended to be very sick and his weed thin driver holding the bedroom essentials. I still can’t stifle the giggles when I remember that sight. Back then don’t know how but with a lot of resolve to not burst out laughing we sent the senior most colleague to ask the reason for getting a mattress and pillow to office. The answer which he got was as follows: Doctor ne sakht aaram karne ko bola hai, yeh toh aaplogon ki chinta hogayi thi hame toh kya karte razai aur takiya ka intazaam karke aagaye hai atleast ek afternoon nap toh le lenge.  That pillow and mattress remained in his room for many months. He would close the door of his cabin promptly after lunch to heed to the doctor’s advice.

It’s been four years since I left that organisation but even today when I gang up with friends from that office we share a loud guffaw and two about our ex-boss. They don’t make nawabs like this anymore.


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