Getting laid off… Ah! The other way ;)
Quiet uncharacteristically I woke up early today. The hands of the clock were pointing in the North-South direction, but I seem to be wide awake. More unlike me, I had no intentions of lazying around and I jumped out of my bed, ala a cadet in front of his drill master. Rushing through the daily routine, I slumped myself at the French window.
‘Aaaaahhhhhhh!’, I heard myself sigh.
I had been in the apartment for over 3 years, but never had I seen the sun rise over the horizon. I may be considered a fortunate soul by the fellow city dwellers to have such an beautiful view outside the window, but I never attempted to seek advantage of the vantage point I had rented for a premium. Suddenly it dwelled upon me that it might not for the proximity to my office that I was charged a premium and the actual reason was unfolding infront of me. The twilight was fighting a losing battle as the first rays of light were making way through the winter fog.
I could see a flock of birds fly across the horizon.
“Early morning flight!” I laughed to myself. May be I had unravelled the etymology of the phrase that many of my on-site bound colleagues had been flashing time and again.
“Tring! Tring!” I heard a cycle-wallah approaching the front gate. When had I last heard that sound? I questioned myself. It definitely sounded music to my ears and reminded me of my cycling escapade during younger days. That sound would soon be lost in the honking of cars that would start emerging on the streets as the day progresses.
“Oye! Yadavji…. Good morning!” Our watchman greeted the milkman on the cycle, as he emerged from his security-cabin cum apartment with an empty pale in his hand.
“Good...Good... Thapaji” the milkman greeted him back as he brought his cycle to an halt in-front of him. Alighting from his cycle they exchanged pranaams. I could hear some murmurs making me wonder that was a gossiping session. A few puffs of bidi ensued. Their tet-e-tete concluded with the milkman pouring a some milk into his pale as he moved on to supply milk to the rest of the society members.
Just as the watchman had moved back into his kiosk, the newspaper-wallah popped at the gate on his moped. The squirling entry he made followed by the screeching halt of his excessively overloaded two-wheeler, he could easily give the Abrahams and Dhonis of the world a run for their money.
“Abe Thape! Mar gaya kya?” he shouted …
“ Aaya! Aaya!” came back the reply from the watchman.
“Jaldi !” he screamed back.
The loads of bundled newspaper stacked all around him as in some kinda of body armour to protect him. Barely managing to keep his eyes above the stack and easing the moped to an halt with his leg, I could sense why was he in such an hurry.
As the watchman came running back, he was subject to a couple of choosiest swear words from the newspaper-wallah. But he didn’t mean any of those as they soon lit up. The newspaperwallah informed our watchman about what’s happening around? His loud voice ensured that I too stand informed about the happenings of the day..rather the previous day. But his reporting was mostly restricted not to the main headlines but rather to thing like crime and accidents in the nearby areas and the whats hot and whats naught of the Page 3 world.
The drubbing of the Indian cricket team at the hands of Kenya the previous day thankfully didn’t feature in his news-brief. In India, everyone keeps tab about ball to ball happening of any cricket match that India is involved in, so reporting it the next day is merely for the records. The following day and many more are kept exclusively for critiques, discussions, arguments and things like that.
The newspaperwallah was ready to move on to his next stop as our watchmen kicked started the moped. But not before he passed a bundle of newspapers from the stack to the watchman to be delivered at the door. He slipped a note, what looked to me like a fiver, in his pocket.
“Nice!”, I exclaimed as I saw him delegating the tasks of climbing up and down four multi-storreyed building to the watchman for just five bugs.
And so the local valentine Rossi was on his way for the next pit-stop. Or is it Naren-kartikeyan on a sans a couple of his wheels?
As I gathered back my thoughts, I saw our watchman was on his way to accomplish his tasks. I looked around to see a few more of windows were lit up. I walked up to the door in anticipation of fetching my daily dose of news feed. I opened the door just as he was about to slide the newspaper through the slit.
Totally surprised to see me awake, his face was a site to see. He had his mouth open, bent still he was totally flabbergasted.
“Koi bhoot dekha kya??” I mischieviously questioned.
“Haan saab…” He spontaneously replied, still bent over
“HUH?” I thundered.
“Nahi saab…” as he recovered from his trance. “Aapko kabhi itni jaldi uthate hue nahi dekha. Toh thoda shock ho gaya.”
“Hmm…” I acknowledged as I pulled the paper from his hand.
I closed the door on his back as he moved to deliver the newspaper to the rest of the tenants. I longed was a hot cup of tea but was too tired to make one for my own self. I had a thought of going to the tapri for a quick bite but then changed my mind.
Once again I rested my bump on the French window and picked the ‘Times of India’. The headlines read ‘Pink slips reaches India’. All of a sudden I was transported from the wonderland back to the reality. Not that it was news to me and offlate it had become an everyday affair at office. But since the time I woke up in the morning I had forgotten about it and these headlines just reminded me of the grim times.
Not intending to dwell into the details of the same… atleast for now… I frisked the following pages. The gloom and the doom was spread everywhere and how could it have eluded this medium. All the pages talked about the recession and the ills of it, only the extent and the severity of it differed from one writeup to another. Some doomsayer even talked about the imminent depression. All had mentions about the lay-offs like any other day, the thing that differed each day was the organisation that was involved and the numbers of people to be sent to the gallows.
