Sunday, October 24, 2010


He woke up even before the alarm clock chimed 5:15 a.m, he gazed at the ceiling as the fan above his head kept clunking. It was a wonder how he could sleep with a fan that was nothing less than a Damocles’ sword hanging above his head; the bloody thing looked like it could fall on his face any minute.

“Clunk clunk clunk clunk” the blades of the fan kept running.

Sid increased the speed of the fan.

“Clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk” the fan started gyrating dangerously.

Sid moved the knob from 4 to 5

The revolutions of the fan started getting bigger and bigger with every passing second as it slowly loosened from the ceiling. And before you know it, the sword came falling on Sid’s head.

Sid opened his eyes, his digital clock showed the time 5:05

It was just a nightmare, but for Sid the blade of the fan piercing through his head felt like being caressed with a feather. For Sid it felt like a dream. But Sid was alive and it was still a Monday. How he wished to have his head split by the blades of a fan than logging in at work on a Monday morning. He got up from his bed unwillingly and got ready for work.

It was 7:30 a.m when he left for work. He passed by a bunch of school going children one of whom shrieked “Oh Shit yaar Maths ka homework nahi kiya! Geeta maam maar dalegi!"

“Want to trade lives?” Sid wondered.

 He punched in his card fifteen minutes before 9:00 people were slowly trudging in to work. Some were chirpy, for some it was a new day, it was a new week. For some it felt like the previous week was copied and pasted:  same work routine to be followed, same reports to be sent, same people to report to, same questions asked and same old answers to be given.

Half of Sid’s Mondays were spent preparing reports to be sent, performances were evaluated by this report. The report consisted of numbers that would determine the effort put in by him in the last week. Higher the numbers- higher the utilization of the “resource”. Higher the utilization, higher the efficiency. Higher the efficiency, lesser the number of questions asked. “Weekly target met! Congratulations! Keep it going!”  and a scattered applause.  And it all depended on the percentage, the metrics, and the numbers. Higher the percentage louder the applause, lesser the percentage harder the brickbats fell on your face.

When you come to think of it, we all are judged by the numbers we churn out. Teachers judge a student by the numbers he scores in exams, a cricketer is judged by the runs he makes, the wickets he takes, the catches he hangs on to. A woman is judged by men on the basis of her figure a 34-26-36, a prospective groom by the numbers he has in his bank account, a music artist is judged by the number of copies he has sold worldwide. A movie is branded as a hit or a flop by the amount of money it made in its run at the box office.

 Love it or hate it but we cannot deny the fact that numbers make us and numbers break us.

And it was the numbers that Sid churned out last week that would decide his fate this week. Another bad performance then he may be dealt with sternly, it all depended on the percentages and the numbers. But Sid knew deep within that there was nothing worth showing for in the last week. His performance was not up to the mark, his percentages were not good, and his efficiency was debatable. Sid had to come up with convincing answers, and when he checked his manager’s mail in the inbox that ended with “I am looking for reasons!” he realized that he had to come up with convincing answers fast.

Hell of a way to start a Monday.

His boss who was an otherwise jolly good fellow, on seeing low numbers would turn into much like a bull that has seen red – crazy and untamable. But Sid was not a good matador.  An hour later his boss waltzed in with a smile on his face as he chimed “Good Morning guys!”, but Sid knew that the smile was just a decoy, it was covering up a sea of emotions and questions that would soon be unleashed upon him. And Sid was still searching for his life jacket.

Pleasantries were exchanged between the team, jokes were cracked as Sid tried harder to laugh to ease his nerves. But he knew he was just being fattened up for the kill.

Half an hour had passed without anything having happened, and then it did. His boss walked over towards him “What the hell happened last week?” the boss questioned.

“I worked hard, I did put in a lot of effort”

“Then where are the numbers to show for it!?”

“You have to understand, every week cannot be the same, and it’s not possible to calculate the effort put in by numbers” he said coyly.

“Do not come up with such silly explanations! Am I supposed to give such reasons to my managers!?” the boss bellowed.

He was being gunned down in front of everyone around him, people who did not know him, people who knew him. But they all would be glad that they were not him. What a way to be known on the floor! Very soon he might be referred to as “the guy who did not churn out the numbers” during office gossips that happened near the coffee machines.

Sid could do nothing but look down wishing the earth split wide open and sucked him in. He tried to focus on pleasant things, he tried to drown away the shrill voice of his boss by focusing on cute little pups, a sunny beach, a rainy day, a walk in the park. But it did not help.

“You better come up with an action plan to what you are going to do this week, I cannot take such kind of incompetency from you again” saying this, his boss walked away.

He heaved a sigh of relief and got back to work again, he looked around to see that people were glued to the monitors pretending to be oblivious of everything that was happening around them. But then he knew the word would have spread that Sid had become the Monday Morning Scapegoat (MMS) through chat messages and e-mails. He would be the butt of all jokes until he proved his worth all over again. But for this week Sid had to retreat back to his shell, he had to stay there and focus on work, his friends may come over and offer a kind word because that is all they could do. They may invite him to a cup of coffee and would ask him to talk about it to ease all his pain away. But Sid would say “Thanks, but no thanks”, he wanted the pain to remain. He wanted the wounds to remain unhealed so that they serve him as a reminder of the humiliation he had suffered. He would now work with a vengeance, he had a point to prove, he would take the bull by the horns. He died this Monday, but come next Monday he will redeem himself.

                                                * * * * *

It was a Friday evening, he felt like a long week was coming to an end. Yet he did not feel burnt out with all the work he had been doing. He was minutes away from wrapping up a tough week, it began with a Monday that raised questions on his capabilities, he was dead and buried. And by the time Friday had ended he knew he had found all the answers, he had the right numbers. He just could not wait for the following Monday, like a phoenix he would rise from the ashes. There was a smile on his face as he clicked “Turn Off” on his computer.


skr_003 said...

Good post anuraag. Its true that we are judged with by numbers and not for who we are, inspite of the fact that numbers aren't always a true measure for effort and hardwork put in.

skr_003 said...

Good post anuraag. Its true that we are judged with by numbers and not for who we are, inspite of the fact that numbers aren't always a true measure for effort and hardwork put in.

Anuraag said...

Thanks for giving your comments skr! much appreciated. and yeah, its a pity that our efforts cannot be measured. just a way to vent out our feelings. :(

Ashish said...

Nice post Anurag.It's something I can relate to;surprising that we do this week in and week out for decades.Despite all the numbers on the GDP front it is sad that people are restricted to levels of survival such as this.

Anuraag Seshadri said...

Hi Ashish,

Yeah, I guess it is a never ending process, its a pity that we leave our fate and our career to a certain extent be decided by numbers. It is one of the woes of being a corporate slave.