Monday Morning Blues


"Ram Shankar… where in the @#$%ing hell is my job status for the week?" These seemingly innocent words snapped the young man from the trance-like state that he had slipped into and brought him back to earth with a resounding crash; also copping a few dispatch boys en route scurrying to meet their delivery deadlines...

"Errr…" began Ram and on all accounts it was a promising start; ‘body firmly behind the line of the ball‘ and all that. It was a standard reflex vocabulary defence mechanism that had become instantly activated. As Ram would have proudly claimed...", at this point in time, having spent twelve months in the industry and having watched enough of the Discovery Channel whilst waiting for material to happen; the first thing that you do when cornered by a hungry (and by all accounts an extremely angry) predator is to emanate an audible but incomprehensible retort that means absolutely nothing yet reassures the predator that there is still some life left in the victim."

It had been a horrible day so far and it was only 9:30 am. Ram had strolled into the clients office at 9:00 am sharp on the Monday morning - smartly turned out after getting home at 4:00 am in the wee hours of the morning (yet another drink and dance binge). He had flopped into bed and his early morning slumber was rudely broken by an irritatingly familiar voice that always split the telecast of his favorite dream channels every Monday morning - "Chief, have I woken you up?"

Vikas Khanna. His boss. The man about whom Ram‘s opinion would have filled up the back of a bus ticket in bold while still leaving enough space to print the clients annual report for the year.

Vikas had one unique property - not very unique, as Ram would find out in his later years in the profession. The talent was this: take a perfectly normal situation where people are breathing freely; thinking about their long-term investment plans; generally trying to figure out what would it take to get onto the right side of Nicole Kidman (or any side for that matter) and add Vikas Khanna to it. And the situation would change.

Closely replicating the panic you would feel if you had turned up for the World Cup soccer final expecting to see a good game - as an innocent spectator from a nation that had never qualified and never looked like doing so in the future - and then discover to your utter horror that you had been picked to play in the final eleven (the thing to panic about here is the prospect of standing in defensive walls for free kicks an activity that could seriously hamper your capacities to satisfy Ms Kidman‘s wants, needs and desires as discussed earlier).

Needless to say Vikas was one of the agencies brightest young stars; tipped to go places; and widely regarded as the messiah for the ulcer treatment industry.

Anyways coming back to the point, Ram mumbled an incoherent acknowledgment of his superior‘s existence on the other side of the phone. Then, Vikas briefly took him through his strategy for this week‘s meeting. Vikas was very serious about these things...

* He would have spent the early part of his morning drawing complicated power triangles that would happen in the room because of the placement of various people on different chairs;

* And then the energy fields that would exist around them due to the ambient forces influencing them;

* And then he would plot their energy peaks and troughs in a very methodical manner so as to accurately establish exactly when was the correct time to give the client bad news.

"At 10:15 am sharp you will tell them that the leaflet cannot be completed by Tuesday." The masterstroke. If there were bad news to be told to the client Vikas Khanna would be far from it. "Chief, this is all part and parcel of being a star... you must learn to take the flak." So Ram would be left tackling the savage beast alone, often in situations that usually got so bad that he could often feel a shaft like object nibbling at his tonsils.

"What if they bring it up before that?" Ram asked weakly.

"Stall man! S-T-A-L-L," Vikas chirped in his typical irritatingly over enthusiastic style. Cut back to the meeting where Ram‘s fertile mind was jogging through the events of the morning. The proposed strategic approach to the meeting and the task of stalling had as much chance of surviving as a tail ender when Wasim Akram bangs down his (in)famous yorker!

As they were climbing up the stairs to the client‘s office they were aware of a strange thumping noise that was building up to a crescendo as they were nearing the meeting room. Closer inspection revealed that it was the client Debashish Kundanlal Bose - doing what could be accurately described as the mating ritual of the bull antelope who knows that he has only about thirty seconds to impress his mate with his dance; get down to foreplay; do the actual business; and then scram before the lions decide that he would be tonight‘s special. In one word, a ‘fairly frantic pre-job meeting walk‘.

