'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

On Business...

Aabout two years back. The HR boss of my (then) office in Chennai (let us call him Sankar) summons me. He says: "See, as you probably know we are conducting a walk-in interview in Bangalore day after tomorrow (a saturday). One of the folks who were to travel to Bangalore to assist the Tech Managers conduct it has taken ill. Could you go? We leave tomorrow night, reach Blore in the very early morning, conduct the interview over the day and travel back to Chennai the same evening (to reach Chennai by Sunday morning); it will be a bit hectic but we have booked by A/C sleeper (train) and we booked rooms at ----- (a five-star hotel in Bangalore, also the venue of the interview), so that we can snatch a few hours of sleep there."

I am interested. I have never traveled anywhere representing any organization - this will be my first 'business trip'. Moreover, although I have been giving interviews for more than half my life, I have never TAKEN an interview. That should be interesting as well - just being on a panel! But then, I have some work at a relative's in Chennai on Sunday (the day after the walkin), which cannot be postponted. I tell Sankar: "Fine with me. Only thing is I positively need to be back in Chennai on Sunday morning.". Says Sankar: "That is not an issue; we have booked everything. And yes, note down some good possible questions, brain-teasers... you know!"

Friday evening. I am told the railway bookings have (mysteriously) not got confirmed and so a 'Qualis' has been booked to take us overnight to Bangalore (the tech biggies would fly to Bangalore only the next morning). There are six of us including Sankar and self. The Qualis arrives around 9 pm and we presently start off. Sankar occupies the seat next to the driver saying: "I have slept in the afternoon ( "How?" I wonder, for today has been a working day) so I can stay awake the whole night. If the person sitting next to the driver falls asleep, it can distract him." Interesting, I muse. So, five of us troop into the rear of the vehicle - and I discover that leg-space will be a major problem for the next few hours.

The "few" soon stretches to "many" as the highway is being widened ("The (then) Prime Minister's Dream Project" of creating fast corridors between major cities is being frantically implemented) and the 350 kilometer journey takes 9 full sleepless (not quite so for Sankar; spread-eagled in the one roomy seet in the vehicle, he mostly snores steadily and equably) hours. Bangalore and the hotel are eventually reached and we stagger out bleary-eyed.

Now it is just a matter of a couple of hours to get ready for the interview; only one room is booked and we queue up for the five star shower. Breakfast follows. By 8, the managers arrive fresh from the airport (Blore is but half an hour by air from Chennai), and soon afterwards, the candidates begin to troop in. Sankar allots us work: Disappointment! it is clear from the outset that there won't be need for any of us on the interview panel. I am to help in scanning the profiles of the candidates and shortlist some for the interview. After a few minutes of this, I feel bored and bad about rejecting people and ask for the task of an usher - to receive the candidates, ask them to fill up a questionaire, hand over their profiles to those checking them and to lead those shortlisted into the chambers where the bosses are ensconced. One needs to be on the feet throughout but that is better than poring over resumes. The chap who is ushering is happy to trade places with me - he hates to stand at the door "like a servant".

Sankar flits energetically between people seeing if everything is going well - eventually, when things are smoothly progressing, he retires, ostensibly to make some more 'arrangments'. As for self, I get to more than burn up the breakfast calories (and a heavy lunch in between); the only awkward moment comes when a chap whose profile failed to make the short-list comes to me saying: "I am disappointed; I thought I deserved a look-in. Did you see my profile?" I reply "No, sorry. I just handed it over inside" and he says: "Well, can you check it once; you are from the HR department of the company, right?". I tell him: "Not really. You could meet Mr. Sankar...." Then he asks: "Now its probably too late, anyway, what are you in the company? Admin/accounts types or...?" and then he answers himself: "anyway, what you are is none of my business. Seeya!"

The proceedings drag on till 4 pm by which time the last candidate has been disposed off. Now, there is plenty time till 9 pm - when the Qualis, after depositing the managers at the airport for their return flight would begin its journey to Chennai with us. It is awkward to sleep at sundown and I desist from it. I step out, meet up with old pal Sheshadri, who has been told that I would be in Bangalore; we go walkabout in the downtown.

I reach back to the hotel by 8 and find only one of the guys in our party (let us call him Joe) in the room and looking gloomy and... preparing to sleep! He says: "Hey, they say, we are staying back here. When taking the bosses to the airport, the driver apparently cribbed to them he hasnt had a sleep and they took pity on him and told Sankar to book one more room here for us to sleep overnight; We leave for Chennai only tomorrow morning. I am feeling bad because I have a friend's wedding to attend tomorrow in Chennai and am gonna miss it. The gang has gone to have a beer or something. I am feeling just terrible!"

Yep, terrible it is. I HAVE to be back in Chennai tomorrow morning. And I can't even afford to sit around and sulk like Joe. I grab my bag and the day's newspaper and rush out; Soon I reach the city railway station. The overnight mail train to Chennai is about to leave. I take a general ticket and squeeze into the unreserved compartment. It is jam-packed in there and I just about manage to find enough space near the door (and the lavatory) to spread my newspaper and settle down. The people near me bolt the coach-door. The train leaves and soon after, halts at the Cantonment station. Another huge crowd seems to be outside and trying to get in and banging away on our bolted door. My fellow-travelers dont budge. the heavy blows continue to rain on the outside of the coach till the train moves again. I heave a sigh.

It is yet another long chilly night as we trundle on towards Chennai. In spite of extreme fatigue, I do not catch a wink of sleep in that crammed nook of the coach - immeasurably more crammed than the qualis had been yesterday (and very smelly to boot). By six, I stumble out of the train in Chennai station. It would be a long day on my relative's assignment...

The next day, monday, I am back at office, having slept almost 12 hours the previous night and still feeling very flat. As I enter, Sankar sees me. He says: "Hey! Why did you run away like that? When we got back to the hotel, Joe tells us you left in a hurry. Our plans had changed; we actually left Bangalore around 11 pm by the Qualis and were back here in Chennai by 7 or so. You could have at least called up one of us on your cell and confirmed our plans before rushing to the station! Anyway how was your return?" I say: "Well, perhaps I should have called you up. But when Joe told me, there was no hint that the decision to stay there could be changed without notice".

Sankar: "Okay, anyway, how much was the train fare? You should be reimbursed".

Self (a bit awkwardly): "It was nothing much, just about 100 bucks".

Sankar: "Still, send me an email with that info, I shall process it.. In my opinion... you were on company's business ... the company ought to bear all relevant expenses; well, anyway, let me discuss it with the management"

Self: "you mean, whether those 100 bucks where 'relevant'?".

Sankar: "Not exactly. You know,... well, let us see...send that mail anyways!"

NOTE: The names of some folks featured here have been changed to protect MY identity. Any reader who feels like commenting may please desist from speculations/revelations as to their real names and spare me from (further) trouble!


  • At 11:34 PM, Blogger Arun R said…

    Amazing Story...... It would have felt like hell at the end of it!!!!

    Couldn't stop laughing for sometime....

    Untill now, I was thinking that I was the only guy in the world with a rotten luck..... but now I've company!!!! ;) ;) ;)

  • At 12:48 AM, Blogger enu said…

    you let facts speak strongly of your feelings very well. I know that these that jokers abound in this planet and I admire your strength to put up with them.

  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger gavin48chad said…

    damn good blog, check out mine, comments always welcome!

  • At 7:27 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks arun for the commiserations.

    thanks enu. i think the pain was probably worth it, since it ultimately got distilled into something postable!

    fruit, thanks for the invite. your blog looks very promising. i would be a regular visitor there.


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