True Lies…


The interview - A ritual marked by creative distortions of the truth, right from the time you excuse yourself from the job to hop across town for the meeting, to the accent you acquire miraculously in the cab on the way, to the achievements you claim that seem to make you the most exciting prospect in the business this side of the equator culminating in the star studded cast you introduce as your references. The only factor that balances this process and helps it attain equilibrium is that your interviewer has no reason not to follow suit.

"Vikas, I need to go home early today. My mother is very ill and I need to take her to the doc," cooed Sarita, using her most disarming tone (pick any from a list of 17 variations).
Vikas (their boss) murmured his approval and went back to what he did best, staying out of everyone‘s way.

Ram was busy sorting out his day and had not apportioned any importance to this exchange until he was shaken out of his artwork induced reverie by the familiar voice of wisdom.

"Old Chinese Proverb… when mother is ill, person with ill mother is usually seeking new place for employment." Ram‘s mouth opened in a gasp of amazement only to be stuffed with a biscuit as Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) vanished into an early morning job list.

Sarita strolled over to Ram and coyly tugged at his tie in the unmistakable manner of ‘I need a favor.‘ "Ram will you be a dear and handle my jobs for me? I really must be…."

"You are going for an interview aren‘t you?" Sarita‘s grip on the tie tightened "What rubbish…"

Ram would have liked to answer but he was sort of ‘tied‘ up.
Rescue came from an unexpected quarter. The bastion of unfettered depression in the agency. The old cynical hand.

"There is a glow of an unearthly kind on your face Sarita," he interjected with a lecherous sneer that ripped through souls, clothes and tamper proof containers and left scalding marks.

"What are you implying you creep, and how much do you know?" Sarita‘s face was red enough to be used for a 100 per cent magenta color reference.

"Well," began the old cynical hand in trademark lethargic style, pausing for a deep breath before he began, "The new business suit. The glow from the trip to the parlor. The need to leave office early. The evidence is stacked against you Sarita. You might as well come clean," he concluded triumphantly pausing for air again, talking or any activity as such was a strain on his system.

"Ok," muttered Sarita clearly relieved that the conversation had not gone into other ‘pregnant‘ possibilities. She looked at Ram and said, "Just handle my jobs today and I will give you a complete run down on what happened."

"Me too," commented the old cynical hand rather wryly and laboriously made his way back to his cubicle stopping on the way to get a bit of glucose into his system to keep from passing out.

The next morning Ram found the old cynical hand in his cubicle. Bright and early and full of energy (ok I exaggerated on the last bit). Ram‘s eyes shot up in a quizzical expression but as usual the old cynical hand had all the answers.

"She was going to tell us…"

"Ah," said Ram, as his memory chips kicked in. He looked across to Vikas‘s cabin and saw Sarita there sitting on Vikas‘s table and covering her tracks from the previous day‘s exploits.

"And then you know the doctor said I needed to get a CAT scan done for my mother and that really freaked me out, I was not going to let any animals near my sick mother. Not after my father‘s death, not that I mean that my father was a…"

Ram turned his attention back to his new cubicle tenant.
"I have always wanted to ask you. What department do you belong to?"

The old cynical hand‘s face suddenly broke into a smirk (in super slow motion of course) "Cynicism is not the domain of any department. It‘s just a state of mind."

Boss under her ‘mayajaal,‘ Sarita popped into Ram‘s cubicle. She liked an audience and she liked to talk (that‘s why they had hired her in the first place)

"Well boys what do you want to know?"

"Depends on what you are willing to tell" chortled the old cynical hand quite chuffed with himself. "Tell us what happened at the interview," Ram quickly interjected not wanting the old cynical hand to stay in his cubicle a single minute more than was necessary.

"Well, firstly I arrived there an hour late" started Sarita only to be interrupted by a puzzled Ram.

"But you left here very early then how come?"

"Silly you have to make them feel that you are drowning in work. Besides if they say a time they make you wait at least for half an hour, else people will think they are ‘vela‘ "
"That‘s why it‘s called Indian Substandard Time. IST. Get it?" said the old cynical hand, finding his comment so funny that he nearly choked on his own laughter.

"Continue," Ram requested, not wanting to humor the old cynical hand

"I had to then change my accent a bit."

"Whatever for? You speak so well."

"Well silly it‘s a multinational agency."

Ram didn‘t know what to make of that and in a rare moment of humanity the old cynical hand let that one pass.

"So assume that from now on all my answers are in that crisp English tone that Julia Roberts uses in Erin Brockovich"
"But she is American…"

The old cynical hand stopped Ram; he seemed fascinated by the movement of Sarita‘s lips.