I moved to the editorials hoping to read something refreshing and stimulating. But I wasn’t feeling lucky today. I could read titles all referring to the gloom, albeight in more tech-savvy language interspersed with economic terms and business jargons. Thus only the ‘lay-offs’ were replaced with ‘staff rationalisation’ and the ‘pay cuts’ were replaced with ‘cost restructuring’.
Disgusted I flung the newspaper which landed with it cover page right on top and the headline still poking fun at me. What I observed this time was a small table printed at one corner. I inquisitively propped the cover page to read through it. It had presented the top 20 companies that have ‘fired’ its employees and the number thus in a tambular manner. I involuntarily picked the paper back and began grazing on the data.
Almost instantaneously it dawned upon me that top 5 amongst those were IT/ITeS firms and totalling to 8, followed by BFSI firms figuring 6 in numbers and the rest of the slots being filled by Automobiles, FMCG, Aviation and other industries. I was in a fix whether to feel elated to have missed the axe although my company ranked third amongst the slayers or feel bad for those of my colleagues whose once promising career was abruptly cut-short, Shakti being one of it.
The thought of Shakti sent a chill through my spine. For he wasn’t the one who’s not only career was cut short, but life too abruptly came to an end. The axeman had been doing the round of our centre and quiet a few had fallen a prey to him, their employment being abruptly terminated citing recessionary conditions and general slackness in inbound business. Those who had been sent off gave no clue as to who were been targeted and what being the criteria for picking them. I always personally felt that being the laidback person that I was, I should have been the first one on the firing line. But fortunately or otherwise I had been escaped that fate till now.
The last round of lay-off that happened a couple of weeks back saw some promising careers being ripped off from the bud. There were a few surprises and few as expected. The latter category included our “beloved” manager who went brandishing that he was being given a ‘golden handshake’ and not being ‘laid off’. Either ways his days were numbered.
Now very much used to this chopping, everybody would come to office getting prepared for any eventuality that might descend upon. On that day as I made my way into the wing, I could see a few ladies crowding a cubicle many sobbing and rest with their eyes wet. I sensed it was yet another employee down from our team. One could easily identify who among the man is been axed from his facial expression. But when it came to female employee I always found it tough to locate who is could be? Typical to the feline gender, they get some involved in the loss, that there exists no way of determining as to who actually it as loss? Even the cubicle they had gathered could not provide any pointers to my thought.
I zipped my path through the cube–farm to my cubicle. I saw Shakti sitting facepalm.
“Its Smriti this time” Shakti cut me before I could complete my question.
“Hmm.” I nodded.
I remained silent expecting Shakti to say something back like he usually does, more often expressing his fear of getting laid but his time he didn’t.
The sobbing of the female folks had subsided and there was an eary silence spread across the entire length of the wing.
All one could hear some random click of the mouse buttons interspersed with the spurt of random hits of the keys on the keyboard. If you are truly attentive then you really gauge that it was indeed recessionary times from the keyboards keyhits or the mouse clicks. During the heydays, one could hardly find some pause in the sound emaciating from these hardware devices.
Not able to bear the lull, I thought of breaking the shackles.
“So who’s next?” I questioned almost involuntarily.
That was one question I definitely didn’t what to put forth, especially infront of Shakti, but deep within me I had that query and it simply took verbal form on the way out of conscience.
A couple of seconds of silence ensued and I had started getting happy thinking Shakti has ignored it, but it wasn’t to last for long. May be Shakti soon realised the other two selves from our cubicle were already be pink sliped and the onus was on him to answer the question.
Or maybe my question sounded to him as “So who’s next from our cubicle?”
“Its Shakti Sarang, Milind” Shakti just broke down “Its me next”.
Totally caught unaware I gazed what to do at this situation. I have faced Shakti apprehensive about the job and expressing his concerns but never had he broke down into tears. He put his head down on the keyboard and made no attempt to hide his sobbing. A few of the still surviving colleagues from neighbouring cubicle did prairie dog at us but no one was willing to offer condolence for they few it was just fooling our own selves while doing it.
“Relax Shakti, don’t you worry. Nothing is going to happen to us. How can CTS survive without us two?” I tried to lighten the mood.
“Cut the crap” Shakti yelled back.
He continued with his sobbing though definitely the intensity reduced.
He knew and so do I that we were just fooling ourselves and there was no way one could be assured about the survival for the next day.
“If we were to be hacked, it should have happened by now” I added.
“You never know” replied Shakti, lifting his head.
“True, but then what can we do about it? We will have to accept the harsh reality and move on as others did” I said.
Shakti turn his head to give me a weird stare back. I was sounding too philosophical for my character and probably he was confirming where those words popped from?
He turned back to gazed at his screen.
“It might be easy for you man; but isn’t so for me” Shakti retorted.
‘Oh no, Not again’ I thought to myself as I anticipated Shakti starting with his autobiography and a sad one at it. I had heard about the sorry plight of his family- ailing mother, retired father, unwedded sisters and younger brother story - many a times and each time I couldn’t resist myself likening it to setup of old Bollywood movie. I was so bored of his reciting the same thing that I used to somehow change the topic and even at times tell him to stop, but not this time.