There is a new found optimism in air. “Green shoots” are appearing all over the parched land and deadwoods. Fewer hearts palpitate now when the swiping of access cards results in a loud beep accompanied by the door not opening. One waits patiently while the security politely presses the switch to let one in. Vendor dues not yet cleared, you correctly deduce whistling your way through.
Monitors left on in a non-power save mode, all lights switched on in-spite of the streaming sunlight, and A/cs blasting full-on and you know we are back in business. In the pantry, coffee shots from the vending machine are foamier and thicker. Teabags (Ginger, Lemon, Mint & Honey..the whole lot) came out of the locked cupboards for the benefit of the whole gentry. Rest rooms have the same cheerful telltale signs. Confining to the toilet paper its thickness has increased. Result? Fewer people walking out like ducks treading gingerly on shredded glass.
HR folks have lost their pre-eminence at the lunch tables as purveyors of juicy tidbits. Pink is still the color of the season, but with reference to tickling that sub-ordinates are subjected to, courtesy boss’ jokes being back in circulation. Everybody is chirping away to glory, discussing aloud the projects they are on, and they wish to get to so that they don’t have to work hard like they pretended to, during the last 8 months or so of the economic turmoil.
I am as happy as any underpaid, overworked employee that ever swiped his card for all the above. But being a person cursed with a bit of extra memory that crams in unwanted trivia, am slightly worried too. Infesting the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, it is very important for all of us to remember lessons that the recession hard-knocks diploma (it will last 18 months elsewhere, and a little over 12 months here is my prediction) has taught us. And here’s one that I learnt not so long ago.
Once upon a time, there was a washerman who had few asses working for him, carrying a mountain of dirty laundry of the entire population of the village and dutifully taking them to the cleaners. It was a prosperous time and every member of the village was extravagant, using three changes of clothes every day and wearing each only once before they sent them for cleaning. Business was brisk, the W-man could and did look after his asses pretty well, treating them to best of the fodder, choicest nibbles and outings every weekends. The asses too were extremely happy and many a occasion used to raise their braying to an absolute crescendo during the once too often bacchanalian revelries that the W-man threw. Life was one long beautiful song!
But all good things have to come to a pass. Recession times hit that idyllic village and everyone fell on hard times. People migrated or were forced to leave due to the conditions of the day. From an indulgence getting one’s clothes washed turned to a luxury. It was a good week, if they have given out a pair of clothes for washing. People got used to wrapping themselves in sweaty, stain dotted threads. The stench was reaching high skies but hey who cares! A penny saved is a penny earned.
That spelt doom for the W-man. With business drying up and money running out to feed all the asses even for sustenance, he had but few tough and heart-wringing choices before him:
• Let some asses go or
• Keep all asses
From being a mentor the first choice effectively turns him into a heart-less tormentor in the eyes of the asses. The second will make him an easy target for the ruthless taxmen of the king (cost-controllers is the other title they go by in some other parts of the world); or worse get the vitriolic tongues wagging of the villagers, many his peers, of his supposed extravagance. Alas, it also pits his asses in direct competition with a handful horses and loads of bulls that populate the ranches of other working class populace of the village. And if there ever comes a time of rationing out the grass in the village he very well knows where the asses stand.
Prudently the W-man did away with a few of his asses thereby taking the moral high ground. Over the next few weeks, the asses talked amongst themselves on the future course of action. All but one ass thought it wise to find greener pastures to eke out a course on their own. Entrepreneur-ass they were dubbed, by a lone ass which lacked both courage and wherewithal to take that step. So it came to stay back with the master, not much work to do, still getting enough grass and water all for itself to tide over the tough times.
Some more time passed, and the recession seemed like a cold and inferior cheese dragging on and on without a break in sight. It was getting difficult for the W-man to maintain the ass; for the load now is such that he alone could carry it. Thinking about it and wandering hither and thither he walked well into the adjoining jungle and found a dead tiger. Aha, wise-man that he is W-man had a lightning thought and swung into quick action. The thought was simple. Use the tiger skin to cover his ass and send it into the fields of other villagers and let it feed to its heart’s content. That way he gets to offload the cost of employing (err..feeding) the ass but he still gets to keep it. To act is but the work of a moment. He skinned the tiger (dead and cold, it sure was) skillfully and threw the skin over the ass. Perfect. The ass turns into a tiger! While letting it lose in other’s fields, the W-man had just one advice for it – “SHHHHH!” What can pass of as what in the darkness that befalls us with the passage of day!
The plot worked well and the ass got more than it’s worth in grass! It could taste different things everyday without ever getting detected. Few who could see through the dark night, feared this new breed of tiger that fed on grass and were happy that at least they didn’t have to face a man-eater.
But alas, good times don’t last. Especially for that creature whose DNA is that of an Ass. With all the green and tasty grass, coming free and surreptitiously as it is, made the ass get above itself. Throwing caution and the W-man’s prudent advice to wind, one full moon night at the end of a perfectly fulfilling meal, it thought of celebrating the occasion with a full-on song and dance! And how! Within moments of the said lapse of reasoning (a rare commodity by itself in an ass) its cover got blown and all the villagers descended upon it with vengeance.
Its not for me to get into the gory details and aftermath. Will spare you folks the same but for the lesson that small yet moving story taught me. When a good thing is going and you are sneaking in and snacking on it, you are well advised to curb your enthusiasm and make the most of it. Thanks, My Ass!