Archu From The Archive, Fictional

Word Warriors

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This post is entirely a piece of fiction. Any resemblance to real people – living or dead – is purely conincidental.


“Prasad, our MD would like to meet you at 5 PM. Can you make it?”

Prasad checked his watch when the HR requested for the meeting. It showed 4:45 PM and there was a little more than an hour before the office timing for the day ends.

“Of course, I’ll go.” he replied politely. “And I know why I am being summoned.” he thought. Since the day he disagreed with his MD in an open town hall meeting on work-life balance, they had started sharing a silent rapport. Even after a year, the debate had not perished but the communication channel has been opened. It was no big surprise to figure out the reason to be called now.

Prasad walked to the MD’s cabin and told his PA that he was expected. MD was on a conference call and the PA assured to inform him once he was done. Prasad came back to his desk.

“Hey dude, what’s the matter? The big guy wants you?” His colleague poked in.

“Oh yeah, we have a date at 5.”

“Looks like someone more important has intervened his appointment with you.”

“That’s right! If our MD couldn’t make his appointment before 6, he’ll have to wait for mine until tomorrow.”

“I know… Pretty strict time principles uh? MD or MLA, you never budge. Some nerve you’ve got.” His colleague smiled and turned around to face his monitor, “which makes you YOU”, he added carelessly.

Prasad really didn’t have a choice. He was already juggling between his work and family in tight schedules. His wife falling sick suddenly tightened his schedule even more that he was about to snap. He wasn’t able to align with the company’s culture of stretching for long hours and extending weekends at work which he wouldn’t do even otherwise. He believes that work, agreed, consumes a major part of our life but there are things outside work as well that demands equal attention. There should be a balance!

“It doesn’t work that way dude, atleast here in this company. The philosophy is, the longer you sit in office, the more efficient they claim you to be.” One other friend told him previously over a cup of coffee, just like many others who had been cribbing to him casually on how their personal lives were getting screwed as well.

“But as long as I complete my work within the normal working hours, why should that matter? Isn’t completing work in lesser time more efficient than slogging and stretching for the same result?” Prasad argued.

“You are right, Prasad! But you are right in the wrong place!” He realized that his friend made sense. That’s when he decided to quit.

It was 5:30PM now and the PA came to his desk saying that the MD was now free. Prasad followed.

“Good evening, Shankar!”

“Good evening, Prasad! Well, not so good an evening as I’ve just learnt that you have given your resignation. I am disappointed. What’s the problem?”

Prasad was glad that the MD came to the point right away instead of beating around the bush. That’s why they like and respect each other in spite of conflict of ideas. Both Shankar and Prasad personally prefer upfront conversations to buttery, sugar coated ones. Like minded people at the two extreme and opposite rungs of the corporate ladder!

“My wife is sick and I need some time off.”

“Is that all? So how long do you need?”

“Two months would be a great time. I have decided to take a break, get things settled and then resume my career.”

“Two months it is then. You can take off for two months and come back to work. Resignation is a big step.”

“Not really, Shankar! I did request for a sabbatical break without salary from the HR and it wasn’t granted, rightfully of course as I had no leave balance anyways.”

“We can make exceptions for ‘A’ players. I’ll talk to the HR. I just accidently happened to hear of your resignation and am here talking to you. I wonder how many such people I have already lost!”

“That’s exactly the point. You have known me and we are here talking. There were and are people with similar concerns who have been and would be leaving for the similar reasons. If I were allowed a break, it should have come from the HR as it always does for everyone. I don’t want to take advantage of your influence.”

“Good! That’s why I always ask people to express themselves, express themselves to the HR or me or to whomsoever they are comfortable with. It almost never happens. They crib within themselves and call it quits on a fine day. I thought you were different Prasad.”

“I am no different from anyone who wants a proper work-life balance and I believe I did my expression when I had to.”

“Don’t go on again about work-life balance. The term eludes you to think that work and life are different entities. Work is a part of life.”

“PART of life, not life itself.”

“I didn’t say it is. I only hate the terminology. Call it work-family balance, work-kids balance, whatever, why work-life as if they both are poles apart?”

“Alright then. It’s just a terminology and I wasn’t the one who coined it. The concept still remains the same, doesn’t it?”

