“The sales and technical team which trains our clients in product usage of the products and our biggest client ‘Be way hospitality’ at quanty, met with a serious setback in the demo session organised yesterday. During the demo session itself the device slipped off the holder, fell down and the parts got damaged. The clients got pretty scared and asked us to temporarily stop supplying our devices to them”
I would be able to start the day peacefully if only I could throw off this mobile in some nearby lake as it keeps buzzing with mails from the second I wake up. Lorida seems to be right when she says not to open my official mails early morning and never to think about work until I enter the office gates. Similarly she would become furious if am engaged in official work after 7 p.m. But when the team is from three different continents where our day would either be their midnight or noon, I have no choice other than this to carry on with the work schedule. My virtual presence during the test session of the device, currently held in different countries, is very much required to respond to technical queries instantly. Lorida wouldn’t understand that am on a hot seat. Not only Lorida but many of my colleagues also never seem to mix up their personal time with working hours, which is absolutely a typical American mindset. I am the one with an Indian mindset, married to an American spouse.
Once spring sets in, the Alexandia Mclonia tree that is around fifty meters from my residence would be filled with flowers and no leaves. With their pink colour and sweet fragrance the flowers beautify the whole area. Lorida often used to state that her grand-father was given special funding for planting the sapling and for taking care of that tree. These flowers, similar to water lilies would be a real feast to the eyes as they would look like as though they have bloomed on sky and not on water. Their blissful scent would be similar to that of the chempak flower. Lorida loves nature and for the cuteness with which she pronounces chembagam I have named these flowers as American chembagam flower. She has great aesthetic sense and has planted different varieties of colorful flowers in our garden. She also runs a flower plants shop in the outskirts of the city. When a flower fell off the branches of the chempac tree, it immediately reminded me of the equipment that slipped off the holder. Pictures of our company’s broken devices that are in my mail box dangled in front of my eyes and disturbed me.
Lorida’s voice brought me back to the present moment. She knows that I wouldn’t spend so much time in the morning, standing outside and enjoying the coffee that I filled up from the coffee maker. What she doesn’t know is my state of mind at that moment. She might have been wondering, “what is he doing there instead of packing lunch for the kids and getting them ready for school?” A one hour meeting with the ‘India team’ is scheduled at nine O’ clock in the morning. Am sure that my daughter would still be in bed and if I try to wake her up now, she would shriek in a high- pitched voice for which Lorida would chide me. I went to my daughter’s room, switched the TV on and tuned it to the rhymes channel she likes. If the day could be spent amidst these beautifully dressed up kids singing sweet songs, life would just be exceptional. I realised that I would be able to prepare her for school and drop her on time if only I took bath immediately.
I noticed that breakfast was ready and as I entered the bath-room I informed Lorida that I was going to take bath. Through the closed doors of the bath-room I could hear her asking me in an irritated voice as to what is to be done if the daughter wakes up. Couldn’t she take care of the kid even for a little while? How atrocious! I looked at that square shaped, soap case like instrument I had designed and was rejected by my clients. My daughter had kept some decorative things on top of it and had converted it as a showpiece in the bathroom. I was happy that her Montessori education has enhanced her artistic skills. We had manufactured some models like these devices worth around Twenty Five lakh rupees in Indian value. A piece of that model has turned out to be a toy to my daughter……! I manufactured this device once I joined this organisation, without paying heed to any of the other team mates’ suggestions regarding acceptance of the model by the clients. Within six months of my joining the organisation I ruthlessly extracted work from my team in order to manufacture it as quick as possible. I acted with the rage and sprinted with the pace of someone who got chased off from somewhere. I made the team run with me alongside in the same momentum.
