Sunday, September 05, 2010

Master of Sermon

A common ritual in most organizations is the periodic congregations of motley group of people where a wise man talks and the wiser men sleep. It comes in various flavours like conference, meeting, training, etc. The sizes vary, venues change, topics differ, but the proceedings remain largely the same. Time, while ushering in a few changes, buttressed some practices.

Like globalization flattened the world, technology flattened the audience. Earlier, those with spectacles had a differential undue advantage in the act of sleeping without being noticed. Thicker their glasses, greater the refractive index and better the cover. Thanks to the powerpoint presentations, these days all the lights are dimmed and irrespective of whether you have the cover of glasses or not, one can sleep in utmost peace.

There are other things that are immune from time. The stupidity of Sidhu’s jokes, length of Sawant’s skirt and refreshments served in a meeting. It is always a tea and biscuits. No coffee. No lemonade, even if it blazing hot outside and the AC is dead. And the biscuits always have to be Krackjack. As if it is a compromise formula between plain biscuits and salted ones. Cream biscuits must have been prohibited because they trigger an insatiable urge to separate the biscuits and lick the cream and the ensuing danger of the cream sticking to the tip of the nose. Not a very amusing sight for the speaker.

Occasionally, once in 12 years, an epicurean becomes in-charge of the arrangements and you would be served a samosa. Though such a change is welcome for the audience, it puts the speaker into a predicament. The aroma of the potato filling wades through the air and reaches the nostrils of the speaker. The sight of people gorging onto samosa makes it appear to the speaker more delicious than it actually is. Though he wants to dispassionately continue his sermon on the chosen topic with the dedication of celibate, the coordinated messages from his visual and olfactory nerves, allure him towards the seductive samosa.  Finally, succumbing to the sensual being in him, he decides to indulge himself. To avoid the embarrassment of appearing too eager to eat the samosa, he beckons the audience to have the samosa and says, “Please have”. It is almost a murmur. By now most of them are done with their samosa and are singularly watching him eat his. More embarrassment.

Snacks eaten. Tea Drunk. The small bottle of water also emptied. SMSs jokes received, read and forwarded. All possible activities that could be performed on chair have been exhausted. What next? Time to take a walk i.e. visit the loo. Those who are too lazy, decide to doze off. The speaker now feels the raising psychological pressure to force him declare a break. After spending a week preparing those 70 slides, he watches to his utter horror that he has barely managed to complete seven. It has always baffled me how did he aspire to complete 70 slides in two hours in the first place. Wasn’t he an audience in many such gatherings before graduating to a speaker? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Finally, when he sees a yawn that would put a hippopotamus to shame, he declares a break.

Voila! The moribund room springs to life. Everyone is up and gather outside the hall. Gathering offers a wonderful opportunity for sociologists to study group behavior. The conservatives take the opportunity to pay obeisance to the seniors. They religiously surround a senior officer and reverentially reminisce about the glorious period when they had the fortune to work under him. It must be noted that the period could be as short as a day when they were both on an invigilation duty for an internal evaluation exam.

The liberals prefer forming groups with those of the same rank. They mock at the conservatives who chose to be with their erstwhile bosses. Their talk is characterized by a nihilistic view of the world in general and organization in particular. The voices are loud and intonation sarcastic.

The rules of engagement, however, are something that remains same for both the groups. While talking to those of the same rank, rant about the boss. While talking to those of higher rank, complain about the staff. If you are talking to those of lower rank, just shut up, listen to their pathos and nod sympathetically. Post-Munnabhai, an empathetic pat on the back can earn you admiration. However, the results are optimum when restricted to those from the same gender.  

Post-break, the audience reassembles with the reluctance of a kid on his first day at school. By now, the speaker nonchalance catches up with the audience’s. He is least bothered whether he goes beyond the 14th slide. As the clock ticks towards the closing time, he would rush through the slides at rate of 5 slides per second with a remark that he would leave a copy of the presentation for the audience to be viewed in leisure. The vote of thanks is proposed with the usual thank-you-for-taking-time-out-of-your-busy-schedule. It doesn’t matter even if the speaker is in a job where if he is not yawning, he is counting his forty winks. Both the audience and the speaker leave the hall happy as they have spent a day away from the office without taking a leave.