This piece was published yesterday at Rediff. It is reproduced here with a few changes.
At my office desk one afternoon, staring at the computer screen before me I wondered, and not for the first time, ‘What am I doing here?’
My expression was severe and my headset firmly in place – in order to strongly discourage anyone from coming up and saying ‘hello.’ Not because I do not like people – just that I couldn’t risk someone peeping into my screen and discovering that I wasn’t working on a PowerPoint about Delivering excellent Customer Service or whatever it is I was supposed to deliver. Instead, I was having Koffee with Karan –taking sips of caffeine (in reality) and rapidly firing my witty responses and winning the hamper (in my head).
But apart from escaping into other people’s more exciting lives, I also needed to plan a getaway from my immediate surroundings, before I was found out! As usual, I turned to my life coach Shah Rukh Khan for inspiration. I heard his voice in my head say, Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho toh puri kainat etc. etc.
A bit of aimless surfing and I found myself staring at an article titled, The best jobs for smart but lazy people. (I’m sure the ‘smart’ was inserted simply in order not to offend the ‘lazy’.) The universe had obviously conspired to bring this before my eyes, filtering away other interesting pieces like, The best recipes for those who have no time, or How to lose friends and insult people.
Topping the list was the job of an English teacher. What’s more, the classes would be virtual, with technology enabling you to conduct lessons right from the comfort of your bedroom, or while sipping tea on a mountaintop in Darjeeling or lying on a beach in Goa –the possibilities were endless!
Now was the time for Azaadi. Tear down the cubicle walls, break down the management’s doors! (Before you charge me with sedition let me clarify that I meant it metaphorically. The boss followed an open-door policy, i.e. he was a lonely man who kept his cabin door always open, in the hope that someone would drop in for a chat).
Disappointingly, not only did he readily and animatedly accept my resignation, but almost looked happy at my departure. Perhaps this was just another sign that the universe was guiding me towards my destiny.
It has been five days now since I landed my dream ‘work from home’ project, and here is an update on how it is progressing:
After practicing how to say a pleasant but formal, friendly but business-like ‘hello’ for several minutes, I am all set to launch into my first lesson, titled: How to smoothly conduct business meetings.
Strangely my perfect ‘hello’ is greeted by complete silence at the other end. The greeting is repeated several times and when finally the pleasant but formal tone has been replaced by a high-pitched, irritated one – there is a response:
– Oui! Allo?
– Ah! Jean-Sebastien, are you able to hear me now?
– Yes, but there is some delay.
-Well it’s a long distance from India to Europe (sheepish giggle at own poor joke).
10 min into the lesson and we are inexplicably disconnected. I don’t know about other business meetings but this one wasn’t going smoothly for sure.
The subject we are working on is Conflict Management. A most interesting discussion is underway when suddenly a frenzied screaming alarms me and my poor, faraway participants!
Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking
… You Shook Me All Night Long
My husband is unwinding with some AC/DC and a glass of scotch, and has suddenly decided to crank up the volume to maximum! Pressing the mute button I hurl a few obscenities at him, before proceeding to soothe the frayed nerves of my poor learners.
I see a conflict of unmanageable proportions looming at home, soon after this lesson is over.
The topic today is, Why I love to travel.
After a wonderful beginning, where my learner recounts his trips to Madagascar, Machu Pichu and Madrid, I suddenly don’t see him anymore. The audio is fine but the video is no longer available! A quick check reveals that the broadband’s net speed has dropped from the promised 10 Mbps to 30 Kbps. I switch to 4G but it promptly turns into 2G.
A sad realization dawns — forget taking lessons from Munnar or Mahabalipuram, with this sort of unreliable internet, I wasn’t getting out of Marthahalli anytime soon.
A most interesting subject today: How to manage Gen X and Y – the challenge faced by every organization.
About three slides into my presentation, I am distracted by a strange notification popping up: ‘Your troops are ready for battle!’ Damn. The pest of a son has infiltrated my workstation — downloaded a game called Clash of Clans!
I bring my focus back to the subject at hand and decide now is a good time to share a video with the participants. I had kept the relevant YouTube page open and now copy-paste the link to the ‘chat window’. It is a video I have carefully selected, which depicts a scenario that may come up when dealing with gen X and Y employees.
But when my learners click the link, I hear strange words, intercepted by what sounds like gunfire!
“All units, all units this is Spaceman.”
“5,4,3,2, 1. Deploy!”
Mystified, I click on the link myself and realize that what is playing is a video titled, Call of Duty –advanced warfare!
The pest has not only downloaded a game, but also been watching this video while I was busy touching up my lipstick in preparation for the lesson.
Why are there no tutorials on How to manage the gen Z’s at home?
My computer has crashed and I am trying to conduct the lesson over the phone. (I do get mobile network sometimes, when I stand in a specific pose, at a particular window with my head angled a certain way).
There is a power cut since morning and the temperature is close to 40 degrees! You can imagine that it is not easy to talk about How to beat Stress, given the circumstances.
A week of working from home, and I’m already fantasizing –not about seasides and hill stations — but about stable internet, uninterrupted power supply, air-conditioned environs, non-interfering colleagues — in short, an office cubicle.