Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hex and the City

After week upon week of meeting heads of businesses big and small, the psyche of entrepreneurs still fascinated. 

I never tired of discovering anew another facet to their personality and work ethic. To add to this, the sheer variety of personalities was mind boggling, to say the least. 

Some were their polished best and others downright boorish. However, it seemed that though entrepreneurs may differ widely in appearance, mannerisms and behaviour, they all had something in common. Canny business sense, a no-nonsense risk-taker's ability and all the qualities that various management gurus have written more knowledgeably about

Knowing that sound business sense was the only driving force behind anything the directors decreed, I puzzled long and hard over what could be the logic and reasoning behind their decisions. 

The reason I bothered with bending my mind towards this, is that I was interested in what's called Acquired Learning*. Which is what I saw as a job perk, given that we didn't have anything else that could be labelled such. 

*In case anyone's planning to acquire learning from me, note how I made the term sound like management-speak just by using caps. Refer to the "Glossary of Marrkit's Marketing Terms/ Office Jargon" section from the Archives for the definition of Acquired Learning. 

Let me explain what I mean. For instance, one of our flamboyant clients, Mr. Mistry, closely connected with all things Bollywood (or so he claimed), apparently paid through his nose for our services. And let us know it each time he visited, at the top of his cultured voice - which seemed to lose that polished accent at the same rate that his temper accelerated. 

Watching him part with our monthly cheque due was like watching a schizophrenic will at work. He never presented it except with great reluctance, always implying that this was his last meeting with us ever. That we were leeches sucking his lifeblood away. 

Each time, I watched with bated breath to see if his iron grip on the cheque would relax enough to hand it over without tearing it into two. Just like the melodramatic movies he financed, after a few minutes he was back to feeling sentimental and maudlin about his not so veiled taunts and usually ended by spewing equally liberal praise on us. 

We didn't hold this against him though, as he had great charm, was otherwise cheerful to work with and one simply could not remain annoyed with him for more than a few seconds. Not with someone who usually offered us passes for the latest A-list movie premieres. Ofcourse not. 

Given this, it was odd to notice that he usually skipped two meetings a month. This was pointed out to me by LL's EA, who was similarly puzzled. 

Two meetings a month on an average was huge, as from his point of view it was a considerable financial loss. 

What was more of a mystery was that his team seemed to know in advance they needn't visit, even though he always made a last minute call to us cancelling his meeting. I know this because he had me do the tedious job of calling his team up one by one, to tell them the meeting was off. Yes, we also threw in such secretarial add-ons for our clients, especially ones like Mr. Mistry who felt that by getting us to do these small additional tasks, he was getting his money's worth out of our firm.

His being the last meeting of the day, scheduled at the unearthly hour of 8 p.m. onwards and ending at roughly 11 p.m., I celebrated each cancellation. It meant I'd reach home while my parents were still up and not have mom suspecting I'd been doing the usual movie and dinner thing with some unidentified guy about to lead me astray. As if. I'd have killed for that sort of attention. But unfortunately, the eligible single male did not ever enter the borders of the office complex we worked out of. The sort that did make it deserve an exclusively devoted chapter - some other time. 

One week, on the day Mr. Mistry's meeting was scheduled, I made a routine reminder call to Andy, Mr. Mistry's operations head. 

"Morning Andy! Just wanted to warn you that the report you're looking for won't actually be ready for Mr. Mistry and you in time for today's meeting, but it will be done day after for sure", I said. 

"No probs, Ash", said Andy, warmly. "Send it whenever. In fact, I don't need it today for sure. Take your time." 

Hoping that Mr. Mistry would take this news as breezily as Andy had, I decided to bite the bullet and break the bad news to him in person. "That's great Andy, but I'd still better speak to Mr. Mistry now and explain why." 

"Oh, he's not here. How about a movie this evening? A group of us from office are planning to see the 8 p.m. show. We have complimentary passes. Join us?", trilled Andy. 

"You're kidding, right. Are you planning a mass bunk? Have you forgotten, your meeting with us is for today!" 

"Ha ha!" sang Andy, sounding way too cheerful. "There won't be a meeting today. Except, yeah, at the cinema." 

"Okay", I said, "are you officially informing me that the meeting is off?" 

"No", said Andy, "Unofficially. And you didn't hear it from me." 

"How can you be sure? And where is Mr. Mistry? Travelling?", I asked, hoping this tale of cancellation was true and not just something to do with Andy's quirky humour. 

"No, he's very much at his own home, watching the match." 

"Right. And we both know even cricket wouldn't keep him away from our expensive doors", I said, disappointed that that was all Andy was making a fuss about. "So, forget the movie." 

"You mean you were ready to make it for the movie? Cool! So am holding a pass for you", persisted Andy, maddeningly. 

"Noooo!", I screeched, sounding a lot like Mr. Mistry at a cheque parting. "You go ahead and take on Mr. Mistry if you want, but I can't bunk the meeting." 

"Hey chill", said Andy, "Okay, tell me, how many meetings has he cancelled in the last three months?" 

"That would be…seven at least?", I answered, marvelling anew at this statistic. 

"And what reasons did he give?", questioned Andy. 

"The usual kind, I guess", I said, trying to remember. "Someone visiting for dinner, another important meeting, or travelling."

"Well, that's all bull!" 

"How's that?" 

"I'll tell you, but you can't let onto Mr. M or anyone that you know this. And one more thing - you have to come for the show", said Andy, cunningly. 

"Sure, Andy. I do like the big screen experience. Just not at the cost of Mr. Mistry. So tell all." I was intrigued by all this suspense and partly convinced that Andy was just wasting my time.

"What's today's date?" asked Andy. 

"17th", I said, wondering where this was going. 

"Which adds up to the dreaded number 8. Mr. Mistry's worst nightmare. He's rabidly afraid of the number and his astrologer told him to never step out of the house on those days. Woooo… careful, it’s the 17th today!", hooted Andy, irreverently. 

"So, you see", continued Andy, "He'll never show up for a meeting on the 8th, 17th and 26th of the month. See you at the movie, then!"

Okay, well. 

Sometimes there was no logic or reasoning.


Beta said...

sounds familiar. I had interviewed one person whose reason to switch was because her former employer based the decision to open a new outlet on a dream. That was still fine but when they shut down the project midway because their spiritual advisor interpreted the dream in a diametrically opposite way, she had had enough.

Beta said...

scizophrenic will at work....loved that

Annoymously said...

Thnx Dormitus!! Tho the dream story is much more bizarre.

Reminds me of another elderly visitor who always wanted an empty seat next to him as he said he had a ghost accompanying him all the time. Not sure yet if he was pulling my leg or he truly believed it!

Hiren Gajria said...

Late arrival by Mika as usual. Interersting. Yes i do know of people who are concious about the dates they do things, some are equally fussy about Vaastu, some about the number plates of their car. All our car numbers add up to 9. Considered good. 8 on the car number plate isnt considered good at all.

Do any of you believe in Vaastu? Im a believer of Vaastu.

Annoymously said...

eek. just figured the car i drive adds up to 7. I don't know too much abt vastu, however when a friend got a consultant for her plc whatever he recommended made her plc a lot less cluttered, so it seemed based on common sense. And if i had to choose between feng shui and vastu then it would be the latter for sure!

Now that u are an expert, shall call u if i need any info.