He nodded her on. Sarita as usual required very little encouragement to exercise her vocals.

"You know he talked a lot. We spoke for so long, nearly one and a half hours I think. I feel he really liked me. Let me try and see if I remember everything."

"Firstly he asked me what are my key strengths… so I said I work hard (or hardly work Ram thought) but work smart (yeah by delegating it to me or Vikas), have a great rapport with client (who only swears at you once a day) and with creative (who swear more often), I can multitask effectively (like chatting on the net and applying nail polish at the same time) and above all I am a very good ideas person (especially when it comes to new ones for avoiding work)…"
Ram was shocked with himself. He was getting more and more like the old cynical hand.

Sarita however was on a roll oblivious to the dissection of her answers that was taking place.

"Then we chatted some more about what I do in my free time and things like that, sweet guy. Then when I was not really expecting it he asked me what my achievements over the past year were?"

"Getting the client so angry that he nearly switched the agency," said the old cynical hand in his new helpful avatar.

"Silly that was just a misunderstanding"

"Yeah he misunderstood when you told him that to see his disk crash he had to throw his laptop from the seventh floor."

Sarita brushed aside the barb with the adroitness of a veteran film producer ignoring a query on his cost estimate.
"I told them I was responsible for providing the direction for the new creative that is taking place on the anti rash cream. The agency was having a problem until I cracked the brief."

"Hey that‘s my account. You had nothing to do with that" Ram could not stop the huge trace of anger that had crept into his voice. In fact it could nearly be called an angry tone.

"But I was there in the conference room when the brief was cracked."

"You had merely come in to get Vikas‘s signature on an estimate."

"Well let‘s just say that I inspired everyone. Besides I could think of nothing else then. C‘mon yaar don‘t be so stuck up its not that far away from the truth."

"Only as far as a Mumbai cab driver is from making it to the formula one circuit," concluded the old cynical hand.

"Wait," said Ram, who prided himself on his sporting acumen, "that isn‘t that difficult."

"Sorry wrong analogy," the old cynical hand smiled back, though it took a while for the smile to form on his face by which time the audience had moved on and the purpose of it all was lost.

Sarita hated it when the spotlight was off her. She clapped for a passing equipment guy to bathe her in torchlight. Thus enlightened she continued.

"Anyway he was mighty impressed, and then we chatted for a bit more. He finally asked for my references. So I told him PP, our creative director, some friends I have at the client end, and KK the award winning creative director of our rival agency."

"PP doesn‘t like you."

"I m sure he won‘t call him. Nobody calls people from your own agency."

"And KK? He doesn‘t know you from Adam‘s."

"Well I told that guy KK and I think alike."

"What in the world?"

"We did dance together at the Abby night. And we seemed to be doing the same steps."

Ram knew it was a lost battle.

"What did he finally say?"

"He said he was very impressed and that he would call me in a week‘s time, with my offer letter."

"What was his name?"

"Mr Surinder Sharma."

Those words brought back the old cynical hand, who had slipped into a zombie like trance, to life. There was an evil glint in his eyes.

"Overweight kind of guy? Really old fashioned dress sense?"


"Adjusts his tie every time he talks?"

"Yes. I think he did that a lot."

"Did not have machine tea had tea ordered from outside?"

"Yes. I found that weird. Hey do you know him."

The old cynical hand began laughing. It was a bit like seeing two blue whales go about a necking exercise, labored and tiring to look at.

"He he he he," the old cynical hand paused for air and life. "He is my counterpart in that agency. He just meets people for fun. Actually he has no social life and that‘s the only way he gets to meet people, especially pretty girls. In fact rumor has it that he doesn‘t even work there any more."

The loud thud was Sarita‘s face falling to the floor. "I hate your sick, perverted, old buzzardly kind. You and your type must be thrown out," she was seething with anger.

"Steady there girl, I handle your salary. You don‘t want it missing a zero this month do you? Or missing completely?" The old cynical hand got up with the speed of Real Madrid‘s defense reacting to a goal threat and lumbered off in a direction that could not be named.

"Can he really do that?" Sarita worriedly asked Ram.

"Relax" said Ram ever willing to act the hero "he was just bluffing."

"What department does he work in?"

"It‘s not a department. It‘s only a state of mind" Ram said with an almost sagely expression on his face. How he cherished the few opportunities he could put gyan back into the system.

"What goes around comes around," Ram heard those wise words being whispered in his ears, saw a tea cup magically appear in his hands and just caught a glimpse of Chai-La disappearing into the list of references on Ram‘s resume.

After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest, the author is in the midst of a break to mentally prepare himself for the challenges of Euro 2004 and the Athens Olympic Games. 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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