The artwork was finally approved and sent to the agency. My design team had left and I was waiting for any last minute query coming from the publication and one that needed to be solved speedily. The phone rang and I asked, ‘All well? Has the artwork reached the publication? They are holding the dummy only for us.’
‘Yes sir. I am speaking from the editorial office. Your artwork is delivered,’ said the agency executive, ‘but sir, please make sure that your team finishes the artwork on time. We cannot hold the dummy of a national daily every time.’ I told him we will take care, and even as I said good night I was moving out of my cabin and walking through the corridor to the exit.
Even the lift lobby was eerily silent. An office floor at 10 in the night looks so different, I thought, as I pressed the button to call the lift. It was at this precise moment that the lights went off.
No, I didn’t curse or said ‘wtf!’ in ten different ways… I just stood there, silently, waiting for my mind to register this. When you’ve been going in and out of creative insights throughout the day and also been handling your company bosses as well as the urgent calls and messages from the publication and the agency, your mind simply stops registering things like lights going off just when you’re waiting for the lift to take you down fifteen floors to the life that is really your life.
No, I didn’t look to my right and then to my left in panic… I didn’t half expect malicious demons to jump out of walls and come at me growling… and there were no elves dancing in the air either… I just stood there trying to switch ON my own mind that had actually gone asleep. I slowly turned and started walking back towards my office but changed direction and went to the large window on the wall opposite to the lift doors.
I wished the window were open and allowed in the cool wind that must surely be blowing outside… this is least a man can wish for when he has been inside an air-conditioned environment for more than thirteen hours. This day, like most of my days, I had not been able to step out for the short stroll that most of my team went for every day… and there were times when I actually told myself, ‘You should have been a designer or a copywriter, man. Heading corporate communications is not allowing you to even go out and romance with the real truth.’ Well, these are thoughts of almost all those who spend hours cocooned in tall buildings, shut away from what many of us call ‘the sordid truth’.
‘So you miss interacting with the real life on the roads?’ asked Niharika, when I told her how much I wanted to get out of this life and remain out forever.
‘The bitchy life that exists out there is what I mean,’ she said.
‘You’re safer inside,’ she insisted.
‘Yes, but the real me inside dreams of the truth outside,’ I whispered.
And these short interactions with Niharika, the CEO, were the only breaks I ever had on most days. She herself was always in her massive cabin that had clear glass on three sides… and I often wondered, ‘Doesn’t she get sick of peering into her laptop all day long? How can she think clearly with so little privacy in her office?’ I mean, if I were sitting in a cabin with glass doors on three sides, I’d remain jittery and unfocused all day long. But then, this could be one reason for her always remaining sane despite her long hours in a cocoon similar to mine!
And when I asked her about being cocooned, she laughed and replied, ‘Cocoons are where caterpillars evolve into butterflies… so why resent them?’
When the lights go out, and one is left wondering in the semi-darkness of the 13th floor lift lobby, thoughts have this strange habit of piercing through time and digging out everything that seems connected. People get bolder in the dark and especially when they’re all alone… and then they aren’t afraid of addressing even fire extinguishers that look uncannily like HR GMs who walk through lies and get deeper into this quagmire of untruths. Yes, I was surprised how low light made that extinguisher in the far corner look so much like Ambika, our short and plump HR GM. So I just walked up to her and said, ‘Hi there Ambika, you’re also waiting for the lift tonight?’
I think she just stood snootily looking at me, so I persisted, ‘You’re normally one of the first to leave. So what kept you in the office so late this evening?’
Seeing her not willing to talk, I took a few more steps towards the large lobby window with tinted glass. It was then that I felt the tug of a cool breeze… and my intuition led me to look towards the floor exit to the small balcony that was generally used by construction workers. I walked towards the exit, wondering at why it was left open and how stupid of the building security to have overlooked this. As I reached the slightly ajar door and opened it, I almost lost my balance… I mean the cool draft of air that just rushed in, simply disoriented me. I stepped out, literally swallowed the cool night air and found the view absorbing.
‘The view is never like this from inside the office,’ I wondered aloud, ‘but then the air-conditioning too is probably no match for the cool night air.’ There, on the far end, was a worker’s stool, with dried paint splashes all over it and I walked up and with a little hop, sat on it. In just a few moments my mind was transformed from a weary machine to an active and curious child discovering joys all around.
No, I didn’t take out my diary or tab or smartphone to jot profound thoughts, there was no poem that I wrote that night, and there were no conclusions I made about life and existence. I just sat there looking all around in silence, as one would who has just come face to face with the lost truth.
20 April 2014