This world, my friend, it is not a nice place. You woke up this morning and what did you see?
Bad things happening to good people. Good things happening to bad people. Brutal things happening to innocent people. Nothing happening to the most vile people. Etihad happening to Kingfisher people.
Is there any sense of justice in all this injustice? Of course not. Even little children will tell you that this is not what the innocence of our childhood promised us. Our entire moral compasses, forged in the crucibles of our home, schools and Kerala Social Centre monthly meetings, are predicated upon the fact that good begets good. Evil begets evil. Eventually, if not immediately.
Then what explains the incessant misery around us? How does the cosmos allow this to unfold?
If the bread pakoda breakfast won’t make you want to throw up, then the latest edition of your daily newspaper will.
I know exactly how you feel. I feel all that and, in addition, I am a fan of the Arsenal football team. Misery is my one unwavering companion.
During such periods of collective crisis and individual angst, our tendency is to always withdraw into the most familiar and reliable compartments of our life: home, family, friends, iPhone.
May I suggest one more safe haven. Yes. The workplace.
GIVE ME FIVE MINUTES BEFORE BURNING THIS NEWSPAPER OR UNINSTALLING YOUR WEB BROWSER!
I do not suggest this new recourse of action without having thought about it for some time. Bear with me momentarily. Give peaceful columnists a chance.
Think about it.
After your home, the office is the one place you spend the most amount of time. Most cubiclists spend at least one-third of the day at work. (I understand there are some of you who spend substantially less than eight hours at work. Feel free to ignore this column, rush into the well and then walk out.)
In fact, particularly hard-working readers may be spending the vast majority of their waking hours hunched over Bloomberg terminals, PowerPoint presentations and discounted cash flow spreadsheets. Stopping only once every 18 hours or so, to look at a photo of the family so they don’t eventually go back home in April, after the year end, and wonder who these strange, but overly friendly squatters are.
If so, then why not use the workplace as an emotional counterbalance? Why merely see it as an intermediate in a cash-for-labour scheme?
After all, the workplace is not devoid of all emotional merits.
The very first day you landed up at work, for instance, the workplace took a grand total of 15 minutes to welcome you into the fold. You were received with open arms, polite curiosity, sincere camaraderie and sometimes genuine interest.
Did they have to? Not at all! Were they ordered to? Only rarely. Do they stay that way? Sometimes, but don’t bet on it. But this is how normal people are when they are not warped by context and externalities. Where else do you find this open acceptance, pray tell?
Nowhere, except amongst very young, un-Balkanized children.
Look, also, at the way the charade of an office birthday pans out. Here at Cubiclenama we have often poked fun at the meaninglessness that is the office birthday party. A bunch of people, many of whom don’t even recognize you, singing songs, stealing Cornettos and eating samosas for an achievement you shouldn’t even be getting credit for. Few of those well-wishers genuinely care for you. Yet they come, they smile, they make the smallest of talk and they go.
But isn’t this much the same charade we expect from our crumbling society? A humane gesture now and then.
Don’t like me. But be nice to me. Be nice to people not because of who I am or what I can do for you…or even because you want to. But because it doesn’t hurt to. Because being nice to strangers often costs no money and little time. And is sometimes such good fun.
The office knows this. The office implements this.
And when sometimes great misfortune befalls you, such as a tree or sudden illness, the office leaps to assist. Work is quickly reassigned, HR folk are shaken out of bed, and office cars and scooters are pooled to rush to your assistance. Funds will always be found. Adjustments will be made.
If only all of society functioned with such immediate concern.
This is not to say that the workplace is without fault. Of course not. It is full of people. People are terrible things. Put enough of them together and havoc will be wreaked.
But disagreements rarely end in fist fights unless marketing is involved. Bad blood simmers, but rarely boils over. Even the most useless, unworthy colleague has a friend. And when you finally get the boot, you rarely walk home alone.
So the next time you wake up wondering why Mayan predictions don’t come true, wait a minute. Not all societies are bad. The workplace isn’t half bad. Perhaps, solace is to be found there. Where everyone knows your name. Or employee number. Go hug a colleague. (After seeking permission.)
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life.
To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama