MAM

The Big Boss


By VINAY KANCHAN

The appropriators: - a tribe who give themselves the right to lord over other people, often to achieve their own ends, even when (or rather, especially when) they have been given no authority to do so. These sorts have a tannic hide which is impervious to the basic tenets of human civility. With confident overtones, unblinking eyes and unwavering resolve they simply conclude that others around them are theirs for the taking.


It was Monday morning at the office. Ram Shankar was just plotting his survival for the week when his thinking was interrupted by a crisp sounding order, delivered quite in the style of a drill sergeant talking to new recruits.

"Move Richa, move Aditya, move Shekar! And don‘t come back until all my jobs are complete."

Lokesh, the originator of that encouraging statement stood up with a smirk that was quite like the one you have when you have managed to smuggle naughty things into the theater.


Ram looked at him trying hard to put his finger on something that seemed curiously amiss when "Being a peer is such an utter loss, to make any progress one must act like the overbearing boss."

The lightning delivery of the tea cup, the hushed Chinese accent and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese tea boy) flew into a three pin socket, which kind of ‘charged‘ Ram‘s mind and then realization dawned.
Lokesh had no right to boss over the other account executives (A.E.‘s) that were currently scurrying around in frenzy in the office. He was at the very same level. Yet, somehow he had elevated himself above them without needing a change in visiting cards. Ram felt there was great learning here. "Hey Lokesh, can I speak to you for a moment?" Ram asked with the enthusiastic fervor of a young disciple finding his way.Lokesh glanced in his direction, gave him an extremely condescending once over and replied, "If you need to speak to me you come over here."

Oblivious to the little ‘power play‘ that had just happened; Ram innocently trudged off in his direction."What is it?" asked Lokesh, in a manner that seemed to suggest that the intrusion was far from welcome.
Ram knew to find the truth he would have to be a little tactful.
"I was just watching you, and the way you seem to command respect is just inspiring, I was wondering if you could teach me how you do that?" Ram‘s tone was humble, his hands and mind were suitably postured in a ‘knowledge seeking‘ pose.
Lokesh softened a bit; flattery was always his Achilles heel. "Ok, what the heck, sit over here," he motioned to a chair by his side, but significantly lower that his own.Ram sat down beside Lokesh. Eyes, ears and other relevant orifices wide open. "Rule one - people are basically scared and directionless, they need to look up to somebody, they are blind to the path unless it is screamed down upon them." Lokesh paused for a minute to let that sink in as he stroked his chin in a Cheshire cat like manner.

"But you are getting them to do your own work, how is that helping them in any way?" asked Ram, cautiously keeping his tone reasonably humble.
Lokesh glared back at him a trifle miffed, and then relenting a bit he answered. "Most of these poor sorts don‘t even know where their job starts and mine ends, I am merely giving them a sense of basic purpose that is manifested at a primal level in excessive physical activity, or running around like mad dogs in your parlance."

Ram gaped at the wonderfully complex use of words that had just been hurled his way; his jaw apparently had dropped visibly because Lokesh chose to say."Of course you have to conduct and speak in a manner that is a few years beyond your current position obviously, not a job for everyone," he finished with a superior chuckle that didn‘t exactly do much for Ram‘s morale.


At that moment Lokesh cautiously spotted Shekhar lurking near his cubicle, shooting furtive glances in Lokesh‘s direction as if he was in need of some help or clarification. Lokesh glared back at him in a manner that would have easily curdled milk and Shekhar quickly vanished in a work related direction. "Another important thing, I never entertain clarifications, takes away too much of my time, let the sods learn on their own." "What if they make a mistake?" Ram Shankar wanted to know. "Then I give them hell, many of them won‘t be able to sit for a few days I reckon," said Lokesh, exploding loudly with laughter at the same time, causing his ‘underlings‘ to glance nervously in his direction. "But don‘t their real bosses have any clue about this?"
Lokesh paused; in the manner in which an ace gambler freezes time just before he is going to throw down his cards (well at least the movies have painted it that way)

"Rule two - make friends with all your victims‘ bosses, bad mouth your prey to the extent that the fellow feels that he has a wasted case on his hands and will actually want very little to do with them. Then offer your service in terms of training these no hopers. You will be surprised to learn that hardly any of the bosses want to spend time improving the weaknesses of their subordinates, they would rather indulge in other more fulfilling things."
"Like long lunches and gossip?" Ram Shankar could not contain himself.Lokesh icily looked at him in a manner that suggested that no further such comments would be welcome.
Ram quickly felt the need to get back to the subject at hand. "And how does this help your career?" Lokesh had a kindly indulgent expression on his face. Like that of a Jedi master revealing to his young protégé the intricacies of the force. "Rule three- senior management loves a take charge person, not necessarily a person who does the work, but more often one who is seen to be having things under control, I maintain that illusion and all is well with my career path. From shooting off instructions to everyone, even at my same level, and sometimes even people who are not concerned with the project, I create a myth of leadership around myself that most people readily buy into. It‘s not about what you are designated, it‘s more about what you feel you can influence. A designation is just a crutch that the weak use to get their way. And in the end we are in the business of managing perception. I have successfully managed to divorce perception from actual performance."Ram was soaking in Lokesh‘s wisdom, when his army came swarming back."All jobs complete?" interrogated Lokesh."Yes!" they all replied in unison in a rather painfully trained manner.

"Ok rest for fifteen minutes and come back here; no one is to be a single minute late. You are allowed to drink water and use the rest room for nature‘s calls. Just make sure you don‘t miss mine."

The hapless account executives trailed off towards their seats, Lokesh made eye contact with their bosses and exchanged gestures that seemed to suggest that it was all going according to plan.
Just then the President materialized before them, broad smile and eyes slightly heavy from the previous nights excesses."Hey Lokesh I needed you to action that new project, you were supposed to get back to me with the findings of the little dipstick research that you were going to do."

"Sir, I have put Ram on the job, he will be reporting to me on that. Will make him do thirty interviews today itself, have even spoken to Vikas (Ram‘s boss) about it and he has agreed to Ram‘s participation. Don‘t worry we will review Ram‘s questionnaire in half an hour, then we send him out."

The President looked at Lokesh with adoring eyes; he thumped his back rather severely. But Lokesh sustained his grin."That‘s what we need, more guys like you, people who run things and assume leadership. Every organization needs leaders at all levels and I‘m happy that we have you. Ram, you should learn to be more like him."He proceeded to squeeze Lokesh in a python like manner and then quickly slithered away.
Ram began slowly recovering from the stark humiliation of being caught with his pants at ankle level."So you did the same number on me?"

"Why not? You are just another A.E. I had already spoken to Vikas about you and spoken about how you seem so directionless and unmotivated at all times and he thought you should work on this with me, now you know what to do, so get going, the President and I will review your questionnaire in half an hour."Lokesh strolled off for a smoke, casually waving to the news channels that were covering his every movement (or so he would have liked to imagine)
Ram trudged back to his cubicle, less motivated than he had ever been (if that was actually possible)."Never seek knowledge that is not of good intent, for the tables can easily turn and cause you discontent."
The hushed oriental tone, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La had morphed into the first question on Ram‘s yet to be created questionnaire. It read ‘Do you believe that you can dig your own grave?‘


The writer is Vice President, Rediffusion DY&R. He is also the patron saint of Juhu Beach United, a football club that celebrates the ‘unfit, out of breath media professional of  Today‘. You can write to him at (vinaykanchan@hotmail.com).


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

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