First day at a new work location- the situation was in no way comforting. Hence, looking around and pinging every person possible on Whatsapp were the only options as he sat there waiting for his new boss.
‘’Hey, how come you are here? What have you been up to?’’, he looked towards the source of the voice- a face which took a few moments to register, and not to a positive effect. Yet as an auto generated response, (which was one of the effects of those first 6 months of his professional life) he smiled and extended a hand.
He couldn’t probably call it hatred, but then there was no word close to the feeling he had for him. He disliked him for sure. The differences were purely professional for all he knew, but if only we were that sorted out, things would be simpler. Hence, even though they had met in person only once, his mention evoked a strong response in him. So much so that the phrase ‘Sunit Kumar’ in his mailbox made him feel irritated now. As a trainee and the face of this new project, the first assignment of his professional life was going all smoothly until he had to deal with Mr. Sunit, to get some manpower and funding for the project. As a function head of one of the in-house businesses, he was in-charge of the same. He did not think it would be much of a task, given that the project spanned through multiple businesses including Sunit’s. The myth was broken within a few days only by the hostile nature of communication, mostly written and occasionally verbal with him, during which he was told that his expectations were unreasonable and the manner of communication inappropriate. He had discussed it with his manager, who enlightened him that there are things like internal politics, one-upmanship, efforts to reduce costs at any costs and things like helping a newbie and supporting a young career existed mostly only when there were rewards associated. The project had continued with whatever he could manage and despite on being the verge of losing his cool often, he had controlled his fingers and mouth. He realized maybe Sunit wasn’t wrong or evil as he wanted to believe he was, and was almost certain it wasn’t anything personal, yet he couldn’t control the dislike. They had met once in an office event, when he was sure the smile and show of ‘I-know-you’ had certain smugness behind it.
The same smile and show today in a different place reminded him of all those moments in an instant. That project was done with a month ago with whatsoever he could manage. Now he was here in a new city with a new project, and strangely after the initial few moments, the negativity he felt had subdued subtly. As if voicing his thoughts, he said, ‘’It’s good to meet someone I know’’.
‘’’So you’re here on a new project too?’’
‘’No, I am on leave actually. This is my hometown. So thought I’ll visit the office too’’.
‘’I kind of like this office, much more spacious and open, no?’’
‘’Yeah, much less number of people too, but just look out on the streets – wish they would clean them up sometime! Even the canteen here doesn’t look clean. How’s the food, did you try yet?’’
‘’No, I came this morning only’’.
‘’Okay, let’s go have a cup of tea then’’
A couple of hours later over lunch when they had discussed enough of weather, politics, movies and cities, he said, ’’Actually, I am quitting the company to start something on my own. I’ll submit my resignation as I go back. I am here to keep my luggage as I vacate my place there. Don’t mention this to people here though. I have realized that in my 3 years here that there is a lot of office politics here.’’
‘’Yeah, I know.’’ He smiled, and that was when they became friends he thought. For the next 3 days, they met over tea, lunch and otherwise; chatted about the company as well as life – from college to girlfriend to marriage. He shared his experiences of 3 years in the organization – good and not so good ones as well, but nothing about the project through which they knew each other. Over lunches and bill sharing, he realized, they would have been good friends if met somewhere else. It was all about context.
On the 3rd day, a couple of hours after they came back from lunch, an office boy came to him with a pair of earphones. ‘‘Sir, these are yours right? Sunit Sir asked me to give them to you’’. I went to his place, to find an empty chair.
It was indeed all about the context.