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“So, what is the plan?” Mukul asked.
We all were in the meeting room, waiting for the Boss to appear.
I wonder why all the bosses have this habit of appearing late for the meeting. They are never in time and expect subordinates to be before time.
Mehak giggled. So did Monalisa. Mak contributed by his manly laugh.
These women!! They have spoiled the professional atmosphere. We are not supposed to be homely in the office, it is a professional world. But last few years our company policy changed. After some kind of workshop with an organization called ‘Gender at Workplace’ or something like that, our company started recruiting more women and everything changed.
These women smile at everyone, share some fancy food items they have prepared at home and invite us with our family to their home – just for fun! And most dangerous is they like to be called by their first names and insist on calling others by first names!
I have always wondered why women have such funny ideas about everything!!
However I can not complain much as they are indeed excellent at their work. Moreover, they don’t expect monetary gains for everything they do; they seem to be content with the joy of work itself! As HR Manager, they are the last ones to bother me.
But again, this is bit weird, how can work be joy?
“All the E’s will stay and the M’s will go.” Mehak was saying to her group.
Within the office we have several groups. Mehak, Mukul, Mak, Monalisa, Monty and Makbul are very close. I always find it fishy that they all should have names starting with M. Some people think that the ‘M’ factor has brought them so close. One more aspect is that they all joined our company on the same day – 2nd May 2005. Rather a coincidence, I guess. But I was stunned when I found that they all were born on the same day in the month of May! Though they were born in different parts of the world, they had same kind of education, which is something I fail to understand.
And why they are talking about E and M in the month of August? Appraisal is over long back. The results were declared in May. It is again coincidence that all these six youngsters even though excellent; manage to get M – ‘Mediocre’ during appraisal process. I have been watching them for last 5 years, and every year they get M, never E –Excellent. It amazes me that they are not bothered about it and seem to enjoy their M. They seem to have some kind of affinity towards the syllable ‘M’. With so much of turnover around, this group has consistently stayed here for five years, which is why I am suspicious about them.
You know everywhere appraisal processes are subjective. Managers try to show how objective they are, but those who are in the midst of it know how things change at the last moment. Youngsters don’t understand but keeping the boss happy is an important aspect of the work life. But what these people are talking about? I need to know.
“What do you mean by E will stay and M will go? Who is going where?” I asked loudly.
My voice surprised them. They looked at each other. They were so engrossed in the conversation that they had not noticed my arrival. Mehaks’s face flushed. She was silent – that was a big surprise. These women like to keep on talking. They never get tired.
“Oh, Good Morning, Sir. Just a little joke you know. Mehak is telling us that the management has decided that only Excellent – E will stay and Mediocre – M will have to leave. You know sir, we all got M this year too.” Makbul added hurriedly. Others nodded.
I did not believe Makbul, but apparently there was noting to say against what he said. Management decisions are hardly known to me even when I am the HR Manager. What he said might be true. Why should management pay to mediocre employees? I would be happy to see all of them out. They are good, but I am never sure about them. I know them for last five years, but I feel that they are complete strangers. And they are too close to each other. You know managers never like it if their subordinates are too close, if they are indeed a good team. We managers thrive on ‘divide and rule’, so we keep our employees divided.
Boss appears. The ‘M’ group has given a new name to meetings in our office. They call it a ‘Monologue’ – again a word starting with M. However it is indeed an apt description of the meetings in our office. My boss talks about ‘participation’ etc, but keeps on talking. When he asks questions, new comers start answering it. But we old timers know what is in the coming. The boss asks questions, pauses for a breath and answers his question. It goes on and on. Once, Monalisa even mapped the conversation. Out of 120 minutes, the boss had spoken for almost 100 minutes in the meeting!
In between he receives calls on his mobile and we all treat it as a well deserved break. We talk to each other, not about what is being discussed but about other things. The ‘M’ group is again in a huddle. God knows, what they are discussing.
Today Boss is talking about Global Warming. That is his new love. Ours is an IT company. What has it to do with Global Warming? But Boss is Boss. We all listen to him like school children. Actually some of us have better knowledge about Global Warming. Young generation might have its faults, but they have better knowledge too, one has to appreciate. Mak is much more eligible to talk about Global Warming, but only if Boss will give him some space!
Boss has a new idea. He wants to establish ‘Ecological Task Force’ in the company. That is why the ‘M’ group has been invited; they all have Environmental Science background. I as an HR Manager will have to provide support through adequate systems backup etc. The administration officer is also there. Everything is settled. The M group is happy to have something challenging to do – they are very good at programming naturally. Somehow I am not comfortable that they all are thrown together. That means more huddling, more secret jokes, more conversations which others will not understand.
