We all trooped into the conference room on the third floor. The workshop was around a table; where some fifteen chairs were arranged, more than what was required for our group.
I was grappling with my chair when in walked Mr. Rightly Said.
He was leaning politely towards Madam Um Ha and I heard him say "As you had rightly said the last time, madam; we definitely do need to proceed in that direction" I couldn't clearly catch what was being rightly said but I noticed Madam Um Ha going in the right direction; towards the conference table. "Ummmm...ha", she said and nodded her head gravely and gave one of those subtle
At the table an excited Mr. Bhat Butt was already seated with the gleam in his eyes that I have oh seen so many times. He leaned forward and I braced myself for the attack. Its a bit unfortunate that often his butting does not prevent the steady stream of wisdom that goes around in these meets. He had something to say about whatever the direction Madam Um Ha and Mr. Rightly Said were saying. He interjected; "But ... but... but... I think..." Nobody was interested in what he thought, and the conversations went further ahead.
Mr. Sex Henna was twiddling with a thick marker; rigorously pushing it in and out within his closed fist. He was quite engrossed in the activity. He was hunched up on his chair, and had a nice wise furrow on his forehead which could convince anyone that it was the bed to germinate a keen idea. He was also the most senior among all of us and so the furrow helped. He was some years beyond fifty and wore his hair; whatever little was left of it, all nicely henna dyed and spread around efficiently on an otherwise barren plate. "We need to mate one approach with the other" he finally said, looking up; pleased with himself.
Mr. Rightly Said was already seated next to Madam Um Ha. His head twitched up abruptly. He was a recent graduate from a management school, which I believe is an institution that Mr. Rightly Said holds in high regard. I have often heard him say, "As it is rightly said in my alma-mater..." But this time, he need not go all the way back to his school. He had got a candidate to direct his right conversation right there, and advance the important decisions being made. He told Mr. Sex Henna: "I have a minor difference of opinion. However, as you rightly said, we could definitely consider mating..err...connect the two approaches into one."
"What do you say, Mr SF?" he turned to me suddenly with a keen interest.
I was a rank outsider, a consultant and that too one who didn't have a management qualification and/or corporate experience. Just an architect. They often used my thoughts as the way the fast-food chaps sprinkle inconsequential toppings on a pizza base. Some people liked it that way.
I realized that I was unconsciously plucking hair from my nostrils. It was a habit of old when I had the luxury of being my own boss. I immediately started stroking my nose, crinkled my eyes; hopefully in a very wise fashion and said "Let me think about it. It may be all right".
Madam De Mure sitting next to me was squirming. She was quite demure and delicate; prone to shivers from the cold of the air-conditioner. Initially I thought that was the reason for her fidgeting, but now I realized that it may have been set off by my obsession with my nasal undergrowth. She usually didn't speak much. And she was quite adept at propping up her pretty head on the palm of one hand, and turning focusedly towards whoever who was speaking. She had also developed the knack of continuing to nod while resting her head on her palm. It gave a good impression of listening and the subtle mascara she was wearing helped. And I think the nail polish on her finger nails invariably matched her dress, and came off quite well on the texture of her skin, as she splayed her fingers across her chin.
Mr. Good Night was sitting next to Madam De Mure. He was always concerned. About her, and of course about the workshop proceedings. He is often sitting quite upright in his chair, with his head handsomely tilted at the right angle and his palms crossed at his lap, holding the air-conditioner remote away from the eyes and reach of others rocking sagely to and fro in the chair. He would usually have his eyes partly closed and would be nodding gently at whatever which is going on. He was not inattentive. I tend to think only he elected to chose the subject of his attention; the lady sitting next to him. He suddenly got up and pointed the remote towards the air-conditioner and increased the temperature slightly. Then he turned towards Madam De Mure and smiled at her and got back to his earlier position. Mr. Sex Henna glared at him.
Mr Syn-ical had his usual sneer. He was busy ignoring everyone around and was staring intently at some micro-wallpaper on his new mobile that he held in his hand for everyone to see. I saw his fingers move hurriedly on the keypad of his mobile. He caressed it effortlessly and expertly with both is hands and gave a quick glance at Mr. Should B on the opposite side of the table once he was through.
Mr. Should B had a morose look on his face. His mobile phone vibrated on the polished wooden top of the conference table but people didn't take notice. It happened often enough. He looked at it briefly, glanced across the table, gave a fleeting smile to Mr. Syn-ical across the table and continued without changing his expression: "I think it should be possible to get those officials to give us the drawings". I have rarely heard him say if he had actually got the drawings or whatever he was supposed to procure. It was always: "should be possible".
Mr. Rightly Said took charge once again. He had a booming voice and always wanted to be right in control. He spoke effectively and decisively. When he spoke everyone thought it was rightly said. Thus he started: "As rightly said by my colleague here, it should be possible to do the needful to get hold of the drawings. So let us proceed immediately on the matter and not rest till we have them in our hands"
Madam De Mure smiled subtly and nodded. Madam Um Ha hummed along. Some mobiles buzzed. Some of them squealed. Mr. Syn-ical sneered even more. Mr. Should B should be doing more but wasn't. Mr. Sex Henna was now vigorously trying to screw on the cap of the marker. Mr. Bhat Butt butted but once more. Mr. Rightly Said was never wrong; just loud. Mr. Good Night micro-managed the air conditioner.
Thus it went on and on. For four hours. In between we broke for lunch, which was a pizza for each of us and we all commented on the nice toppings. Some people liked it that way. Some work also got done, of course. But nobody wanted to state that the sketch of a nice square with little arrows coming from each side could have well been done on the white board in the first fifteen minutes.
Now, after having deliberated; discussed, analyzed and followed protocols right through a working lunch in the busy workshop, all of were satisfied with our work. We then decided to advance on the project by immediately following up with another workshop on the following day. Sometime later in the day a minutes of the meeting would float down from somewhere and land gently inside various files and folders. I am sure they would then be analyzed, scrutinized and discussed suitably later.
As we were trooping out of the building, the Delhi heat caught me and enveloped me like a fever. An air-conditioned vehicle had been booked for the workshop and was lying in wait for us. When we got in, I looked back and almost turned into a pillar of salt. Outside; a cycle-rickshaw puller was wiping his forehead after having just deposited a client at the required destination. His shirt was plastered to his back by his own sweat.