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What You Do When You Chase a Façade

I was told during my orientation programme, that such an arrangement was with a purpose to keep the employees fresh and thinking, every Monday.
corporate life story
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My seat is the first cubicle of the quadrant. It is a really large one on the fifth floor with white walls hanging from ceilings. Short LED lamps droop alongside to light up the inside of this quadrant even during the day. This is to dispel the sense of darkness brought in by the tinted glass covering our backs. If you enter this quadrant the probability of you meeting me is close to one. This is because I don’t normally take leaves or fall sick. And also because my seat is the first cubicle of the quadrant and I normally prefer to work standing.


Every morning for so many years, I park my car in the basement, climb up the metallic stairs, greet the security personnel (changed every week, and they reappear every two months or so, a complicated algorithm I can’t decipher) and enter the elevator to reach the fifth floor. There are twelve elevators in this building, having twelve floors barring the ground floor. The elevators have different designated stations while going up. Before you ask, let me clarify, they stop at every floor while coming down. You should also note that while moving up each will reach the designated station without stopping in between, but then, will halt at every floor thereafter till they reach the topmost floor. 

illustration for story on corporate life
I park my car in the basement

Twelve years back when I was younger and joined this company I found it hard to figure out which elevator to use while moving up. It seemed, like the security personnel, the elevators also change their designated stations every week. I was told during my orientation programme, that such an arrangement was with a purpose to keep the employees fresh and thinking, every Monday. At least in the mornings returning from scrumptious weekends when they had to do the same work but from within the comforts of their delightful homes. 

I have a remarkable IQ. In my freshman year my science teacher spotted it in me – the superior thinking skills most of my classmates lacked then. I am in touch with one of them who in turn is friends with all the others, and I know they lack it even now. HOTS.

So, I always availed the elevators that stopped at stations higher than the fifth floor. I do that even today. It gives me a democratic right to walk down the stairs and loiter around the Emergency Exit doors. Those of you not aware of workplace buildings that host multi-national, mono-lingual, multi-billionaire, multi-semiotic species need to know that emergency exits are the most happening places. Because they are stylistically most simple and strategically most complicated. 

I once found a broken wristwatch, a torn shoelace and a discarded plastic covering of Identity cards plaited with a flowing strand of silky hair. You don’t have to smell it to figure out that it was that of a woman who wore a pink top with a denim skirt with a deep purple scarf decorating her flagrant nape. The next day I was summoned at the Building Security Officer’s cabin on charges of suspicious wandering minutes after the officers witnessed a chronicle of an amorous incident in that same landing. What did I see, they asked. Apparently the close-circuit cameras were myopic and they had to, unfortunately, rely on a human instead of a machine. 

Yet, I prefer to use the exits over the elevators. 

The last twelve days have been indecent for me. It is about a new white car in the spot I have been parking since my last birthday. I chose this one, the farthest from the exit so that I can walk the length of the parking area before plunging out. Unlike the floors above ground level, the basement has only two tiers. Before taking this job, when I was doing background checks of the building I was misled by the elevator scheme of twelve floors. I have promised myself that my next job will be in a construction with at least three tiers of parking space. 

The façade tries to break free reaping on my momentary lapse in concentration. He reaches out to a pink top and denim skirt. The lights in here are dim. The flashes in mobile phones create a beautiful cape like they light up the football stadiums.

As you understand, I hope, that with only two tiers options of parking my own car have been extremely limited. I am forced to park at one side of each tier for one full year. To discount myself from being bored I have to compromise a lot, to the extent that I can replace my car now, only after every eighth year. And then start parking again from Tier 1 North wing. 

This white car is a new bloke, the ones with fat tyres, bulky exterior and a low gravity. I first spotted it twelve days back when I was almost blindly turning my own to my preferred slot. I waited for a while, honked, didn’t get a response and then drifted to find a new place. On the third day since then, with no remorse from the trespasser I left a note demanding an explanation for this unsavoury act. 

“No one owns a place in the parking area. Slot it where you get a space, man,” was all that I had to hear on the seventh day when I complained to the officer, in charge of the building. 

“What if I can’t find a space in the entire West wing of this tier?” I demanded.

“Then change Wings.”

I always believed that every security personnel is God-incarnate. They look at you and through you a hundred times over. And each time they cross through you they do so with disdained confidence.

“If you can’t find one even then, change Tier or park on the street.”

“Street? Do you think I deserve a place in the streets?” my voice was filled with surprise, not contempt, I am sure even now. 

“Please mail an official complaint if you will. The management will sort it out I am sure,” pat came the reply as I was beating a retreat after splashing emerald green ink from my Sheaffer fountain pen on the glass window separating me from God. I shall slow down to tell you, not as an advertisement though, that the use of fountain pens doubles up when you think of them as weapons with beaked nibs and a heart of coloured hatred. A silent tool that more often than not, does the trick for me.

