The Inscrutable Boss – By The Water Cooler

Note: the post below is my entry for Parul’s contest for her new book. Congrats, Parul! Hope you enjoy the post! 

On the unfortunate date of 11th of September 2001, I went for my first interview. The person who conducted it was the Vice President of Human Resources for The Software Company. His name was Mr. P.C.Menon (name changed to protect the guilty). He appeared to be a smart man, until, that is, he started to take my interview, which went something like this: 

PCM: So, Gargi, what have you done? 

Me (astutely divining he meant my degree and not what I had done in life): I have done my engineering in Computer Science. 

PCM: I see. So, is that a BCA? 

Me: No, sir. It is a computer engineering degree. 

PCM (still fogged, apparently): So, that’s what – an MCA? 

Me (temples throbbing feverishly): No, sir, it is a Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering i.e. B.E.Computers. 

PCM (enlightenment, finally!): Ah, you’re a B.E. Ok, ok, that’s good!

(After pausing to think a bit) So, Gargi, how would you rate yourself on a scale of one to ten?

Me (incurably truthful): Sir, maybe about four or five. I have learnt a lot in college but I have yet to apply it to work in the IT industry.

PCM (impressed): That’s very honest! I appreciate that.

Me: Thank you, sir!

I trust the sample given above suitably illustrates the tone of our fascinating conversation. My interview lasted for little more than an hour, during which time I said “I don’t know” to every alternate question put to me. Needless to say, I bagged the job with ease. So, as instructed, on the next morning I reported for my first day in office. 

Within a fortnight, I had settled into my new post. From my colleagues I discovered that although he was amiable and competent, Mr. P.C.Menon nevertheless seemed always quite disoriented.

Naturally, his subordinates had cleverly renamed him “Perpetually Confused Menon” in keeping with his air of eternal bewilderment. That the nickname was more than justified was proven to me a second time very soon. 

After about a month at work, he called me to his office, and handing me The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, said, “Gargi, this is an excellent book for self-improvement. There are three extremely important things mentioned in it. They are …”

And for the next twenty minutes he struggled to remember what he was going to say. I watched him patiently, as he hemmed and hawed and massaged his forehead with two fingers in an attempt to aid recollection. When he finally decided that his memory cells had failed him, he let me go, saying I should check it up in the book. 

Within the next week, I found that PCM had earned himself a second nickname. I had frequently heard him boast of his achievements – “I have an industry experience of 40 years”, “When I worked at …”, and here he freely dropped the names of famous companies that (he claimed) he had the privilege to be associated with. His incessant egoistic conversations prompted his peers to label him the ‘I-specialist’. 

As for me, after completing my six months of training at The Software Company, I left it to pursue higher studies. When I met PCM for the last time, I was surprised to find that he was quite sentimental. As a rule he was stern, but on this occasion he shed his managerial decorum and favoured me with these parting words of encouragement:

“So, Gargi, you have decided to depart from us…” 

Not precisely my choice of words, but I let him continue. 

“Gargi… “- (seemingly interminable pause) – “, you are completing one phase of life and entering another. When you resume your studies, you will find the experience you have gained in these six months to be absolutely un-valuable!” 

I didn’t argue with that!


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