The M Group gets one week’s time to submit concrete plan with budget for approval. The ecological work has to start immediately.
I am worried at the moment. Within half an hour, Ecological Task Force meeting starts. Some senior managers of the company will be attending the meeting. But none of the M group is in the office.
It seems that yesterday they worked late at night, up to about 11.00. Security man Ram Lakhan tells me that when they left, they all seemed to be normal, happy. Mukul even gave a hundred rupee note to Ram Lakhan. The canteen boy Ishwar tells me that the M team ate sandwiches and consumed cups of coffee. No drinks of course! It is bit strange that Monalisa gave her mobile handset to Ishwar.
Since early morning, I am trying to call them, but each one’s mobile is out of service. Only the one given to Ishwar by Monalisa is working, but it is of no use to me – as she has erased the contact list. I sent them mails, but every mail has bounced back. What happened to this group? Did they meet some accident while going home? My Public Relations Officer checks with Police Station through his sources, and there is no news of any accident.
I try to locate their nearest contact persons, their In Case of Emergency numbers. To my horror, the data is completely missing. It is erased by someone – when and why I will have to find out.
Panic spreads. Every one of the 200 heads in the office is thinking about the M group. What happened? Where have they gone? Where did they disappear? Are they in crisis? Are they murdered? Kidnapped? From where can we get information about them? Everybody is trying to find out about them, but nobody has any clue. The amount of discussion is not adding anything to the information we have.
I do not have much time. With M group or without M group, the meeting has to take place. I will say something like ‘Swine flue’ epidemic and listen to seniors. When senior management is there, I don’t have to speak much, I just have to listen. That I will do anyway.
I ask couple of new environmental science graduates to be ready to join if called for the meeting. I ask Nandita, our Network Administrator, if she can trace out if the M group has prepared any presentation. Nandita is a smart kid. Within minutes, she has traced the presentation, checked the first slide, and copied it to the laptop in the meeting room. I will just have a minute to open it and most probably I will be able to present it. About Global Warming everybody knows, what is there to enlighten people about?
The meeting starts. I explain the absence of M group and as I expected nobody bothers about it. I open the presentation and realize that it has a voice over – a recorded message with the text.
Monty’s deep voice resonates through the room, “We are sorry that we are not present in the meeting. There was an urgent call and we had to leave without giving any prior intimation to you. We are thankful for the hospitality.” What is he talking about? Everybody is confused. The Boss looks at me, I avoid eye contact.
Monty speaks on, “Please, share this with the entire world. The Earth is in danger. The danger is caused not only by human beings but by some Cosmic Actions. These are beyond the control of human beings. Earth will face severe natural calamities. Torrential rains, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Cyclones will have more intensity and they will come to you with more frequency. They will destroy human life and earthly life. All your measures to control Global Warming are as childish as was your earlier thought of controlling Nature. You have to flow with the tide…..you will have to leave Earth… ” What this hell the bloody Monty is talking about? And why is he preaching like a Messiah?
Monty continues, “So, we the M – the Marsers – the beings from Mars who inhabited your home for last few decades have decided to leave Earth. Your home is beautiful; no doubt about it, but it is going to be perished within next few decades. We leave the E – the Earthers – behind. Sorry, we do not have enough space here. Once we settle down, we will make a room for you. Those of who you want to come with us; we will come back and take them with us as our guests. We are really thankful to you for your hospitality.”
“GOODBYE” they say - all six of them together and the screen is blank.
I am stunned. Everybody is silent.
“What is this little dirty joke? Just fire them all. Get a new group to work as Ecological Task Force. They get only two days. You will be personally responsible for their work”, the Boss shouts and storms out of the meeting room.
I am perspiring. I know Monty is telling the truth. That explains all. The names starting with M, born in May, their affection to the words starting with M! Everything becomes clear to me.
I look out of the window. It is raining. The hillock is lush green. I can hear the call of a kingfisher and of an Oriental Magpie Robin. A blue butterfly is just outside the window. Life around is fully vibrant.
"Beings come and go, I Welcome them and they say Goodbye to me, but nothing perishes my child, don’t worry. If one world is destroyed, another is created.”
Somebody is saying this to me. Must be Mother Earth?
May be it is just a hallucination. Must be my subconscious.
Yes I am an Earther, and I owe a lot to Mother Earth.
When the Mother Earth is getting destroyed, I will not leave Her. Even when I cannot save Her, I will not leave Her to perish alone.
I cannot live without Her. I cannot die without Her.
My body will perish here and will be mixed with the soil and water here. I will be there until she is there.
I am not going to say Goodbye to her.