Party-time manoeuvres: Wait until dark...


The office party - commonly mistaken by most as an excuse to get drunk at the boss‘ expense. However that is as far from the truth as the perfume industry is from a skunk. The party actually is a forum where if you can take advantage of the darkness and the drunken state of most people, you can make some of the most important moves of your career.

What the ‘hic‘ did I just say?

"Listen up guys!" the president‘s voice boomed in the corridors, scaring all the people crammed in the conference room trying to take a peek at the score - and sending them scurrying off in directions that might look work-related. "Come over here all of you," that remark added a new sense of direction to their motions and they all began moving towards the reception.

There was tension writ large over everyone‘s faces (in Times New Roman). It was the year-end and the agency was not doing too well, so people feared the worst. This was another classic opportunity for one of those ‘bonding‘ parties (an opportunity not as yet explored by Fevicol). And that thought was terrifying.

"We are having a party tonight at my house. All of you are invited. Try and make it." There was a loud thud as 97 faces fell (excluding Vikas, Sarita and the president)

"When you miss a big boss party, fate worse than facing Bruce Lee with nan-chaku," Chai-La (the Chinese canteen tea boy) whispered in Ram‘s ears as he whizzed by doing his 11 am tea tour.

"Hey chief aren‘t you excited? This is your first office party." Vikas chirped, as he came and sat himself down on Ram‘s chair (the boss‘ comfort advantage - your chair is my chair).

"Well..." Ram was going to start on his sorry list of complaints when an irritatingly melodious voice broke into the conversation with the incisiveness of a cheerleader finding her way through a gay parade.

"Hey Vikas lets go to the party together. I don‘t know the place," Sarita (Ram‘s cubicle mate and fellow AE) crooned tilting her head at just the right angle and batting her eyelids like a housefly was playing hockey in them.

"Sure" quipped Vikas. Their eyes locked in a moment that Ram was unable to decode.

"So Ram are you going to drink at the party?" Partha, Ram‘s ‘conveyance clearing nemesis‘ from accounts, asked as Ram was studiously relieving himself in the loo.

"I don‘t know," Ram answered not looking away from the business at hand.

"Tchaaahhh" Partha spouted with contempt. "If you are not going to drink you should not be in advertising."

"What‘s drinking got to do with advertising?" Ram asked, trying as hard as possible to keep his tone civil, after all this man controlled his money supply (known in account executive parlance as ‘voucher capital‘).

"Everything. In the old days, all the AEs used to drink like fishes, they used to take clients out drinking, sometimes even the finance, servicing and creative guys used to go together. There used to be booze flowing in the office in the evenings, business was great, collections were even better, I am sure the fact that we had so many people who drank had something to do with our good fortunes then," concluded Partha as he synchronised the termination of his bladder draining activity with the end of his sentence.

"But don‘t you think that the industry has changed in the last few years, things have got much tighter and that‘s the reason we aren‘t doing as well as we used to?" Ram asked, watching Partha blow his nose like a howitzer in the sink. Partha looked up with an almost kindly smile (if such a thing was actually possible with the finance department). "You are still a bachcha in this agency. You will learn slowly."

Ram had spent the balance part of the day trying to avoid any further conversations about parties and his drinking capabilities with old-timers.

At around 6 pm the office began to clear out. The first to leave were the studio and the accounts department. "These guys think that the booze will run out if they go late. That is so stupid," Mark, the media operations guy told Ram, as they were locked in a phonetic frenzy trying to get an urgent advertisement through for the next day in the local newspaper.

"Well if everyone turns up that‘s a likely possibility," observed Ram quietly.

Mark put down the receiver with the reflexes of a man just back from a month-long vacation (that‘s me incidentally). "I am going. I‘ll be damned if they beat me to the whisky this time."

"But the release for tomorrow?"

"You handle it. Call me on my cell if there is a problem. I owe you a drink."

"But I don‘t drink."

"Then a pass to this media party happening next week. The crowd is going to be rocking there..."

Mark had touched a soft spot. He did not even wait for Ram‘s answer. With the speed of a creative director taking the credit for his junior‘s idea he was away.

