So what have you guys been doing this extended Easter weekend? For some its still on, right, with Monday in tow? For me though, its not – I’m back in office with slight Monday blues. I almost felt bad for being too immersed in work to foresee this long weekend and ‘planning’ a getaway before everyone else did – almost – until I set myself a cheaper and more desirable goal. I managed to finish a couple of books I have been reading simultaneously for ages – no they were far from boring, pretty pageturners but its just me who was attention deficit and was trying to do too much at a time. ‘Slow down’ a phrase I usually reserve for juniors at work while trying to teach them the merits of picking one thing at a time and finishing it before moving on to the next. Slow down is what I keep telling all the hyperactive women back home trying their best to please everyone and ending up dissapointed with themselves. Slow down is what I told myself this weekend; it finally feels good to not feel guilty looking at those dogeared books which are no longer unfinished business.
They were two books, somehow both reminding me of workplace in an entertaining way. Chanakya’s chant by Ashwin Sanghi was constantly recommended to me by my friends everytime I started to share my public sector consulting anecdotes with them. I was finally convinced when I saw my boss reading it voraciously during one of our trips to Nepal – he has an attention span of a goldfish, which is slightly lower than mine. The book was a nice page turner; it did have several examples of how cut throat things are in politics and public administration alike, although many of them did seem like oversimplified examples because modern politics is perhaps much more complicated than that, and so is business. The opposition is never really an opposition behind TV cameras, and rival business competitors employ more moles than they know of. Afterall few are foolish enough these days to take organisational rivalries too seriously and miss out on potential future opportunities. It did disappoint to know in the end that the smart one-liners used were majorly borrowed wit as evidenced from the long list of resources, listed down honestly and meticulously by the author. Good but also a little bad. Perhaps a reason I steer clear of Indian English authors.
The second book, Then we came to the end by Joshua Ferris, is an office comedy set in rather tragic settings of recession, joblessness and even death. Few people can manage to crack up a reader in these situations and that’s what stands out in this amazing debut by the author. The characters are easily relatable for most of us who have belonged to one or other group of chatterboxes at office; every office has a gossip centre like Benny, a weirdo like Tom Mota who has a different take on everything mainly out of an urge to prove oneself through forced rebellion, a Marcia doppleganging between being mean and feeling guilty, hypersensitive women such as Amber and Genevieve, and so on.
Most of the book is plain chatter although it does come together into major realisations about the same people we often chatter about at work, often not knowing the rest of their lives beyond the obvious. The triviality of issues that become a major concern and the repartees shared between the typical gossip group remind me especially of my times at an industry body where a couple of us started our careers from. I remember how easy it was to bitch about bosses – guess its a universal rule to not consider bosses as humans till such time you are somebody’s boss which is when you start sympathising with the boss brigade, and perhaps eulogising some of them for displaying such zen-like patience despite being bitched upon no matter what they do – or don’t. But the author deals with all of it in a funny way, making the audience as well as himself part of the narrating crowd; making it difficult not to crack up every now and then despite the morbidity of some situations.
It also made me call our own Benny and we ended up gossiping about ex-in laws of divorced friends of friends and comparing notes on our reactions at being underfed when the food is good and expectations are high. People in my next cubicle gulped with premature hunger pangs as we discussed at length the best way to cook a mean pork curry – pressure cooking vs open kadai method, full fat vs lean meat, watery gravy vs layer of oil floating on top. I personally like the latter, sticky gravy with bits of potatoes, with lemon zest to get rid of the porky smell, if at all there is any.
There it goes I did it again, no matter what the begining is, it always ends in food doesn’t it?
P.S: Talking about finishing things, there is still an impending half-done travelogue on Goa that keeps gnawing at my conscience, and that’s next on the list.