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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

By The Water Cooler

I have entered the premises of my new office and sat on my desk. I am feeling a bit out of place, everything is spanking new and unfamiliar. I look across and hope someone walks through the glass door so that I can connect in person. My nervousness stems from re-entering the work force after a gap of many years. We shall not count the decades, since they age me unnecessarily.
I look across to the other side. Through the glass paneled doors I see a pair of feet under a desk and for a moment mistake them to be a reflection of mine. I am used to offices of the olden days, where office doors were made of teak, or polished to look like miserable copies of teak. And tables were of solid wood, not glass and steel contraptions. In other words, in those days, my feet would not have shown on the other side of the table, let alone be reflected on the other side. In these days of transparency, however, everything has to show as much as it can, to ensure that there is nothing hidden.
I move my feet back to tuck them in a bit more so that they are not so visible, but the reflected ones don’t move. I look at those feet. They are brown skinned, the nails buffed and polished to a high gloss in bright red and encased in high heeled black . How the hell did I think they were mine, I only wear very pale pink polish. The only thing in common is the brown skin and the colour of the heels. I cringe a bit and withdraw my feet a bit more. The ones on the other side do a little tap dance.
I open the glass door of my office and step out to explore or find someone. Before I go across to the other side of the passage which houses the general office staff, where the feet which did not belong to me belonged, I glance at the passage.
Standing there, rather nonchalantly, as though he owns the place, is a young man in beige pants, pink button down shirt and tan shoes. My tone is clipped. “Could you get the air-conditioning started in my office?” I point towards the door I have emerged from.
Before he can answer, a plump girl made plumper by her pregnancy and her round face made rounder by the halo of squiggly hair around it rushes out of the office door, the one on the other side, in her white heels (I noticed all this) and almost careens into him. As she steadies herself,  mumbling, ‘Sorry, Rahul..”, I repeat my question, this time addressing it to her. She says, “Yes, of course, I’ll check,’’ and runs back into the office.
The girl rushes out again, this time ensuring that she does not bump into Rahul, and looks at me, “It’s being attended to, sorry, Ma’am , we thought you were coming in tomorrow. Sir will be meeting you in five minutes. I have to rush, please excuse…” I barely nod before she rushes out with Rahul behind her, a bit crushed now, mumbling, “ Ma’am,” but also pushing his thick hair off his forehead in a gesture of defiance.
I hear the hum of the air-conditioner start behind me, open the glass door and walk in. I plonk myself on my chair unceremoniously and try not to look at the feet on the opposite side.
This is going to be very distracting to me. I will have to do something about this. Change the orientation a bit.
Meanwhile, ‘Sir’ arrives to find that he is looking at my back.
“Honey,” he says, “why are you doing this? This is no way to receive anyone.”
On hearing his voice, I swivel around. ‘Dear husbandji,” I say, “I refuse to look through the door at other people’s feet. I’d rather look at the blank wall. Please take a seat.”
He has to walk around to the other side to sit opposite me. He faces the glass door.
“What’s the problem?” he says.
“My office needs real brick and mortar walls, and I need a teak door.”
“Honey, you are joking.”
“No I am not, I refuse to look at feet. “
“Don’t let your gaze wander. Concentrate on your work. That’s the idea.”
So he did know what I was talking about.
“This is bad design,” I said.
“Glass takes less space and is more elegant.”
“Sorry, my table will stay facing this way then.  It is as per Feng Shui.”
I can be obstinate.
The next day, my office was moved to an old part of the building, where the walls were of brick, the doors of wood. It was air-conditioned and sound proof. When I looked up from my table, I saw a teak paneled door with a brass knob. It creaked a bit, but at least I did not have to look at feet or wonder whom they belonged to. I was happy in my little cubicle, comfortable in office spaces as I knew them to be. Thick, solid and dependable. If these attributes were there, transparency and ‘see-thru-isms’ could take a hike.
My husband knows how to keep me happy. Even in his office, I am the boss.

© ABHA IYENGAR, 2010
This post is a shot at something.
Parul Sharma’s latest book ‘By The Water Cooler’ is going to be launched soon, and she is running a mouth watering contest (okay, we will limit this water bit). This post is shooting for the contest. You can do it too.Read the details here, just follow the link to the orange ice candy...

Happy writing.



1 comment:

  1. so whose feet were they after all?

    ReplyDelete