"Good morning chief," chirped Vikas enthusiastically jutting out a gym chiseled hand. Bose shook it perfunctorily and completely ignored Rams paw; thrust out in a last ditch attempt to keep at least one interaction civil in the meeting.

"We shall begin this week by talking about what we need to do to keep our brand salient and differentiated with the consumer for the next five years…" began Bose before remembering..."The leaflet," he gasped coming up like a man for his last gulp of fresh air before drowning.

"The leaflet," he croaked again effectively ending Vikas‘s brilliantly planned opening remarks with these two words repeated twice (here is an argument for media frequency if ever there needed to be one)! "The leaflet" his third utterance of the all too familiar death knell for Ram was a sheer tribute to Bose‘s lung resources built up over the last two decades of screaming at agencies.

Ram saw Vikas shrug. To the casual untrained eye that shrug would have meant nothing - in fact, the eye would have shrugged it off, but for Ram that shrug spoke gigabytes.

It was the Vikas Khanna saying: "I have done all that was humanly possible to salvage the situation and now it‘s your ‘baby‘ kind of shrug." It was a shrug that automatically absolved him from participating in all the gore that would follow. It was a shrug that meant that he would still have his walking style unchanged post the meeting. It was a shrug of a man who had arrived. What a shrug!

Ram knew what would follow. "Excuse me Mr Bose, I think I just have to urgently call up my Asia Pacific head to clarify India‘s position on certain accounts, it is a matter concerning the future of our operations in the country …" quipped Khanna - the tone was sufficiently pompous. The confidence was laudable. The eyes were unfazed. People tended to forget that Vikas Khanna was just about a senior account executive.

Bose waved him away. Vikas was always beyond these ‘minor‘ issues. Vikas sauntered out of the room. "Like rats deserting a sinking ship.." Ram always used this phrase in casual conversations without ever knowing or comprehending. At that moment he knew what the ‘Titanic‘ would have felt like.

As Vikas exited precisely at 9:17 am (always a good time to exit, Vikas believed in doing all major events in his life at times which had some element of seven in them. "Seven is heaven" he would often remark jocularly to Ram. Ram was convinced Vikas needed serious help). At that point in time, 9:17 am to be precise, Ram could have done with a little help.

Without quite covering the balance thirteen (again an unlucky number in Vikas‘s book) minutes, that would bring us to 9:30 am - where this episode started. It would suffice to say that Ram would have loved to be elsewhere. He tried to make this whole rollicking that he was receiving from Mr Bose more bearable by trying to divert his mind; trying to think of something ridiculously funny; say for instance by trying to imagine Mr Bose naked (one of the good things they teach you at B- school ); however even that was getting him only as far as the share a cab stand at Churchgate station (in Mumbai) when you are already running late for a meeting at Borivali (Mumbai suburban station).

"Ram Shankar…where in the @#$%ing hell is my job status for the week," growled Mr Bose. Ram was just over the amusing spectacle of looking at Mr Bose‘s flabby chest, outrageous armpits and generous paunch and as his eyes were drifting waist downwards - this sharp remark ‘p_icked‘ him out of the reverie that he had fallen into.

There was a rumour (can‘t say a hint) of a smile on his face. "What is the matter with you? What‘s so funny?" Ram wisely refrained from answering that one.

But his battle-trained mind was working now. This situation was hardly doing his confirmation prospects any good. Even if Vikas was out of the room and oblivious of what was happening inside he would take note of the fact that Mr Bose had spoken in tones that could hardly be termed as favourable ("I am always watching you chief," Vikas would quip from time to time). The situation had to brought under control.

"So young man tell me what the f**k do you do in office? Vikas is there to handle strategic issues. And you… look at you. You can‘t even keep these simple operational issues under control?" Ram was reeling under the barrage. Mike Tyson would have been preferable at that point in time (at least he just went for your ears).

"Mr Bose you had to sign these papers," a euphonious voice disrupted the cacophony. Preethi - Mr Bose‘s curvaceously crafted assistant. With a face that even made attending outstanding meetings worthwhile. And a body that ensured that you had to cross your legs to maintain decency levels in social settings.

