Monday, July 2, 2007

Lost in translation

Office is a gift that keeps giving. Every time I feel that the world around is conspiring to make me unhappy, something or somebody in office does something bizarre and lights up my life.

Take BK, in Bangalore for example.

BK was the head mundoo in the Bangalore office. Dressed in spotless starched white safari uniform and always wearing Bata blue hawai chappals, he commandeered an army of less special mundoos (dressed in blue) who on his instructions would get us tea, deliver our mail, courier our stuff… you know, things that office mundoos do. From his demeanor and his uniform, you could make out that BK considered himself a white collar guy and his army most definitely blue collar.

BK was also an active part of the Brookefield’s Union. That role demanded of him a certain disgruntled look and slip up of service every now and then. Just to make the point to the management that they cannot get their tea on their desk if they piss him off.

Now everyone knows that managers in India cannot decide, deliberate, discuss or debate without their cup of tea. Hot, steaming tea served in white cups are the most critical decision making aids in corporate India (just a notch above Power Point Presentations, but above nonetheless). So BK had a really important role to play in the fortunes of this 10,000 Cr behemoth.

To keep BK happy, the management decided to give him an incentive. So on a grand stage they announced his name and gave him a certificate, a cash award and a small statuette (silver stick figure, arms raised, crossing the finishing line, pelvic first) for “Most Improved Behavior”. BK didn’t care what he got it for. He was happy being on stage getting cash.

Soon after the award, his performance did improve. He did not insist on talking in Kannadiga with you. He was prompt with the tea, and packages with fragile stuff went bubble wrapped.

I had a cubicle which faced away from the floor and looked out of the window. If you entered my cubicle, you would see a table that ran the length through the side of the cubicle and my back to you. The standing instruction to all the mundoos was to leave my mail on the table as you enter and not disturb me. Most of the mail was junk (“Rajasthan Patrika is No1 in Rajasthan”).

Only if there were some bills or estimates was I to be tapped on the back.

One fine day I hear BK’s raffish voice behind me.

BK: Saar?

Me: Hmmm?

BK: Good afternoon Saar!

Me: Yes BK what is it? Get me some tea please (I had a “Pavlovian Response” issue with BK. I saw him and I needed tea)

BK: Ok saar. Saar you saw box?

Me: Box? What box?

BK: (beaming) Saar I made box.

Me: (totally confused) Good, good (I usually say that when I am confused)

BK: Usha [my secy] told me saar. Not to disturb……. ~clicking sound with his tongue~ so I made box.

Me: You made a box for Usha?

BK: No saar. For YOU! (emphatic ‘YOU’, eyes widened)

Me: Oh! Thanks. What box? ~blinking quite rapidly now~

BK: For your bills saar. No one is disturbing you. All your bills coming. I take them all and put inside box.

Me: Oh that’s fantastic! (I use fantastic a bit too liberally).

BK: Thank you saar.

Me: Where is it?

BK: ~wide beaming smile~ In your BACKSIDE saar!

What followed next were two people staring at each other for a very long time.

BK was grinning, much like the spider who invited the fly to his parlor, and upon peeking out of his window, saw the stupid fly accepting the invite AND bringing a friend along!

I on the other hand, had the expression of the innocent by-stander who just got struck by a stray bullet.

I did not know whether he was being rude, whether this was some insidious Union ploy to enrage me or whether the old rogue had just lost all his marbles.

I spluttered and stammered a “What do you mean” while shifting uncomfortable in my seat.

BK: Here saar. This box. I keep it here. In your backside. No one come in and disturb you. All bills keeping in here.

Me: ~realization dawning~ Oh in the back! You have put the box at the back of the cubicle. ~nervous laughter~

BK: Yes Saar. All in the backside.

Me: (taking a deep sigh of relief) Thanks BK!

BK: No mention saar. Everyday your bills will be in the box in your backside

Me: I wish!

BK: ~with dedication~ No no saar. It will happen

Me: Ok. Can I have some tea?

BK: Just bringing saar… Thank you saar..

In one clever linguistic moment, BK had put my bills exactly where I wanted them to be.

I must admit, the box worked pretty well. No one came up and flung mail on my desk anymore. They were all there, inside the box, in my backside.

Then there was the time Michelle, from Unilever London, almost fainted when Ramesh told her with a smile, “You can put your laptop in my dickie”.

But that’s another story…..


shaswati said...

Then, was the laptop placed there?!!!...

Y said...

aah..the great BK..brings back memories..I think we need a post on Jagan soon, eh Soumava?

Shome said...

[Shaswati]: yes it was... after it was explained to her that we call the boot of the car a dickie ; )

[Y]: Jagan is a must.. Am thinking whether I post one on him as Jagan the strategist or Jagan the informer or Jagan the sample maker or Jagan the IT whiz.. he was the only one who knew how to operate the conference room equipment..

Mausumi said...

Reminds me of..."pechhon dike back korun dada" and " oh sundar, ekdum doll putuler moton dekhte "..

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Raja said...

just remembered dada (our nilabjo dey) incident at iift - dada and i had just reached dibi's hostel and were about to start climbing the stairs, when power went off. it was extremely dark and we could not see anything...suddenly our famous security guard raampukar came with a torch to help us and dada in his inimitable nasal (reshammiya would have been proud)style said "RAAMPUKAAR MERE PEECHHE SE ZAARA MAAR DO NAA"

Shome said...

it was peeche se torch maar do na... ha ha... that was hilarious...

and the time Baba told Tanku "mere Maggi mein ek unda ulti karke daal do".. ha ha..

Raja said... dada had not mentioned torch !!! that is why it was more hilarious...of course he was referring to the torch...its like in today's times you cant say "give me a pencil and a rubber", "i have a naughty pussy" "i am happy and gay" and not even the first name of vice-president mr. cheney !!!

Vee said...

rofl. that's hilarous!! God, I miss India sometimes!

Kusum Rohra said...

LOL! This was howlarious :)

And I guess BK is a genius, all the bills should be put in the backside only. :)