Today morning, as I was tailgating an orange shirt with a dangling hip, a new voice caught my attention – “Swipe your card while entering the quadrant.” Initially I was not fully aware it was for me. When I was sure, I was made to go out, stand in a queue and then crawl my way back like rodents in search of food. A new face, a young one trying to put on a stern façade. Another case of rotten tomatoes with no home to live, no love to leave back.

“Can you please let me know where the pantry is?” I look up now to find a face jutting out from above my cubicle wall. I don’t recollect this face though I am not sure if I am good at remembering faces. 

“I am new in this building, we talked when you tried to tailgate this morning,” the façade tries a smile and that is as artificial as his stern self. Unnecessary smiles irritate me the most. A wastage of facial muscles when you can actually preserve them for blowpipes. That is when fountain pens fail to raise the ante. 

I can now recollect the face from the winds of time. Suddenly (these feelings float to me without any notice, I have observed that) I sense an insatiable desire to take him behind the emergency exit door and ransack him and his belongings. I open the door and keep it ajar so that anyone walking out of the elevator on this floor has a view of the full monty. I grab him by the collar as the white low gravity with an endowed posterior guts out of my parking space. I pardon it for now as I throw him between its wheels. 

There is a loud screech. I feel pity for the closed-circuit cameras who can only see but can never hear. And now with their limited stupidity they better invoke their voyeurs to take off their dark glasses and their earphones and rush up to a little infelicity- only a little, in the order of the genetic difference between a man and a chimp. I think hard now, what will they do once they reach me and my captive? Maybe they will film my adventures with their phones, megapixels after megapixels with increasing K values of their unkempt desires of capturing details. I am quite sure they can never use these recordings as evidence due to their sheer size. Instead, I hope they can share them on Instagram, now that Facebook is a passe. Maybe I become famous and Netflix or Prime Videos or even Hotstar engages me in authentic bungee jumping expositions.

“Circle us so that there is a 360 degree coverage,” I order the two security personnel as they arrive. But two isn’t enough for this pageant. I need more participants and viewers. 

“Call the tourists of the building to this spectacle.”

The façade tries to break free reaping on my momentary lapse in concentration. He reaches out to a pink top and denim skirt. The lights in here are dim. The flashes in mobile phones create a beautiful cape like they light up the football stadiums. I run after him as the flash mob starts playing a beat and find him chasing me instead. It is a complex chase and I start losing in order to understand it. I have a feeling that over the years my memory has drained its soul to Google. 

“Will you hand over the chase to me,” a burly man asks running beside me.

“Hop in,” I leave the orbit and find the façade standing next to me, panting.

“Why did you leave?” I ask him, startled.

“Incompetence never leaves one disoriented. It buoys you,” he smiles at the streak of water dripping down my nose.

“It is a question of value,” I hear me speak.

“Not of science as long as you plunder the juvenile with the complex,” a young girl tells me. She must be a new joinee. I find her quite attractive in her baggy pants and sleeveless shirt. 

“I was keeping an eye on the number of false steps you take in your chase,” she continues.

“Why are you tracking me?”

“When you dance you generate millions of data beyond your capacity to draw inferences.”

The girl with sleeveless shirt and an armpit of mothy hairy sweat suddenly becomes a woman before fading like a sophisticated computation. 

“Don’t leave it to anyone else,” quips the boy who sits in my quadrant, three blocks away. He leaves Bethlehem as I jump back in the circle of chase, the ring of search. The centre now seems further away almost like a window of escape as I can see a few more in front of me in this luteal phase for the last twelve days.

“Can you please let me know where the pantry is?” I don’t recollect this face though I am not sure if I am good at remembering faces. But I can trace attempted smiles hanging like harmonic motion covering equally bad teeth.

“Move out of this door, go straight and then at the farthest end take a sharp U-turn to your left. The pantry is on your right. It is small and only for employees with intellectual contributions to the history of mankind.” I give him the proper directions with the best smile my face can afford without opening my mouth or twitching the muscles. He wobbles around for a while and moves back to his position just in front of the wooden door to catch any one who tailgates.

I guess, he doesn’t believe me.

Image courtesy: Pinterest

Amitava Nag is an independent film critic and author from Kolkata. 16 Frames, Satyajit ray’s Heroes and Heroines, Beyond Apu 20 Favourite Film Roles of Soumitra Chatterjee, Reading the Silhouette are some of his published works. He is a founder-member and an editor of the online film magazine – Sihouette. He writes fiction and poetry in English as well as Bengali for several publications.

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