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Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Cubiclenama | Mutton chilli fry

In the soup over eating mutton in the office canteen

“Hey, I got your email. So you wanted to see me?"

The head of human resources (HR) swivelled around in his chair. He inhaled deeply, and then waved the visitor inside.

“Come, come. I was expecting to see you. Kindly pull up a chair."

The sales manager settled into the chair and smiled “So what’s up boss?"

The HR head cringed. What happened to the good old days when polite people started conversations with “How do you do? Myself Kasturirangan. Glad to meet you."

“So I have summoned you in order to pass on some feedback about your work that I have received from several senior members of the staff." The HR head opened a drawer and pulled out a large leather-bound notebook. He opened it and turned to a page around halfway in.

The sales manager beamed. He had just set an all-time record for monthly revenues. And more than once he had overheard senior managers mention his name and the phrase “future leadership material" in the same sentence.

Appraisal season was just around the corner. If the head of human resources himself wanted to pass on feedback... something major must be in store.

“Please tell me. I am very eager to know."

The HR head looked grim. “I am sorry to disappoint you. But many of them have given very poor feedback."

The sales manager felt his heart plummet into the bottom of his stomach.

“I have a long list of complaints from various senior managers about your professional conduct."

“Can you please tell me what is on the list."

“Oh there are so many things. Coming to office late, leaving office early, dressing improperly, distracted during meetings, eating mutton in the canteen, taking too many coffee breaks, untidy monthly reports, hair style unbefitting a professional, inaccurate expense reports, untidy workplace, irregular anti-virus updates... so many things... I will email you a copy of this list so you introspect and tailor your behaviour accordingly..."

“Wait one moment. Please go back. I think I misheard something."

The HR head flipped back through the book. “Taking too many coffee breaks?"

“No before that."

“Distracted during meetings?"

“No after that."

The HR head winced. Goddammit, he thought to himself.

“Eating mutton in the canteen."

“Somebody complained about that?"

“Yes. Many people have complained."

“I am not allowed to eat what I want in this company?"

The HR head threw his head back and laughed like M.N. Nambiar in Ayirathil Oruvan but inside he felt like Nutan through most of Karma.

“What nonsense. Of course you can eat whatever you like. This is not some third-rate, narrow-minded family-owned company. Also this is a free country."

“Phew. Thank god. So I shall ignore that feedback."

“Theoretically you should ignore it on the spot. But practically speaking have you considered switching to a vegetarian diet during working hours for health and personal reasons?"

“No. I like mutton."

“But why not try mushroom or paneer instead in order to avoid such unpleasant feedback in the future."

“So you are suggesting I only eat vegetarian food in the office."

“Ha ha ha ha. Of course not. But if you insist then who am I to say no."

“That makes no sense. You just told me I could eat whatever I wanted."

“Yes. But must it be so smelly? According to one manager in Purchase your mutton thing smelt like..." he flipped through his notes, “... old Chennai airport terminal toilet during Kathiri Veyyil".

“That is terribly offensive."

“That is exactly what I told him. Ditto words. Which is why I think it is best to avoid such smelly items in future."

“Many vegetarian items also smell very badly. Should I avoid those also?"

“Such as? I personally think vegetarian items are mostly inoffensive smell-wise."

“Raghavan in finance brought some potato and mayonnaise salad type thing last week that had been siting in his motorcycle carrier all day and had turned into chloroform."

“Yes but was it an offensive smell? The point I am trying to make is that you should at least try consuming vegetarian for one or two weeks before dismissing the idea."

“Can I have non-smelly non-vegetarian food?"

“There is no such thing."

“I can poach chicken in milk or something."

“No, I think a majority of people in this office find poached food offensive."

“How do you know?"

“We did a survey. The details are irrelevant. But milk poaching was one of the most widely disliked methods of cooking."

“So you are saying that non-vegetarian food is not allowed in this company?"

“Excellent suggestion. I think we should go with that. Good idea. I will pass this suggestion upstairs. So now why don’t you go and mull over this for a few days. You can leave now."

After the manager left, the HR head picked up the phone.

“No sir. I don’t think that worked. Yes. Yes. A circular. Very good. No no. It will be discrete. Nobody will know. Who will put a circular on the Internet? Ha ha. Exactly."

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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