Earlier this week, I had the great fortune of travelling in the business class section of a major international airline for a short-haul flight.
Now before you attack me with hare-brained schemes to fund your social media start-up, produce your indie film or resuscitate your airline, let me clarify. I did not actually buy a business-class ticket. There were free seats up front and the airline simply filled them up with economy class passengers selected for frequent flying records, grooming and physical appearance.
So the service, the food, the drink and the duty free were exactly the same. Just that there were two seats in a row that usually crams in three minions from the proletariat. And the leg room was marginally better.
However, the airline overlooked one minor detail. They forgot to change the contents of the seat-back pouch in front of me. It still contained the same literature that was offered to fare-paying-later-reimbursing business class folk.
Yes, this gave me a vague feeling of social superiority and business success.
So I carefully picked out all the content and began to flip through them in a businesslike fashion. I was, initially, impressed. They had actually gone through the trouble of producing a good-looking magazine expressly for the reading pleasure of their business class passengers.
But then I made the fatal mistake of reading the magazine.
Dear businessmen, businesswomen and other business class passengers of the world: now I know why nobody loves you. And why all over the world good, God-fearing, simple people detest you, and yearn to mark important festivals such as Sankranti or Easter with ritual businessman-burnings. Just a few minutes with that magazine convinced me why in big budget disaster movies they always show a businessman being rude, unfriendly, racist, anti-dog and yet capable of somehow being the only obese person to not fall into lava.
This is not just because you guys routinely destroy the global economy every time you invent a new financial instrument. But also because of the terrible prevailing stereotypes about business people that is propagated by things such as this horrible in-flight magazine.
Let me share some examples of the horror that I read in those pages.
First of all, there was the letters to the editor section. In this, one woman had written an impassioned letter to complain about an article in the previous issue. Let me paraphrase: “On page 23 the writer tells us in her column about persuasive leadership that late-coming is enough reason to terminate someone’s employment. However, on page 32 your other columnist argues for a more compassionate form of leadership in the workplace where he states that we must accommodate the weaknesses in our employees instead of… blah blah… kill me now because what possible value can I add to the human race if I am the sort of person who compares two articles in an inflight magazine… Sincerely, Marjorie.”
For this letter the woman received a bottle of vintage Irish whiskey valued by the magazine at approximately Rs.21,000. Because this was the best letter of the week.
No. I am not making this up.
Next there was a section, and I am really, really not making this up, called “Think like…” which analysed various characters from fiction to see what business advice could be gleaned from them. In my particular issue it investigated the personalities of Bond villains and pointed out that we should admire people like Goldfinger and Blofeld for their refusal to never give up.
This is the kind of ugly content that would make perfectly peace-loving people—such as one of Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity—want to barge into the cockpit in a fit of fury and crash the plane into a mountainside. And then take off again and crash it again. Because that is what Blofeld would have done.
Then there was another section about four of the best hotels in the world with “unusual conference facilities”.
Now, if you are a businessman who is on the constant prowl for “unusual conference facilities” then I don’t have any advice to give you except: try not to reproduce and spread your genetic material. For the love of the species.
If you are the kind of businessman who throws up a little in their mouth, like I do, at the thought of “unusual conference facilities”, then do something about it. Do something to demolish this hideous stereotype of the modern businessman/woman being a briefcase-carrying automaton constantly seeking to maximize meaningless things such as battery life, conference facilities, leg room, and compassionate leadership.
Because this is why everybody hates you. This is why at the first sign of trouble anywhere in the world the public wants to burn down the American Embassy, the British Council office and then the Stock Exchange in that order.
Come back businessperson. Come back. Be a part of the rest of humanity. Be with us, not against us. Together let us make the world a better place.
Note to the magazine editor: If picked as winning letter, can the writer be paid cash equivalent of whiskey bottle?
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