“I keep hearing it all the time that there is no work-life balance in this company. Do you really think so? It’s true that we have loads of work but that’s something we pride ourselves of. We leave it to the individuals to take accountability of their work. Its upto the people to balance their lives.”

“Not when there are official mails floating asking them to stretch. Not when they are set up with over-ambitious work estimates. You can’t be accountable for something that’s beyond you.”

“Agreed! We do not have proper estimates. Our customers are as demanding as we are at a grocery shop.”

“Customers demand quality and delivery, not the means adopted to produce it. Most of the extra hours are spent on rework than work, re-work because of errors that happened by tired people at odd hours of the night.”

“We are only asking our people to make centuries, we encourage them to. It’s for their own growth, for their own good.”

“We are ready to make centuries, even more. But limit the overs to 50; please don’t take 70 and 80 overs for granted.”

“What if it happens to exceed 50 overs then?”

“Once in awhile is fine. Else, call for another match!”

“Look here Prasad, every soil has its pests. The farmer should decide the pesticides he wants to.”

“The soil is fertile, Shankar. I just don’t see it fertile for my crop.”

“That’s it then, you are going in search of fertile pastures?”

“The weather is not good. I have halted cultivation for the time being.”

Small silence…

“You know you can influence people here, Prasad, if you want to. You have the capability.”

“Unfortunately, I am on a technical job, not political.”

“Fine! You win! You always manage to win Prasad. I wonder if your wife ever has a chance in an argument with you!” Shankar gave a defeated smile.

“Oh! She does and she wins. That’s how she married me.” Prasad returned an I-am-so-sorry smile.

“Good luck to you! You are welcome back anytime.”

“Thank you, Shankar! I do wish I would.”

Prasad comes out of the MD’s cabin and checks his watch – 6 PM sharp. He locks his machine, grabs his bag and walks to his bus-stop, remembering a few indirect incidents and unpleasant discussions that he was subjected to with his other superiors, the discussions and superiors that he entirely kept away in his conversation with his MD. He knew what he was doing; he knew he had to move on and that’s exactly what he did.

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26 thoughts on “Word Warriors

  1. @Sathappan: I had given the disclaimer in bold and still you have trouble reading it?

    @Subash: Why else is it there?

    @Ganesh: You meant Prasad’s frustration, right? Thanks…if people understand, it wud do good to all the Prasads out there.

  2. If I may say so,Prasad did the right thing by quitting.He will get a better job where he is happy and gets to spend a lot of time with his wife and his friends of course 😉

  3. mmmmm Nice Post!!!! the use of simile was amazing specially the one having the reference of “Fertile Ground and the Crop” was out of the world……..

    But hey I doubt on “This post is entirely a piece of fiction.”…… ‘coz i guess i happen to know “Prasad”

  4. As always Prakash always knows what he does.Let Prakash Enjoy and I believe Prakash will get whatever he wants in his life and Career. Everything will come good for Prakash.

  5. @Anuradha: Prasad says ‘Thank You’ 🙂

    @Amit: Thanks! Smilies help making a read better. I am glad u liked it. You know Prasad? There are so many Prasads…which one are u talking about? 😉

    @Lakshmipathy: Four Prakash in three lines, but why Prakash when the role here is Prasad? 😀 Just kidding….On behalf of Prakash, thanks for the wishes 🙂

  6. The story just lays bare the state of mind of many many people, who can’t still make out why they are doing what they are doing; I’ve heard complaints from other friends,too and some of the girls are waiting to get married, so that they can exercise the option of quitting!

    A common ill well told! There are many people who’d love to be in Prasad’s shoes right now!

  7. No one holds a gun to Prasad’s head and insists on staying late. ‘Cribbing Prasads’ stay late only because they want to make more money and move up in their career. In a country like India where competent people significantly outnumber the available opportunities, it is expected that some employees voluntarily work long hours to have an edge over others.

    ‘Cribbing Prasads’ can consider paddy farming for a better work-life balance until there arises a balance between opportunities and workforce.

