The alarm rings in darkness. My watch is no longer working, it is now disturbing. It is not yet dawn, so why get out of bed? Why raise to work? Relax, there is more time, lots more of time and lots more. The hectic day out there would encounter a dashing scenario with my boss. Unending controversies. It has become more hectic after being transferred to the product marketing section in a company which has no sound product. The hilarious moments at work place no longer exist. Every smile is retaliated with a frosty noser. My patience in learning the art of admiring every trivial and unmarketable strategy of my Marketing Director is nearing a logical end. Always sitting under his nose and being viewed in the range of a narrow gap of his risen eyebrows and dropped spectacles has taken me another step towards my dream resignation. Every day begins with flipping the pages of an employment news paper, visiting web sites and hopefully checking the mail box with unending optimism to expect a thousand dollar offer from a leading multinational. Disappointment takes me off for a cup of coffee at the cafeteria.
However nothing happened today. It is quite calm. Not much that would have to take place has taken place. Some feeling of uniqueness and strangeness, but, still seemed normal. The feeling of having more time to rest was comforting. But the guilt in me forced me to rise and check the clock hung in the main room. Making way through the books, the hand bag on the floor which resembled a boozed cat in darkness, the desk which once used to rest books but now was more burdened with the so called cosmetics, I finally reached the clock. I was wondering how the corporate world has changed my life and killed my passions. Career has taken my life through many a pin curves and maneuvers. Suddenly the thoughts went blank. This clock also showed a time well past the time I had to be in my car driving to the place I call hell for myself.
Amidst all the confusion I was into, there was some peculiar noise. It took me a second to recollect that my colleague changed the ringing tone of my cell to one of the favorite rock numbers of his. Damn, it took me further ages to find my cell buried systematically under my pillow, bed sheet, bed?! Oops, it had probably slipped down through the narrow gap I leave between my bed and the wall to reassure that no crawling insects invade my bed, thanks to the unending fear and dislike I have towards lizards. Finally, I managed the cell into my hand and attended the call from Mano, my friend. I dint find a reason why he had to call this early in the morning.
Mano is now one of the most relevant living examples I would love to choose for my case study in office for understanding the market of westernized Indians residing in America. His outsourced job in India has evolved him into what I call half an American. He has changed not only in the outlook of his but also in the ‘inlook’ of his. I mean, he is no more the person he was by heart. After years of working on outsourced jobs in India, the best thing according to him that had happened to him is the transfer to his head office, here in Chicago. I suspect he has grown to be fascinated by the female voices that are heard across the phones and their images that flash on his computer screen. He tells me the miles of optical fibers are what he finally eliminated. I’m sure that was what made him forget Ammu, the girl whom he loved for her smile, hair, heart and not to forget the most beautiful eyes. This fair, tall, girl was admired for her long platted hair well below her hips which made her look awesome. Always dressed in cotton outfits, her innocence was probably the first thing any one would notice about her. Mano has totally forgotten his days of college when they spent time across the banks the a lake which are a part of the vast residential campus we had. He has totally forgotten her and more deeply the reasons he loved her for. He had forgotten the bare footed walk he loved to have with her on the dew filled grass. No surprise, he no longer pays attention to even respond to her mails on his mail box these days, leave alone the occasional phone calls once made. I remain as a silent spectator, sympathetic to Ammu. She still can’t forget him. She runs a Montessori school now. The last time I spoke to her was on the New Year eve, of course to wish her. My relations with my friends have been degrading in the past few years. Although I immediately blame the corporate world and work pressure for this, I feel guilty of being lazy enough to not even pick up the phone and dial a few numbers or message some friends on mail.
It dint take minutes for my mind to wander deep enough into the past when Mano spoke up briskly. I alerted myself to listen. There was a feeling of caution radiantly visible in his tone. I had to listen. There was something serious he wanted to convey.
“..Good Morning Hema, well I don’t know if I should call this morning for us. Here I have a piece of information for you. Please listen cautiously, but don’t panic. There is the most unusual and unexpected thing in the world that has happened today. The sunlight has not reached America this morning. This day does not have a sun rise for us. Scientists are trying to find out the reason behind this. They expect the occurrence of a space dust explosion which has released enough dust to envelope some parts of the earth making our atmosphere opaque. However the satellite images are still clear. There are several other theories which news channels are flashing across their tabs. So, everyone is advised not to go outdoors at any urgency either.”
He almost reported like an automated response system. It dint take much time for me to understand he was informing this to quite a few people. I was still half asleep. The effect of the late night working in office is leaving me with passive mornings. I was a bit more agile than normal, but not enough to face the most astonishing phenomenon of the world. After all this talking of Mano, finally I responded. I said- “What... Mano...”
Mano was really quick. I guess he was trying to find a rescuer in himself. He spoke even more briskly than he did all along. He quickly interrupted me.
“Sorry Hema. I am not in a situation to answer anything either. Please wait along and try to update yourself with the help of the buzzing news channels. Yeah, try to inform other friends of yours. Thank you and have a nice day mam.. oops Hema”
My mind went blank. What was happening? How could the world topsy-turvy in just a couple of hours I spent in deep sleep? This would have been the last thing any American would have expected this morning. Today was not April first either. Also, there were further more reasons why I had to convince myself that this was true. How could all this happen so instantaneously? My mind was clogged with thoughts for a while. I was still worrying about how my boss would react to the fact if I was cheated on such a improbable event even by chance. I just hoped I wouldn’t become a laughing stalk for any reason. For once the intellect in me advised me to get to my lap top and cheek something different from the standard client mails today. However the television remote, I least expected to find, was very much lying just below my feet. I found the electromagnetic signals easier to communicate with. That was probably the only part of electronics I still remember after doing my masters in business administration and working as a marketing executive of a leading consultancy, or a ‘cult comp’ as we called in the days at B School. I switched the television on. Sentimental Hindi serials were being telecasted. The television at home is most used by Vasanta, the only Indian maid servant of the entire Indian Community here in Lavelly Avenue Arcade, Chicago. Skimming through the channels, I heard a lot of familiar words of the language I had learnt to speak first but did not speak for long, my mother tongue, Hindi. I was to find a news channel. Finally I immigrated into one. I listened cautiously to the well dressed American lady exactly like the one in the vegetable stores I visit once a week, the one at the tube rail enquiry counter, the one in the adjacent cabin at office, in fact everywhere in America. I wondered a million times if all American women were clones. I further wondered why Indian youth was so obsessed by these well presented lasses. I always found a feeling of artificiality in their presence, not just because I was a dark female and envied the lighter shades of their complexion. My male friends well argue that a woman never finds anything good in another woman. They tell me that jealousy is the first characteristic property of a female. I’m sure there would be many comments they would like to add in here, however, I had taken the initiative to write, so I am the only one who has a right to pen down my views here, at this point. I have a couple of American ladies as friends of mine who are few of the best people I have ever met. Further I have all due respect to America as a country. It is only the fact that Indians tend to worship their culture that hurts me.
The clock showed 11 A.M and the lights were on by necessity. On any other day I would have given my servant a good management lecture on management of power consumption, cost management, financial optimization and what not? I realize I have been talking and thinking a lot more than that I used to, after doing my course in management. Often I decide to isolate the strategies, planning, and all in all, management, from my personal life. However, they seem to have got injected into my genes after the course. Management has become everything in life for me. At that hour I was more deeply wondering how I got so much of time to think after ages of running, rushing, hurrying and what is called managing the organization. Every thing in my mind went back to those days when I studied in college. The story continued. All I knew from the tone of the news reporter was the fact that everything unusual that was happening in America at this instant was true. My mind no longer could keep tune with the flashing tabs, rolling trailers, and aggressive reporters on the screen. Thoughts rolled back into the
College days. It appeared that these thoughts inside me were kept under millions of kilo Newtons of force, hence were just submerged under the stressful, routine and exhaustive corporate life of mine. The darkness in America by now did raise a lot of havoc in the country. The television telecasted almost everything that was happening in my virtual absence from this world. I continued to live past the laws of time in my under graduation campus.