Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Cubiclenama | Home sweet home

Turn away from corporate travel. Escape while you still can. Because the reality of business travel is dire

My dear final year students of India, please approach in an orderly fashion, pull up a chair, put your devices into your airplane mode, and listen carefully to this important message:

Business travel sucks. It sucks like nothing else in the world sucks. It is a horrible, horrible, horrible thing that strips your heart of love and your soul of hope and your skin of essential oils and moisture leaving you a desiccated, joyless Marie biscuit of a human being.

When I ask some of you what kind of jobs you would like in the future you say things like “something that involves a lot of travel", “an opportunity to see the world" and “anything as long as there is potential for insider trading or LIBOR fixing".

Some of you have dreams of looking like those people who appear in the advertisements for business class. You want to pace through airport lounges with powerful strides, in overly tight formal attire, one piece of light luggage in one hand and the other hand pointing forward towards the future.

Let me tell you something you impatient, uninformed blackguards: shun these obsessions. Turn away from corporate travel. Escape while you still can.

Because the reality of business travel is dire.

In the real world you are not pacing through the airport confidently like a svelte goddess of the snug pantsuit. In the real world you are running to gate number 36 wearing one shoe, shedding a trail of printouts, your belt dragging on the floor behind, as you push-pull-kick-drag-stumble-swear-pull-cry-push your one item of cabin baggage down a narrow, winding corridor with three minutes left for the gates to close.

Suddenly you can no longer feel your passport in your inside suit breast pocket. Wait. Where is it? Did I leave it in that basket at the X-Ray? No. WHERE IS MY PASSPORT GODDAMMIT? WHY DO THESE THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO...

Ok found it. It was inside the laptop sleeve of your cabin strolley, next to your laptop power cable. You had carefully placed it there for safe-keeping... OH NO FORGOT TO TAKE THE BLOODY TRAVEL ADAPTER!

But now there is no time. You take a few steps backwards, and hit your strolley with a running start or it won’t budge. This is because it looks small but actually weights 37 kilos. Why? Oh you are just doing a favour for Santosh Kumar in admin. He forgot to send the printouts in time. And to get approval for urgent international courier you have to apply at least three weeks in advance to a board member. So you said, “Of course Santosh, just give it to me, I will carry it."

‘It’ turned out to be 65 copies of the draft annual report, each weighing half a kilo.

Just before you reach the gate you stop, rearrange your clothing, pull out your boarding pass, and then casually walk to the gate. “Sir can you show us your cabin baggage?"

Of course. You lift the bag up casually with one hand, instantly getting an inguinal hernia.

On board the business class seats are quite comfortable. The leg room is generous, the upholstery plush, the recline almost total.

How lucky for those who travel on business, you think to yourself, as you shimmy along to your seat in Economy Class. Due to Lehman Brothers crisis, slowdown in the India story, policy paralysis etcetera etcetera bloody nonsense, Santosh Kumar in admin only approves business class for the CEO and Santosh Kumar in admin.

Thankfully 7.5 hours later you can at least check into a proper business hotel right? You naive child.

Kindly proceed silently towards your budget business hotel. This kind of hotel is easy to identify. First of all it has any or all of the following words in its brand: business, budget, airport, express, presto, pronto, budget business, business budget, smart, speedy.

Secondly there is the room itself. It is quite apparent that the bathroom, the bed, the little table in the corner, the table lamp and the armchair is just one gigantic, continuous piece of injection moulded plastic intermittently upholstered.

Yes, it is revoltingly cheap. But on the upside you can always tell immediately if someone sneaks in to use the toilet when you are asleep. This attention to health and safety will very much please Santosh Kumar in admin.

At least, you think to yourself as you place your passport in the little safe, enter the code and then immediately forget it, at least there is the unlimited breakfast. At least there are sausages and eggs and toast and coffee to wake up to in the morning.

Alas, no. You wake up the next morning to realize that breakfast is cereal, cold milk and boiled eggs because the chef-cum-laundry-fellow is down with food poisoning.

You sit in your chair sipping instant coffee and eating soggy, cold cereal wishing that in your youth some newspaper columnist had prepared you for this misery.

Business travel. It is the worst. Avoid at any cost.

Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com.

To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to

www.livemint.com/cubiclenama

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