    Commented in the public interest of folks who stay late,
    Vijay

  8. Well the disclaimer was pointless bcoz this is not a fiction. Unfortunately, the Indian managers’ mentality is to judge a person by the number of hours he/she sits in office and number of times they have disagreed openly. You can’t help it. Better luck with ur next job.

    -Anand

  9. @Meens: Though I agree that I’ve heard similar complaints myself, I dont agree that marriage should be a reason for women folks to end their career. Its not fair! You end your career or choose another career path because you want to, not because there is no choice but to do that. Maybe I am being too idealistic, but I do wish that such idealism is attained someday for the betterment for all the working folks, be it a man or woman.

    @Vijay: First and foremost, ‘Cribbing’ is a wrong adjective for Prasad. By quitting, he just acted on his will. Had he continued in his forcefully and complained about it, then thats cribbing! The discussion between the MD and Prasad was an argumentative debate and wouldn’t fall under cribbing category either. Read the post once again to and lets have that point cleared.

    As for the competent people who believe that working long hours is the only way to have an edge over others, just great, but do analyze if all the long hours are exactly being productive. If you say yes, I salute your energy levels. And because you do, that doesn’t give you the pass to make the two insults that you have made here. First, you insult people who though competent enough and satisfied with the money that their competency earns them than the hours do. Next, you insult the farmers by demeaning paddy farming. No work is more back-breaking and tougher than what our farmers do to feed you and me.

    In public interest on behalf of people who strive for a work-life balance, Mr. NRN, the founder of Infosys Technologies strongly emphasizes on work-life balance himself and thats exactly what has taken him and his company to the heights that it is now.

    @Anand: Oh yes, it is! Its true that facts from real life could be borrowed but its not wholely that. A fiction has the liberality to throw in character picturizations, tweek conversations that really didn’t happen and drop uninteresting ones that did. Thats why its a fiction and thats why I explicitly wrote the disclaimer so that people just down jump to conclusions from the main theme of the post. I am sad that even a disclaimer couldn’t help many see the point. Should my next post be on the the ‘Princess of Genovia’ (coutesy Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot) so that I am finally spared of bearing the responsiblity for my characters’ actions?

    Coming to your point on the Indian managers and working hours, check out my reply comment to Vijay above (not my hubby Vijay though 😉 )

  10. Good One, Archu…. Though you have put the disclaimer, I can’t resist making the connection between the characters in your blog with the one’s in real life. 🙂

    I really liked it, as I have always believed in it for long time, long before I called quits on my job.

    Keep going !! Waiting for a few more interesting posts from you 😉

  11. @patil: thanks patil! i know that u believed work-life balance concept as much as i did. sure…will try to give more interesting posts in future 🙂

  12. once in a while when I visit your blog, I couldnt stop my self reading your post(s) completely. You have excellent writing skills.

    As far as long working hours concerned, I wanted to add my thoughts here. The entire debate is around working efficient in limited working hours and stretching self for long hours with limited productivity. However it is individual’s priorities to things and it doesnt mean who ever works long is because they are inefficient.There ARE parents / wives / husbands / brothers / sisters who understand a person’s passion and strong desire of acheiving more things staying late, and to get a recognition in the company. In case of corporate industries, many things matters like teams are spread across the globe who have to work together many times, and that obviously require to some one stay beyond the official working hours! Also each individual’s productivity differs and we cannot expect 100% of employees to give their output when the clock stands on 6 PM 🙂 However, its individual’s decision is what matters whether to get it solved by staying late or to leave it to the next office hours. What i want to say is, as long as you are bold enough to decide what is more important for you, then going at 6 is correct as well as staying late is correct.

    I appreciate Prasad’s will power in deciding what is more important for him.

  13. @Anonymous1: Thanks a lot!

    @Anonymous2: The entire point of my post was to emphasis that leaving office on time or staying up late should be left to the discretion of the employees who’d decide as per their priorities instead of having that insisted upon. Your viewpoint sounds fair like a fair deal. I completely agree with you.

    Thanks for your compliments on my writing. Please do keep visiting my blog more often and do keep reading!