The device was successfully manufactured and became operational as per my plan, but when the clients complained that it was big, heavy and was difficult to wear in the neck and walk, I cleverly shifted the blame on somebody and escaped. You can call it as my good time than my shrewdness. There was no mention about the size and the measurement of the device in the product requirement document. None of the American bosses had the common sense to question my leadership quality when I could not even assess the weight and size of the device based upon other similar wearable devices available in the market. The device had all the functionalities as mentioned in the requirement document and the management was astonished to know that it was ready for use within a very short span of six months. So when the management decided to manufacture the same device with lesser weight and of a different shape they relied upon me and put me in charge for this task. The device we have designed now is half the size of the previous one. The efforts taken and the sleepless nights spent in reducing it’s weight to one fourth of the original size came to my mind. Inspite of the many hurdles encountered in the process, the device was manufactured within the deadline because of the efficiency of my team. Many of the heavier parts were replaced with weightless ones. Our initial days of nightmare gradually turned out to be interesting.
We had to converse with the Taiwan company employees in English, a language, which they seem to know of very little, and which they spoke in a chinese accent. If just a single word of their communication was understandable, my team went great lengths to comprehend and accomplished the mission. The completion of the project within such a short duration was a big achievement for the team. But the error that has occurred now, would have an impact only on me and wouldn’t have any adverse effects on the team. At this point of time I was suddenly reminded of Deepika. Am I in this plight just because I made her cry unnecessarily? The bathroom door was knocked heavily.
Lorida was standing furiously outside the bathroom, holding our daughter’s hand. I snatched away my daughter’s hand from Lorida and started preparing her for school. The daughter had brushed her teeth already. I bathed her and put on her uniform. The breakfast had become cold. Lorida cooks food just for the sake of doing it. I packed lunch. I had recently trained the daughter to pack her books in the school bag. I could hear Lorida lamenting as she was packing our son’s school bag. I finished my breakfast hurriedly. The daughter hasn’t eaten even half of the cornflakes served. She started eating faster as I stared at her. The son doesn’t usually give much of a trouble in eating. His Nursery School is close by to Lorida’s horticulture shop. I placed the daughter in the baby seat set up at the backseat of the car and buckled her seatbelt up. She is six years old now. After two years it wouldn’t be necessary to put her there and she would sit with me.
I drove off the car from our residence, turned it from Premont More Avenue towards Bell Street. In the mid of the busy crossroads area, there is a Sycamaro tree which bears fruits that look like red fig fruits. It’s expanded palms and five petalled green leaves that would look like five fingers reduced the pace at which my brain was trembling. Though these fruits appear to be figs, native people of this country do not prefer to eat it as we Indians do. Are these figs or some other poisonous fruits? I was little surprised to note that Deepika hasn’t mailed me yet, which is quite unusual.
The preparatory work for this project was done by Deepika. It was a mistake that I unnecessarily approached the HR department in order to make her understand my power and position after which she confined herself to the boundaries of her work. Her experience would have been of great help to me. But being two levels lower to me in hierarchy, when she advised me on certain issues in the organisation, what else could be done? In my previous organization, an earlier occasion similar to this occurred and when I ignored it as a trivial issue, it was taken forward to the Union. I found myself continuously targeted after that. All my activities were questioned; I was warned and reprehended by the Union. I felt that Deepika too was travelling on the same road.
I dropped my daughter at the Learning Kids Montessori School at 1481, More Avenue. Dropping her at School and picking her up from there decides my working hours at office. The repurcussions of marrying an American woman is breaking my head now. I really liked Lorida and the marriage was just not a short cut I devised to get American citizenship. But now she hates me after learning that am completely engulfed in Indian mentality. We had split up our duties as this: the responsibility towards the son and preparation of breakfast rests with her; cooking Dinner and looking after the daughter is mine. Her Rule Book states that the husband is supposed to accept a share in all the responsibilities of the family. Each time I travel abroad for co-ordinating the production process of the device and other associated works, her Rule Book would say that I should get her a new gift for taking care of the daughter in my absence. During each such visits, Lorida’s complaints and furious expressions would make my stay completely uncomfortable.
I turned the vehicle from More avenue towards Freeway 880 at 220 kilometers speed. To watch the blue exterior of the ocean, widespread into the gulf is a delightful sight for eyes. In order to watch and admire the American Avacota birds that look similar to the Pled Avocet, the path I took toward this great expanse of water is how I got locked up with Lorida.