Preethi looked at Ram as Bose busied himself signing papers. Her eyelashes fluffed(?). She smiled at Ram. Her eyes danced as the smile played on her face. Ram could have willingly put wet fingers into a three-pin socket at that moment. "What‘s a girl like you doing in a dump like this?" he had often wanted to ask her, but somehow…

Ram watched her leave the room with the same rapt attention, as he would check dealer panels when the proofreader had gone home early. Oh that lissome walk! How he wanted to know her better. She was his oxygen in that dreary office.

Ram recovered from the sight of Preethi leaving first, in time to see saliva dribbling down Bose‘s jowls, quite like the first rains in Mumbai.

"Mister Bose," the young voice had begun with righteous and mostly jealous indignation. Mr Bose was still doing mental gymnastics in his mind with Preethi in positions you would shiver to discuss with bosom buddies. "MISTER BOSE…"

"That a very bad cold you have Mr Bose, it seems to be running away with your morals," Ram could scarcely have believed that he had uttered those words, neither could Bose.

"What?" Mr Bose began with a loud, though overwhelmingly guilt-laden voice. Ram seeing his rear portion under severe threat of diminishing exponentially expertly quipped "mouth Mr Bose. Running away with your mouth I said."

Ram could hear the deafening roar of the spectators, as he skipped that tackle with some adroitness, but the goal was still far away.

It was 10:15 am now. Mr. Bose had his weekly internal meeting scheduled for 10:30 am every Monday morning. It was a meeting that he attended with some trepidation. Usually the management of the company would sit together and discuss weekly performance (or non-performance as in the case of Mr Bose); tempers would flare; projects would be bounced; advertising strategies be questioned; and generally everyone in the room would have a good time at the expense of Mr Bose. How he hated Monday mornings!

Inevitably, Ram would bear the brunt of his frustration that he could dispense on no one else. Vikas never even picked up his phone on Monday mornings firmly stating: "You have to earn that Chief. Until then you will answer all incoming client calls on Monday mornings."

It is wonderful to observe cyclic nature of pain transference that exists within the human race. How the pain of one almost always causes another to grieve so on and so forth… So, inevitably every Monday morning, the worse Bose‘s internal meeting went, the more pain Ram would feel. Mathematicians would cursorily wave off such phenomena and attribute it to the correlation that existed between Bose‘s neck and Ram‘s rear end but it was never that simple for Ram. After all it was his rear end.

Catching Bose off guard was the light at the end of the tunnel that Ram was waiting for all century (well, have you noticed how time stands still when people are questioning your break ups on an estimate?…well similar situation).

As Bose was spending those vital seconds recovering from Preethi‘s departure and Ram‘s subtly garbed moralistic tirade (how he hated subtle things ..Bose), Ram‘s eyes began to scan the corridors for help. Fifteen decent minutes and he would be heading back to office; triumphant, looking forward to lunch; that evening puff over cutting chai‘s (tea); with all the other trainees discussing the women in office in four colour detail; and most importantly boasting to anyone who cared to listen (mostly the cabbies) how he had succeeded in once again quelling an angry client and escaping with his honour intact.

"Mistah Bose" a slow and slurred voice snapped that chain of thought that had begun to emerge in Ram‘s mind. That voice however seemed to have a magical effect on Bose. He sprang onto his feet with the speed of an account executive going after a free pass at a media party.

"Yes sir," shouted Bose, his lungs clearly making a statement about wanting to be in the marines. "Mistah Bose….?" the voice continued somewhere losing the thread of thought that had spurred it into action.

Digvijay Sharma was the chairman of the company. A brilliant man in his times (and lots of people wondered when those were), he had now lost perspective (that was in polite servicing terms). Dissenting voices murmured that he had actually lost it.

Sharma had set up the company from scratch. A very relevant pun because the company was in the business of making skin creams to cure rashes (how Ram was itching to be off the account …anyways). After taking it to the top he had found the greater meaning of life one day when a passing beam of sunlight happened to bounce off a mirror and stunned him in the face with its brightness. Which would not have been so bad had he not been crossing the street and a ten-tonne truck was tearing down the road in his direction. Some people get enlightened. Digvijay Sharma had his lights knocked out.

