This was one of those extremely rare days when we had spare time on hand.
It helped that we had lost a client or two, after they dared go up against LL's sacred and all too fragile ego, which couldn't be compromised even in the face of future loss of income. While LL lost his temper and alienated the clients irrevocably, it consequently left us with a little breathing space.
This was because he couldn't pin the blame on any of us for a change. Witnesses, you see.
For the forever-politically-correct and give-the-guy-a-break type of folk reading this, do understand that am not being unduly harsh in this pronouncement.
Imagine my surprise when on a goodbye call with the managing director of one of my favourite clients who had terminated our services last week, he expressed that he was really happy with me and my team's work over the last few years and was sorry that his falling out with LL and discovery about his prevarication on an important matter had led to this. Especially as LL had called a sombre group meeting and claimed that this client had resigned because of dissatisfaction with the way my team and I had handled things. This would have had implications on our annual increment as well as bonuses due.
While I was still dazed and ruminating on the implications of being stabbed in the back by one's own boss and owner of our fascism, uh.. company, LL called another meeting for group heads.
This meeting was to do with our Internal Projects. This meant tasks like public relations for LL, making sure he was spotted on TV and interviewed on radio. It included displaying our work for various brands on whiteboards dotted around our office. The whiteboards were strategically placed so that any client and coterie would spot them on the way to the conference rooms.
When I walked into LL's cabin, our event photographer Jignesh, was present too. This guy's expertise so far had been wedding videos and still shots of brides and grooms on stage in various simpering poses. Different weddings ofcourse.
No doubt, he fit right into LL's thrifty budget, but why LL favoured him was a mystery to me. When it came to promoting himself, LL unhesitatingly spent top dollar.
Call me biased, but I'd reached a stage given recent events where I was wary of anyone whom LL considered a friend. Besides, trigger-happy Jignesh was just a little too eager to please and shifty.
"I'd like some of my photos up on the boards", said LL.
Puzzled, I looked at him. "They're already there. Saw to it myself."
"No, no, I mean this", he said, chuckling.
He had pictures of himself at various award ceremonies, and some other group pictures with each client and their teams spread over his desk.
"Alright, would you like me to select a few?", I asked.
"No, I mean this one", he said, waving the one picture he held tightly in his hand. "This one is really good, Jignesh, am so glad you found it!" said LL full of rapture, looking at it.
He turned it over, still not letting go and I got a look. I could hardly believe my eyes. This was a picture of LL walking slightly behind St. Meresa*. No, there isn't any snarky follow up here. I do really mean St. Meresa.
* Since am painstakingly disguising all identities here, this is just to keep up with the overall theme.
LL looked much younger in the snap and I wondered how he'd managed it.
To me, this seemed blasphemous. Like the end of all good things as we know it.
Like seeing Osama posing with Nelson Mandela or Saddam with Aung San Suu Kyi.
I looked closely, too stunned to comment. LL was looking directly at the camera lens and smiling widely, but St. Meresa, bless her, seemed to be unaware of the lens and her gaze was focussed in the opposite direction, with a kindly expression.
I have to admit that yet again, I felt a grudging respect for LL and his methods. Somehow he'd managed to be in the right place at the right time. Isn't that what success is all about? Superficial success, at least.
This didn't impress me at all though, as the right PR can get you any image you care to project to the world.
"My family too had met her, but we don't have a picture", said he. "Anyway, you can send the others across as soon as you redevelop them", were his final instructions to Jignesh.
"Oh, and AJ, you need to tone down the language in your reports. Don't use big words. Some of our clients can't understand it."
Having perfected my deadpan look, I managed not to show any reaction. Our clients seemed quite well read and articulate and given that English is one of the easiest languages to learn, I was sure that linguistically, my reports were not a difficult read at all. I wondered if this was another fabrication on LL's part to find fault with my work.
LL handed over the snapshot and I tacked it up on the most prominent board.
Over the course of the week, clients were suitably impressed and we spent a good fifteen minutes during each meeting discussing how, when and where this occurred.
As I walked in early next Monday morning at 6 a.m. to prepare for a 6.30 a.m. meeting, I ran a cursory eye over the boards. Something seemed different and I noticed a new photograph added to the crop of earlier ones. It showed LL's family posing with St. Meresa, oddly enough at what seemed to be their home's verandah. I was impressed this time.This seemed more than good PR. Had he contributed so much to the cause that she'd visited their home?
Effective PR can fool people, but St. Meresa's testimonial was convincing indeed.
The day was busy and much later mid-morning, I bumped into Sandra, current EA to LL looking at the same photograph. Except, she was peering at it very closely.
"This is really impressive", I commented.
She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. "Really?"
"Sure. I'd earlier thought it was just good PR, but if she actually visits his place, then... "
"Look carefully, AJ, how come you didn't notice this?", she grinned.
I peered closely too. It was a rather small photograph.
Sandra looked all around even though we were alone just then.
"Ssmorhhd..." she whispered, giggling at the same time.
I've never met a saint, but I can say that I did experience enlightenment of one kind just then.
Looking at it with this newfound knowledge, one could see that the Saint indeed seemed to have astrally manifested herself into the photograph. She looked a little larger in size than the others and her body was angled differently from the others too.
I thanked Sandra for giving me my first real laugh of the day.
And decided not to worry too much about LL's directions, morphologically speaking.