Ram glanced around the office. The creative guys were still there. Half of them were playing computer games or chatting (the official agency sport), the other half was trying to get some pending work done.

PP (the creative director) was shouting obscenities at all of them in an effort to get them to improve their work. Furiously twirling his moustache (a trademark PP move), scowling at servicing (the ones not yet at the party) asking them to go and satisfy themselves sexually (you know what I mean) when they were bringing up last minute jobs.

Ram asked Sonya (the creative trainee) as he passed her on his way to pick up the release order, "Why don‘t you leave for the party? You don‘t have work." Sonya looked at him with amusement "Its only 6. I am not going there before 9.30."

"Why?" asked Ram with his typical ‘trainee yet to be confirmed‘ innocence.

"Because the later you go, the more importance people give you," she finished. Then spotting that some of her colleagues had eyed her making small talk with some of the ‘village people‘ (basically servicing) she proceeded to look straight through Ram with the ‘warmth‘ of an airhostess (isn‘t an airhostess a glorified ‘plane‘ jane anyway?)

Trying to find comfort in his own kind Ram scouted the entire office but Vikas and Sarita were nowhere to be seen.

Ram reached the party at 10 pm. After personally delivering the material to the publication (the dispatch boys had shooed him off). He politely rang the bell. It was quite a while before Vikas opened the door with Sarita draped on him like an external organ.

"Hey Chief! What took you so long?" Vikas ushered Ram in. The president came over and thumped Ram‘s back. "Where is your drink?" he roared. "Sir I don‘t..."

"What do you mean you don‘t drink? What kind of an advertising professional are you anyway?" He thundered on with righteous indignation. Vikas was chuckling all the time and given the umbilical connection so was Sarita.

A familiar vice whispered in Ram‘s ear "Just hold a glass you don‘t have to drink. The famous Chinese philosopher Noseeme said ‘appear to do what others want and you will never have your tea cup empty." Before he could turn around Chai-La had teleported himself to the balcony with his drinks tray.

Ram made his way to the makeshift bar. The music was deafening. Nearly the entire agency was on the dance floor crammed in like commuters on a Virar fast. As Ram watched them from the bar it was almost like they were engaged in a pitched battle from an epic movie, with all that wild flapping of arms, legs, heads and more interesting parts.

"Aha I see that you have your drink in hand. That‘s great!" the president said as he strolled over for a refill. "Let me taste that." he snatched Ram‘s glass from him and gulped the entire contents down like an Olympic diver, coming up for air only after 10 seconds.

"That was wicked... I sure underestimated you. You seem like a hard core drinker. I think I like you. But teach me how to make that concoction you just had," the president staggered away, extolling the virtues of Ram‘s potent mixture that he had just sampled, to all and laundry (actually sundry but I am a bit inebriated right now.)

Ram looked at his glass in amazement. He was just having Apple juice. "As the famous English music group named after an insect once said, ‘let it be‘! " Chai-La whispered as he whizzed by stirring all the drinks in the wake of his supersonic slipstream.

Ram accepted that sagely advice and stopped all contemplation over his turn of good fortune. He shifted his gaze to the dance floor. Sarita was still glued to Vikas, PP was shouting more than he was dancing. Partha was staggering as if reeling from a succession of broken marriages. Someone had spilled his guts right in the center of the room but the dancing had not stopped. People were just making small adjustments in their dance steps to avoid stepping on it. And that sight was truly hilarious, something I could not (v)omit.

Sonya strolled over to him, hair disheveled, glass in hand, and busy messaging someone on the cell phone.

"Why aren‘t you dancing?" she asked Ram not even looking up from her messaging activities.

"I can‘t dance."

"Do you think anyone on the floor can?"

"I am not even drunk."

"Stop making silly excuses," said Sonya, still pressing buttons at a frantic pace.

"Would you like to dance?" she asked still not establishing any eye contact.

Ram‘s heart started doing cartwheels. His pulse began to pound loudly. So much so that he felt that it was taking over the sound system. This was his very first time. He knew he had to be careful. And wear the right protection. But it was all too much for him to think about just then, as he led Sonya to the dance floor. He was walking quickly and his instincts were so dulled by the emotion of the moment that he did not notice the deposit on the floor.

