As I make my way down the stairs, I notice Mukund, my four year old neighbour standing at the door. His shoes are a shiny black, hair oiled and combed and holy ash smeared on his forehead and arms. With his school bag hanging from his shoulders, he’s just raring to go. Only one problem, he does not have a shirt on.
I look quizzically at this bare chested Tarzan.
“Dei, Where’s your shirt?”
He looks down and casually examines himself. He looks up and a beatific smile slowly spreads across his face.
“I put my pant zip today!”
I congratulate him heartily. Big mistake. Fired up with enthusiasm, he advances towards me to cross examine my own zippered condition. I beat a hasty retreat.
At the office, I spend the morning looking deep into the gory innards of my project . Another bug has been discovered and I know the rest of my week is ruined. This is one of those terrible bugs whose origins are unknown. It occurs under a certain conditions though what those conditions are, the on-site guy is not sure.
A great wave of helplessness overcomes me. Just as I’m ready to weep, my TL taps me on the shoulder. “Video conference with the client, we have to stay back.”
A video conference sounds interesting; I’ve never been to one before. When I first joined the project, attending my first audio conference filled me with pride. I felt pretty important as my group sat in a circle around the speaker phone, leaning forward and straining our ears to make out the words among the static.
I remember waiting with bated breath as my TL leaned forward to utter his first words to the on-site chap.
“So have you been to a strip club yet?”
This time, it’s even bigger. The video conference is to be at the exalted sixth floor. That’s where all the top management sit. I can’t wait.
As the day goes by, I start getting a little worried. What if I get self conscious and start grinning into the camera? What if I giggle and titter as my project manager discusses matters of high importance? My stomach churns at the thought.
Finally its 7:30 PM and twenty five of us make our way to the sixth floor. The security guard lets us in and we stop to admire the interior decoration. It’s a far cry from the miles and miles of cubicles on my floor. I’m tempted to sink into one of the sofas and pick up a magazine but my TL nudges me ahead.
The conference room looks like a scene out of Star Trek. Two huge flat screen TV’s with a camera on top are positioned in front of a horse shoe shaped table. One TV to show us the client and the other to show us how we look to the client. The chairs are incredibly comfortable and I choose one right at the corner where I won’t be visible on camera. Seconds later my project manager politely nudges me and asks me to sit elsewhere. Now I’m bang in front of the cam and I know I’m going to end up humiliating the entire team.
We wait as the technicians hook things up and make the connection. There are a couple of freshers in my team who keep grinning at each other and I hope they crack up before I do.
Suddenly we see the image of our on-site coordinator smiling awkwardly at us.
We make some stilted conversation while he waits for the clients to arrive. I'm quite relieved though, the TV images are a little blurred. Even if I lost control and simpered at the camera, it wouldn't be very noticeable.
The clients arrive and some awkward small talk is made. They want know to in which part of India we are sitting in and when we say Chennai, they look at us blankly.
“Does it snow there?” they ask and some of us choke.
To them we seem like curiosities,Indians sitting in some vague part of India where for some reason it does not snow.
They gradually bring up the agenda for the meeting and we go through a power point presentation. They start talking among themselves and we gradually realise that we have absolutely no role to play in the meeting. Its 9 PM and most of us are starving. The clients show no signs of letting up and continue to engage in what seems like a pointless conversation. Suddenly one of them starts fumbling in his bag. We sit up and take notice. What exactly is he doing?
He takes something out of the bag and starts unwrapping it. Seconds later he takes a big bite out it and starts talking again as he chews. We cant believe it. He's actually eating in front of us.
I cant take it anymore. I mute the speaker so that we cant be heard and hiss at my PM.
“Whats he eating???”
“Its a bagel, it comes in different flavours. Cheese, garlic and so on....”.
I don't get it. Here we are,sitting so formally and trying to ignore our rumbling tummies. There they are, eating live on television.
The meeting stretches on and on. He finishes his bagel and sips coke. Most of us here are in an advanced stage of coma.
We suddenly lose the video. We can only hear them and it takes them some time to realise we cant see each other. Then they agree that we had an extremely informative meeting and that it was good to meet the offshore team. So much was discussed and a lot was learnt. I rouse my team mates and we gradually make our way out of the room.
I'm never attending another video conference.