After months of treatment, Sharma recovered slowly, but something was missing. Closer inspection revealed that one of his ears had got chipped off. He replaced it with a metallic one. But that did not seem to be the answer. He started to live life on a different plane altogether. Still read voraciously and his mind was able to assimilate facts at a rapid rate. But the poor fellow had lost all mental co-ordination. The time span between two related comments that he made could be extrapolated accurately to that between two successive passages of the Halley‘s comet over the earth.

"Mistah Bose, did you know that nine out of ten people that sneeze on Monday mornings are not to be trusted," Sharma screamed while Bose staggered. Firstly, at the sheer surprise element of the ludicrous comment that he had just heard and secondly because he felt a sneeze coming.

"Katchoooo," Bose went - a very violent purgation of his nostrils. "Katchoo" he went yet again. This time Digvijay Singh turned his stately head in Bose‘s direction. "Mistah Bose" he gave him such a look that Bose felt as stable as an art directors resolve over increasing point size of a logo, Bose looked around helplessly.

No one met his gaze. There were only some potted plants that looked back in his direction; and though they seemed to offer solace they continued to remain rooted to the spot.

Ram was snickering under his breath and as he came up for oxygen, his eyes met with Bose‘s .. Ram saw the helplessness of a management trainee going into studio for the first time in those eyes. If Bose could have spoken then, he would have implored Ram to cause a diversion and deflect the spotlight from him. But with the boss standing right in front of him Bose decided to use his eyes to send out the SOS.

"Why are you winking Bose? Are you finding this funny?" thundered the chairman. Bose shrank even further. Ram would have bet his last dime (of course, basis clearance of his conveyance voucher) that Bose could not have shrunk further. But he did. In an effort worthy of commemorating in any space conservation exercise, Bose minimised himself to such an extent that he could easily have fitted on a postage stamp.

Ram felt a pang of pity for the man. Quite like what happens when a tiger is taking its last few breaths and even the deer gather around to shed a tear or two. He felt that his duty demanded that he do something to save Bose. All that was still human left in him, after twelve months in advertising collectively screamed "Save Bose".

Mr Sharma," he started, knowing not what would follow. The chairman spun around, the metallic ear clinking around with the motion. He looked Ram in the eye. He had never seen Ram before and would spend a total of an absolutely vital 10 seconds to give him the once over and classify him in his mind. As he was just about slotting Ram in the termite category, Ram interrupted his thought process again.

"Just an idea, Mr Sharma," the chairman‘s eyes froze on Ram. Was this kid possible of thinking? But then Digvijay Sharma gave everyone the benefit of doubt in that regard (though you doubted that it was a benefit). He had a very open mind to ideas. He even made love to people with ideas (that was based on the fact that he had married the creative director of an agency…bit stretched to apply that logic further but let it pass).

Ram began what would be a monologue: "That sneeze …set me thinking. What if we made a cream to cure people from that itchy sensation in their nose that caused sneezing? Such a product could be such a boon to people. We could save them from the social stigma of being called sneezers. People have suffered long. I knew a person once who was branded a sneezer. He never made any friends. People used to never share lunch with him because you never knew what you could end up eating."

"His luck with women lasted as long as it took to say ‘Geshundheit‘ in as kindly a tone as possible. Never could keep his eyes open long enough to indulge in those staring games so necessary in the initial phases of courtship. Always had a sneeze coming. He was cruelly dubbed an ‘Achoo‘t in college. No one went near him He never got to keep a job because he always was sneezing away important papers. Poor man I wished there was something I could have done for him," continued Ram.

"But the point is sir that there must be a lot more of these people roaming around. Hiding their faces under brown paper bags (now that you cant do much with plastic). Living in mortal dread of when the next sneeze will happen and what will be the repercussions thereof. It‘s not a fair way to live. There is much more to these people than ‘Katchoo‘ and ‘Achoo‘. They have minds of their own. They have feelings too. They have fundamental rights. They have the right to walk with their heads held high and not feel the deathly tickle of a sneeze coming. And we can do something for them, sir," concluded Ram.