Ram suddenly felt his legs give way. He felt himself sliding - and to his horror he saw what was beneath and his entire ‘defense from embarrassment‘ mechanisms took over. In one magic moment he prevented the fall. But he was still sliding and to stop that he used the frame of Partha as a brake.

The dynamics of the situation aside, his momentum disturbed the equilibrium of Partha. Partha staggered forward realizing that he was going to fall. He needed desperately to hang on to something. He found the closest something that he hung onto for dear life.

The mayhem in the room was silenced by a scream that shattered all the windowpanes of the street.

Partha looked up partially blinded by the sound. He looked up to see Sarita‘s face and then saw to his horror what he had held onto (I cant really dwell on the exact details of that since this is a column for family reading but suffice to say that those were the only ‘assets‘ preventing his downfall.)

"You filth..." Sarita started with the most positive remark that she had made about the finance department in a while, but Ram was sure it would all go downhill from there.

It did.

If ever there was a case for light travelling faster than sound here was it. Ram saw Partha drop on the floor with his hand clutching his face, right in the middle of you know what, and then he heard the thunderclap.

"You swine. I will see to it that you are sacked from the organisation"

There was complete silence at the party now. The music had been turned off. People had stopped dancing (there went Ram‘s moment) and all eyes were on Partha and Sarita.

"It was a mistake. I fell..."

"Don‘t lie. I have seen you giving me the eye many times..."

"Stop flattering yourself you idiot."

"Look at the gall of the man. He hangs on to my (beeped out) in public and he still is talking like he has done nothing," Sarita was in tears now, causing all the other women‘s eyes to moisten in a sublime bonding moment. "I will get you sacked," she screamed.

"Go do what you can, let‘s see" Partha stood up, the contents of someone else‘s stomach still very much on his shirt, and stormed out of the place. So did the rest of the finance department. So did studio and dispatch not so much because they liked Partha as for the reason that they all hated Sarita.

Ram looked at Sonya she was in tears. "Hello! Why are you crying? ...That pig."

"Hey, it was a mistake. He just slipped."

"I thought you were different but you men are all the same. All you can think about is that thing."

Sonya walked out without shedding further light on ‘that‘ thing, made a few calls and got picked up in a BMW.

The president strolled over to Vikas. He had watched the entire incident unfold without much comment.

"Let‘s call it a day, we can discuss this tomorrow. I don‘t want any further hassles because of this incident. I think we need to give Sarita a 25 per cent extra raise to smooth over the matter and maybe even a promotion."

"Yes that seems the right way to resolve the matter. Don‘t worry I will speak to her about this tomorrow and settle it once and for all," said Vikas in his usual cherubic manner.

Sarita returned from the bathroom escorted by a bevy of women. Ram went up to her and as the group departed they stood together alone waiting for Vikas.

"Hey Sarita... I am sorry about what happened but I must tell you that it was a mistake Partha did not..."

"Save it Ram, I know what happened," said Sarita, her tears had miraculously dried up and there was an eerie kind of smile on her face, the kind a preying mantis flashes before eating its victim.

"You mean..."

"I saw you stumble and push him but I never liked the guy and now I have him where I want him plus what do you know I might get something more as well."

"But that is so wrong..."

"And if you tell anyone else about this I can pull you into this as well. After all you pushed him. But don‘t worry, sweetie, I like you so I won‘t, just keep your mouth shut."

Sarita was looking distinctly evil. Ram thought he saw a ‘666‘ flash on her digital watch just for a moment.

Vikas returned and escorted Sarita out to his car, Ram slowly followed still in a daze.

"I am never going into that department again," said Sarita back in tears, what a talent!

"Don‘t worry Sarita, Ram will get done whatever you need from accounts. Won‘t you Ram? And I don‘t want to hear any excuses or find that there are delays happening..."

Ram knew the next few days would be worth looking forward to ...for the accounts department.

He sat in the car and was looking down to fasten his seat-belt when a familiar voice whispered, "Better wear a chastity belt next week when you make venture into account department."

Ram looked up just in time to see Chai-La become one with the spirit of an Absolut Vodka bottle.

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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