MAM

Trapped!


By VINAY KANCHAN

Meeting (refer ‘cul de sac‘) - inspired somewhat by the concentration camp model employed by the Third Reich, a process which involves trapping people in a room, blocking off their contact with the civilized world, occasionally supplying the hostages with stimulants to keep them just at the fringe of life and then draining the life force out of them by setting pointless agendas and asking meaningless questions. The gassing of the participants was ruled out because management thinkers figured it was far greater fun to watch people suffer by making them participate.

"Man was making great progress until the devil created the perfect management tool to stop him… Meetings."

Ram heard these wise words of wisdom being whispered in his ears and looked up just in time to see Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) disappear into a meeting agenda sheet. The warm potion woke him up as he stared bleary eyed around the room. They had been locked in there for hours, and by the looks of it things had not really moved anywhere. Even the teacups were religiously maintaining their positions.


"Can someone please tell me what we are here to discuss?" implored a tired PP, too exhausted even to twirl his trademark handlebar moustache. This clearly was not his sort of thing. Vikas (Ram‘s boss) had been waiting for that question all day.


"We are gathered here to take stock of why we need to meet more often on this account. All people concerned, from client to all departments in the agency. We need to ensure that we all are singing from the same page. We need to ensure we are moving forward seamlessly towards our goal. We need to regiment our diverse actions into a method of systems and processes that will ensure optimum productivity." Vikas paused to glance down at his watch and realized that he could get in another cliché. "Swift strokes will smoothly cut through the water and rapidly power us forth."


Everyone was awestruck by the sheer absurdity of that statement and then…


"What?" PP hollered nearly blowing everyone‘s head off. "Is the agency actually paying you to spout such utter rubbish?"


To Ram‘s utter surprise Mr Bose (the client) jumped to Vikas‘s rescue. "I agree with him, that‘s a great idea Vikas," murmured Mr Bose, clearly pleased with the fact that he was spending as much time away from his oppressively eccentric boss that Monday morning.


Mondays were generally rough on Mr Bose. The chairman of the company queried him incessantly on the status of various jobs, on and below his radar, and usually Mr Bose would be left groping in the dark for most answers.


"That predicament (groping in the dark) is great for most of your nocturnal activities, but doesn‘t really help us in running the marketing of an organization," the chairman would boom in the corridors, often to Mr Bose‘s embarrassment.


Mr Bose had seen one more such embarrassing situation popping up that day and hence on the previous Friday asked Vikas to organize a meeting to discuss operations and procedures.


Vikas, being the ‘wonderfully crafty servicing rascal‘ that he was knew exactly what was wanted. So he shot out a mail to all and sundry that they would have to block Monday for a very important client meeting and then followed it up with a 27-point agenda that no person having a semblance of sanity about him/her would have finished reading. Net result was that the conference room was packed with nearly everyone.


"Stop indulging him Mr Bose, we are wasting a day here and the effect will be felt on all of your jobs," said PP, resuming his ongoing ‘love‘ affair with Vikas. "Why are we here? And what is meant to be discussed?"


Vikas knew that there was no real answer to that question. The meeting ran the risk to ending as quickly as the Indian innings if he answered that honestly. He needed to divert the conversation to a topic where PP would forget the question that he had posed and give him a clear window of at least an hour of participation. He knew just what to say next.


"We are here firstly to establish more control over the creative process. Many times what you deliver comes as a complete surprise to all of us. Is there a system which we could evolve that might make this…"


Vikas was stopped mid sentence as he expected he would be.


"What the f@#$ing hell are you talking about? I don‘t get any kind of brief from you fellows; on top of that every piece of work is wanted yesterday. What am I supposed to do? Share ideas in the middle of the night…"


Vikas leant forward like he was listening intently, but as Ram knew by now he had switched off. Task achieved he knew that the meeting was now in cruise control and he would not require to make any kind of intervention for the next hour and a half at least. He could use that time constructively to figure out whom he could target next.


PP was in his element now, he was standing and spouting all his hate and distrust for clients and servicing in a manner that would have done Eminem proud.


"You fellows don‘t know your …" as his tirade continued on and on, until he began pausing for breath much like an unfit account executive stops to recharge his batteries when he is being given the run around in studio.


"Another ten minutes," Vikas told himself.
Ram kept his head down trying to avoid eye contact. He knew that danger was approaching. While the rest of the room stared in rapt attention at PP, Ram knew Vikas‘s gaze would fall on him as PP began to taper off. He needed a diversion.


Rashmi, the head of media on the account was sitting right in front of him. Innocently oblivious to what would happen next. Ram knew little of her, as she had recently joined, bar the fact that she loved to talk and never made a point unless it was twelve sentences long. An ideal person to take the baton on from PP. Ram began drumming his fingers on the table just loud enough to break her thought process and cause her to look up.


Vikas‘s gaze was sweeping across the room like a tractor beam and locked into her innocent gaze. She smiled back at him like a helpless goat tries to charm a tiger out of making it the next agenda on the menu-with the same success rate.


"Well thanks PP for making your opinion felt and heard. I guess we have addressed the creative process, Rashmi what do you think must be done on the media front? In this rapidly evolving and continually changing media game how do we ready ourselves to stay on top of the business? Are we geared for it today?"


Ram always marveled at how Vikas made everything sound so important that they actually felt at times that they were responsible for world peace.


Rashmi let out a small inward groan; she knew that the question was an utterly redundant one. But nonetheless was one that she could not dismiss off cursorily, at least not when she had just joined the agency.


She paused collecting her thoughts and then launched the offensive.
"Well it has been a question of reach for our brands. Namely trying to reach either servicing or the client whenever there has been a media decision that needs to be taken. And you guys somehow never seem to return any calls, mails or messages. Are we treating media with the respect that it deserves? Considering that‘s the place where the major part of the budget is spent? Or are we just plain scared because we don‘t nunderstand it?"


Vikas was slightly taken aback by her overzealous participation. He had avoided all contact with her since she had joined, as she was prone to asking too many intelligent questions, too many questions that involved numbers. How Vikas hated numbers, except anything involving 7 (but that‘s another story).


"Thanks Rashmi, but that‘s the agenda for yet another meeting. You have probably tabled a very valid point and we rightly should address that at a separate meeting. Lets mark out next Monday to discuss that," said Vikas using the standard ‘don‘t know what to say so will set up meeting ‘maneuver.


Mr Bose was actually smiling, tasting the pure joy of yet another Monday away from the office. Life was getting better.


"Sometimes things are worse, when you look up. Sometimes it is better to look down on things than to look up" for once those wise words of wisdom spoken in that trademark Chinese accent made no sense to Ram. As he felt the teacup nestle in his hand, he looked up trying to find Chai-La, only to find Vikas‘s gaze locked on him. Bummer!


"Now lets ask the young Ram Shankar, what we need to do to streamline operations on this account?"


There was a hushed silence in the room as all eyes turned to Ram. He felt his stomach cringe. His throat went dry. Somewhere in the background he felt he could hear the high pitch of Chai-La‘s wild cackling laughter.


This was going to be a very long day.


After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In additiion to that he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact 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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