  14. Archana
    Started reading your blogs after the Town Hall Meeting last year. Cricket and Cultivation simileys were really good. I got the feeling like, I was sitting next to you guys in MD’s room. But dont knw why this much of difference between us.. as I just love this current soil, Reasons may be I am having a good cultivation here, still a bachelor etc. And compared to this soil in terms of work-life balance, I came from a Chinese DESERT.
    Anyways exceptional writing skills.. though Pocket dictionary is required for poor guys like me 🙂 Wishing you all the very best in your future. Make sure you begin your cultivation after the break in a better soil.

  15. Excellant write-up. I fully support Prasad’s views. There are many people, especially in India, who practice Shankar’s ideas. They would come casually to the office at around 10:30-11 and then ‘stay back’ till 8:30-9:30 and take the company cabs back home. That way they would please their bosses, who expect them to stay back. If only these people come bang on time, do productive work till 6:00-7:00 and go home, then it would be win-win for everyone — company, employees, families.

  16. @Akhil: thank you for the compliments…you must thank shankar instead…he was the one who brought up those similies, didnt he? 🙂 I feel the love for a land depends on our circumstances and priorities, to some its favorable and to some its adverse.

    @Anonymous: Thanks again. You share the same standpoint as mine, to dot. I am glad to have someone seconding me 🙂 Thanks for that as well!

  17. @Arunjith: Shankar is already the MD, why would he want to become a manager? You are talking about Prasad I guess 😉

  18. Good funny fictional read for these reasons

    1. I wonder how many such people I have already lost – Which manager in the world thinks this way? Its either their way or the highway.
    2. The weather is not good. I have halted cultivation for the time being – (Manager)Dude, are you a farmer? 🙂
    3. Fine! You win! You always manage to win Prasad. I wonder if your wife ever has a chance in an argument with you – (Prasad) Dude, now you are interferring in my personal matters. :-@

  19. @Anonymous: Thanks for the link….Went thru and also forwarded it to a few interested Shankars 🙂

    @Shreenivas: 1) Maybe they dont think that way, but they speak so 2) Don’t you understand similes? 3) Wow, I could have used that reply for Prasad in my blog too 🙂

  20. Though very late .. I came across this post and felt I should leave a comment.

    TCS, CTS, INFY, WIPRO, HCL, etc., etc. employ an enormous number of people (my guess is atleast 400,000 people)
    and the lives of this huge number is not something to be messed with.

    From my neighbors, I learnt that the IT Industry has used the recession has a tool to enforce the 9 hour work (official) rule, effectively stopped promotions, and no pay-raises, cut down on perks and even made it unofficially official that going home and having a personal life is a sin !.

    Can somebody tell me why there are no human rights activists protesting with banners?
    and why the country is moving towards being a perfect slave house ?

    I am not an advocate of labor unions. But the MBA’s havent done any good either. More harm than good I would say.

    The government in India is a epic fail, obviously. I even wonder if there are any labour laws that are actually enforced. Needless to mention, the Government is only interested in the high tax money from these young souls.
    Labour unions only turned out to be political stunts and harmed both employees and companies.
    NASSCOM is just a ‘party-time’ for CEO’s to make pointless statements.
    MBA’s have turned out to be even worse than the labour unions. ‘Employee-care’ is an almost non-exisent term.

    It is very, VERY, sad to see the highest educated generation of this country, having to go through with all this.
    Makes me wonder if the purpose of ‘Basic Education’ has not been met and has been totally ignored.

    If 80% of the educated engineers who are all employed in the IT industry fail to realize that the current mode of offshoring / outsourcing is very unsustainable, unless they are willing to die for the money, there is definitely not going to be any good change in this ‘we-exploit-our-country men-for-the-benefit-of-our-western-clients’ attitude of these IT companies.

    (If any tamilians are reading this – the situation is more like the ‘naatukku-oru-nalla-sedhi’ song from anbe sivam movie)

    Oh, given the negative attitude of the post, I am having the urge to say this —
    This is not just a rant from a poor ‘sleepless, no-social-life techie’ in one of these software firms. Here is the ‘this-is-why-i-think-so’ about me — In my career, I have had the chance to be in the extremes of places – From the Labor Union infected, Central government run, Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, to the ‘Oldest and Biggest Software Firm by number of scape-goats’ in Mumbai, India, and then Consulting & free-lancing at numerous companies in four western countries in the past 11 years.

    — Shan

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