I had just then completed my college studies, hadn’t acquired a permanent job and she had come there to celebrate her break-up in a relationship. She was enjoying her time there, having drinks with her friends and after a while she walked towards me, kissed me and went back to her friends and gave them a high five. My effort to find out what happened to her got me trapped into this marriage. When we got married, I felt relaxed to learn that she owned a four Bedroom flat. She became pregnant within one year of our marriage as my mother advised me that the only way to keep her permanently in this relationship was to have a child immediately. Lorida started exasperating me too much after her delivery. She thought that carrying the child for ten months is a way of extracting work from her. These issues wouldn’t have come up in life if I had married an Indian woman.
I schemed out lot of strategies from time to time, brainwashing her gradually to accept the Indian culture ; To embrace the ideology that kids are parents’ responsibility and aged parents are the offspring’s responsibility. She insisted that I should leave home for office exactly when the daughter needs to be dropped at school and I should be available at home when the school time gets over. Whenever Lorida calls me over phone, whatever situation am in, I should speak to her. It is mandatory that I cook and serve her the food, drink with her in the nights and exhilarate her. Yes. If I don’t follow this routine and if she doesn’t continue to stay here, me, my mother and my kids would be left homeless. That isn’t a problem. But my Indian mindset doesn’t dare to think of looking after the kids by myself and allow her to bear kids of other men. I am prepared to stoop down to any level to avoid such a situation and to pacify her which would save the family.
Just as my marriage with an American woman wasn’t pre-planned to acquire my American citizenship, so were my ways of reaching the top of the ‘snakes and ladder game’ played in every organisation, I worked with. I had to escape from few snakes and I cleverly tackled them all. I didn’t feel anything wrong about it. I saw to it that the work was done at a faster pace and completed the production process of the device either by hick or by crook. Some of the American companies didn’t appreciate this policy of mine. My Indian blood was immersed in the thought that any law could be easily broken to earn profits for the company. This led to bigger problems that some of my previous organizations terminated me. Tackling an American wife is as sorrowful as managing the American companies and their employees.
When I reached Santa Clara within fifteen minutes ride, the traffic congestion started. This is the only route through Freeway, to enter the Race Street in Alameda Road. It was approximately five minutes or so to nine a.m. I can initiate the conversation while I am on the wheels. But the information which I received today could be peacefully discussed only indoors. While I was pre-occupied with the thought of mailing that I would join the discussion within ten minutes, I accidentally crossed the pedestrian signal. “Oh ! I lost 250 dollars”! Time isn’t favouring me today! I don’t know how the management would react about the defect in the device. On top of it, this Fine issue has come up now. I have already paid three times fine in this one year. If it happens two more times, my driving licence would be cancelled. I speeded up the vehicle once I reached Race Street. All of them might have joined the meeting projecting that they are very punctual. They might be talking about the mail I sent them today and also about my absence in the discussion. Deepika might feel elated. I am reminded of the jack tree’s lush green colour whenever I look at her face. Even after parting from the tree, it would stay verduous until it gets decomposed and obsorbed into the soil. Deepika is similar to those leaves.
Once I joined this organisation I realised that this is where I belong. Though it was an American company, many of the Top Level managers were from India and the predominant activities were completely looked after by Engineers in India. During my first year here, with an impression that the entire organisation would be of Indian mind set, I had set up a team meeting comprising of Indians and Americans at 9 ‘O clock in the morning according to the American Time Zone.
“We have had many discussions and consciously decided that the Indian American cross functional team discussions should be concluded by Indian Standard time of 9.30 p.m. The meeting fixed by you now starts at 9.30 p.m. Indian standard time, and might end by 10.30 p.m. At times the meetings may extend beyond an hour which would disturb our usual sleeping hours. It is not just this one meeting. Since it is a recurring type of meeting, it would be an issue for longer way. Besides that, when the day light saving time ends, we would have to commence the meeting at 10.30 p.m, Indian standard time. Hence I request you to schedule the commencement and conclusion of the discussions in the timings which we had already voted and chosen for earlier”
I just couldn’t accept receiving an official mail such as this from someone who is two levels lower to me in hierarchy. If I have to schedule meetings accordingly, I should plan the meetings every day at 8 a.m. That is the time I eat breakfast with Lorida after which I should drop our daughter at School. The letter seemed to disturb the time I share with my family.
