The Appraisal Pandora envelope brings with it many plagues – “Meets expectations”, “Extend probation / Defer promotion”. Those are the early pests that fly in your face, the moment you step into the claustrophobic and asphyxiating cabin of your boss.
The unkindest bite of all, though, is delivered by “Needs to improve on people skills”. Words fail one. Your entire water-cooler and office party life flashes in front of your eyes for a mind-numbing moment. What does it mean?
Whatever it is, you fall into concurrence because EMIs on house, car, children’s education; the liability list jolts you out of your reflections. You nod meekly and surrender abjectly. Better the white flag than the pink-slip, you realize. You take the feedback to heart. You strive hard to change. You invest in “How to..”, “Joy @ “2 minute..”, “Soup and Cheese..” and other delirium inducing series. You buy roses to strew around, pick up the bill where earlier it was the toothpick, at best, you picked up. You suppress your nausea and raise your eyebrows in appreciation, at the ghastly family pictures on the softboard of your colleague. You greet everyone, right from the security guard to the CEO’s driver. You gag your conscience and compliment the secretary even on her worst hair-day. The works.
6 months later (or an year later, depending on how often your organization wants to inflict this on you), you will be sitting in the same cabin, across the same table and same face, with the same words slashing your heart “Needs to improve on people skills”.
I learnt the futility of such revolving-door-reinvention, the day my grandmother told me this story! Am I any wiser? Now that’s a territory, I ask you strictly not to trespass into! Read the story and may be YOU will benefit.
Master Wai and monk Waimudu, after cursing the do-good villagers (ref my earlier entry “Bless the bounders…” ), took leave from them to proceed towards their next destination. The good villagers that they were, warned the master-monk duo of the perilous jungle that lay ahead and suggested an alternate path, which was a tad bit longer. Wai smiling, proceeded at a faster pace towards the straight and narrow, dangerous as it may be.
The path was covered with grass, indicating it wasn’t used in a long time. The jungle itself appeared serene and bountiful, with fruit laden trees; brooks with cool, clear and sweet water and what not. Waimudu keeping pace with his master was taking the beauty of the jungle in, along with a juicy bunch of wild strawberries, wondering what it was that kept the villagers off this nature’s boon. And the answer to that appeared the next moment and lay right in the middle of their path.
A huge, hissing, snarling, slithery being with glowering eyes. Waimudu, was just about weighing his chances of being welcomed into the celestial damsels’ abode, when Master Wai proceeded to address the snake thus.
Master Wai (MW): How are you today, my friend?
Hissing, Snarling, Slithery Snake (HSSS):
Hungry and ready to sink my fangs in trespassers like you (Proceeding ominously with hood raised)
MW: You won’t dare do that with me. Here, sample this – “De-motion“ (Author: An effective mantra, if ever when used on lowly minions of all hues, that hampers further progress)
HSSS stopped in its tracks petrified, its limbless supine body feeling that more than ever. Finding tongue (the other one, that comes in handy precisely in such situations when you misuse one) it said
HSSS: Please forgive my ignorance. I spoke loosely knowing not how powerful you are
MW: It’s ok. Why do you want to unnecessarily scare poor folks away from enjoying this largesse of nature; which belongs to all. Don’t scare them henceforth unnecessarily and I will ensure status-quo-ante
HSSS: Please, I won’t. I promise to mend my ways. Thanks (feeling the cold blood circulate once again).
Mouthing platitudes profusely, HSSS crawled away to its little hole in the ground, shedding its hitherto scales of meanness and aggression.
After a few months of spreading wisdom in their journey, Master Wai and Monk Waimudu on their way back happened to pass through the same but different jungle – Path wide and well-worn, de-fruited trees, huge stumps whose trunks ended up warming many a cold wintery nights or cook a delicious meal, brooks muddied. Mourning over the ravages the once beautiful jungle had suffered, Master Wai turned his head towards a thick bush alongside the path, from whence were proceeding heart-wrenching gasps and hisses, that of a dying being.
Going around, he found the once proud HSSS in a pitiable and pathetic condition. Huge wounds, oozing blood and feasted upon by flies, were all over its once shining mane. The eyes lost their luster, the once long stretched body coiled listlessly with nary a sign of life, save a slow and erratic heaving. MW ran a soothing hand over the body of the stricken snake and asked it what has brought it to this state.
(Author: The following narrative is pieced together using some creative license, as it would be impossible for a snake on its last limbs to be able to reconstruct so lucidly such a long narrative)
HSSS (gasping and in a sepulchral tone): I followed your advice master…and stopped hissing n biting n scaring the one or two brave souls who in the initial days have wandered this way. Slowly the word spread, and the trickle of passersby turned into a torrent of travelers; caravans, families on bullock carts, wood-cutters, farmers..everyone who had or did have a stake in this forest. At first they were still trepidations about what I would do. Then it started with a pesky kid throwing a lump of mud at me.
Encouraged by the lack of response, they then started throwing stones of all makes, from a distance and then over a period ventured to poke every square inch of my body with sharp wooden pikes. And then took immense pleasure in beating me with them. Just yesterday, two kids and their uncle stomped on me taking turns for over an hour as a part of some elaborate ritual. Now here I am waiting for deliverance. Where did I go wrong?
MW: My dear friend. I asked you not to bite them and scare them without reason. That doesn’t mean you lose your natural instincts and stop hissing and keeping them at bay all together! Here drink this potion and you will regain your strength and form. Live a long life with this lesson learnt.
The story ends there, and I don’t know what happened next. Whether the snake heeded the advice second time and made hiss-story or whether the emboldened junta using longer sticks and bigger stones snuffed the life out of it, once they saw it rearing its hood again. But not being any wiser than the snake after its first appraisal session; and not having a wise Master Wai around to help me read between the lines and nurse me back to strength after initial set-backs; I still play the fool and keep reinventing myself never endingly.
Here is to hoping at least some of you profit from my granny’s story!