Ram briefly paused at that moment. Firstly because he wanted to see whether the story was making an impact on the chairman and secondly because he felt that lots of people in the room were mentally undressing him. That, as he would know only too well, would lead to wild mirth and ridicule shortly (no pun intended on short).

The chairman‘s eyes glinted for a brief second. "Ahhhh!" Sharma started. Ram waited with baited breath. "Achooooooo" went the chairman so violently that the tremor was felt in Holland where India was taking a penalty corner and the shock wave caused the hockey team‘s stopper to miss the ball completely (now that is a totally new excuse for our failure to win the bronze medal match against Pakistan).

Bose suddenly felt like the sumo wrestler who was standing on his chest had gone to take a sushi break. He smiled. It was a truly frightening sight. Much like what it would be to see Lorenna Bobbits expression when she found the butcher knife in her kitchen. But asides the dicking around, Bose felt good about himself just then.

The chairman looked up. Preethi glided into the room again. "Sir, I need your signature on these papers," How Ram loved the way she said ‘need‘. When would she be needing him? How he was waiting for that moment.

"Bose, this young man here Shyam or something…" started Sharma.

"Ram sir... my name is Ram," quipped the victim.

Sharma continued, "Yes Shyam I got that" while Ram cursed himself for being on the metallic ear side. "Well, this boy here had some ideas about creams to seal peoples orifices or something. Wicked and ghastly I say." The chairman‘s English accent just temporarily kicking in.

"I agree, sir," said Bose, the grin on his face taking on frightening proportions.

"I like ideas young man but next time come up with something that might not make me as infamous as that mad fellow hiding in the mountains, What‘s his name?" asked Sharma.

"Bin Laden, sir. Osama Bin Laden," said Bose, the grin was breaking into a smile.

"Anyways, Bose the reason I came to see you was to tell you that this week‘s internal meeting is cancelled, though we have to meet on some other things. So come to the conference room in a while," said Sharma even as Ram looked at Bose.

Bose was aching to double up and indulge in a maniacal kind of a laugh that usually happens when the client drops your half finished, ill conceived but long overdue layout in the shredder in his eagerness to open the flap.

The chairman strode out of the room in majestic fashion. Bose lumbered off his chair like the first survivor getting up after a nuclear explosion. He stretched himself and yawned.

This was going to be a great Monday.

"Mr Verma. Mr Verma PR. Please go to the conference room," the operator droned over the intercom.

"Should we discuss the leaflet now Mr Bose?" asked Ram, knowing fully well what the answer would be.

"Mr Sinha. Mr Sinha RK. Please report to the conference room," the operator quipped in again with as much emotion as Arnold Schwarzenneger doing a romantic scene.

"Don‘t be silly… I have many more important things to do. Serious stuff like marketing. I can‘t be hanging around with a leaflet. Just meet Preethi on that," quipped Bose.

"And my estimates?" asked Ram.

"Just follow up with Preethi to get them signed," said Bose while preparing to leave.

Hmm some time to be had with the one bright spot in his morning. Ram had never felt this good about Mondays in a very long time.

Neither had Bose. Until... "Mr Bose. Mr Bose DK. Please go to the conference room," the telephone operator sounded over the intercom in her robotic style. The staff was fighting to control their laughter as Bose‘s face did the full range on an Asian Paints shade card.

Ram looked Bose in the eye. His face gave away nothing. It hurt like mad but account executives are trained to be brave. Trained to ignore great pain. Turn a blind eye to the normal human pleasures. And to keep a straight face no matter what.

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.

"Goodbye Mr Bose. And have a great meeting," said Ram before making a beeline for the door.

Vinay Kanchan - currently client services director with Everest Integrated Communications Limited. He started his career in Lintas (now Lowe). Kanchan is also a soccer freak and organises soccer games for like-minded members of the media fraternity residing in Mumbai‘s suburbs. He can be contacted at

(The views expressed here are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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