“Sorry. I can’t attend any discussion before 9 a.m. Since the entire responsibility of designing the device rests with me, the discussions need to be scheduled at a time of my convenience” was my reply to her mail.
Deepika had replied to this mail also in a stubborn manner. I knew that her response wasn’t concerned just about her convenience but of the entire team. I thought that I should nip off the employee’s union issues in the bud itself. I needed to approach the HR department and inform them regarding this. They warned her and instructed her to send a letter of apology. Now I thought that she would be in the same celebrative mood I was in that day. During my visit to India, when I met her for the first time, I expected her to argue with me; but she disappointed me. She showed no signs of occurrence of any such incident. She spoke to me in a professional manner as to how a junior executive would communicate to a senior in this industry. The way she ignored my threat forced me to carefully look out for opportunities to find fault in her work and terminate her, but still like the leaf of the jack tree she kept glowing with the perfection in her job.
I was late to the meeting by ten minutes. Though I joined the meeting after ten minutes late, there was not a rustle and the discussion session was horribly quiet.
“I have something very important to share with you. Delivering our devices to the clients is suspended curently. We received an alarming information that when the customers used the device, it not only slipped off the holder and the parts got dismantled, but the screen also broke off. Our clients were highly embarrassed. We are aware that the device cleared the quality test when it was dropped off from a specific height, to check whether it was vulnerable to breakages. But it is an issue of great concern when it fell off from a height lesser than the one that we tested it of, the parts got dismantled and the screen was broken. The Management has allocated huge budgets on this project and spent crores of rupees based upon the success envisaged about this device and upon the trust they had about our team. This is a crucial period for all of us”
On hearing me communicating this in flawless English, they became speechless. After a hectic day’s work, with the brain that had become dumb enough not to comprehend anything, I think all those who were attending the meeting for namesake went aghast on hearing me. I also thought that Deepika would feel joyful about this. I might even lose my job. I presumed that the management would decide that my incompetent leadership is responsible for this huge downfall and might terminate me. So I devised no alternative plan to rectify the defect in the device.
“What is this? Am sharing such a disastrous, sad news and none of you have queries on it!
The team continued to be quiet.
“We had conducted all tests. Isn’t it? There is no possibility of such a failure” said Sandeep.
“Our experiments tested the device by throwing it off from a specific height, straight away to the ground. But this problem occurs when it falls sideways in an angle, which we missed during our tests”
Parvesh said,”If we stop despatching the devices now, the management might face huge shortage of funds”
“We can’t say so. We are looking into the possibility to make it operational without any defects. I believe that the problems would be rectified soon. I need to begin my day now. Goodnight to all”
Deepika’s silence during this discussion kept pricking me. I knew that in case I lose my job, she might be the first one to feel relieved. She had reached the position next to me last month itself. I perceived that if my position becomes vacant now, she would surely try for it. While I was confused about tackling the higher authorities if I had to meet them under the current situation, my computer screen gleamed with Deepika’s mail.
“I have removed all the other recipients from this mail thread and sending you a private one. There is nothing very complex in this issue for you to worry so much. Have a look at the holder in the picture I have attached in this mail. This was used in the earlier device we produced. The holder chosen for the current device was of sub-standard quality. The manufacturers of the device should have checked it’s capcity to bear weight. You have nothing to reproach and it is not our fault. The holder that I referred to you now costs just two dollars more and that could also be claimed as compensation from our manufacturing companies. So, you need not worry and you can carry on with further processes. Have a good day”
I reached the ground floor for a cup of coffee after reading it. The jack tree with tenacious green leaves glowing with a smile could be clearly seen on the Fifty Eight inches TV set fixed on the wall. Why did Deepika not use the ladder in her hand and leap on ahead of me but send me a private mail instead? I felt myself fickle-minded with the inhibition of a thought as to what might be the plan behind this.
- Translated by S Kayal