Collateral Damage!

This is not at all about the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer Hollywood movie that released in early 2002 and did not do quite well in the box office as it, unfortunately, was adversely affected by the collateral damage caused by the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack. If it were indeed, it'd be an extremely unnecessary and unwarranted exercise of writing a review at this irrelevant juncture. Therefore, let us drive out the sad memories of the terror attack that crept in unintentionally from our mind and concentrate on the 'lighter' side with this piece which is about a normal office-but filled with quite a sizeable number of employees filling two floors of a building in the prime location of a city-on a normal day.

Routine activities were going on since the uneventful morning of that normal work-day like it had been going on for ages. Files moving into the desks of the senior executives and moving out in due course; the steaming cups of teas coming into various desks of the two floors with some hungry or greedy souls asking for the hot snacks available outside at cheap prices and the empty crockery being cleared away in due course; and of course, some visitors on business or time-pass had been moving in and out of various rooms or chambers. It was absolutely a normal day with no indication for any trouble.

In a routine exercise one junior executive came into the chamber of a senior executive around noon with some important files for approval. The two were always on friendly terms and the junior, ignoring the gloomy face that the senior wore at that particular moment, greeted him warmly and sat down in one of the chairs lined up in front. The senior who seemed to be immersed in a bunch of documents looked up abruptly and nearly shouted out, "Who asked you to sit down? Keep standing till I say otherwise!"

The shocked junior stood up jerkily, just managing to stammer out, "Anything's the matter Sir?" although he normally didn't use the 'sir' and addressed him often by name which, incidentally was, say Ramesh.

"Mind your business... Now! Give me the damn files!" Ramesh was glaring up at him like a demon.

The junior decided to remain silent till the job was over; however, he failed to prevent an equally gloomy countenance from taking full control of his face. Ramesh never asked him to sit and kept on shouting, unnecessarily as the junior reasoned silently, for about fifteen minutes at the end of which he finally signed the approval with a sullen face. The junior felt sufficiently insulted and humiliated, and was relieved nobody came in during the storm. He almost ran to his room and sat down heavily in his chair-his face contorting as if with terrible indigestion.

At that very moment the jovial ever-smiling accountant came in with some more files to get his remarks noted before forwarding the same to the higher authority. Now, the junior stared at him demonically not even asking him to sit and kept on finding errors in the accountant's notes on the files, absolutely unnecessarily as the shaken accountant reasoned silently, and kept on shouting dismissing him in quick fury. The accountant almost ran to the staff room, sat down gloomily in his chair and rested his distorted face in his folded hands over the desk avoiding looking at the other members of staff around in the large room filled with cubicles.

One assistant noticed the black mood overpowering his immediate boss, the accountant, and jokingly asked as to if a ghost had possessed him suddenly. The accountant almost shrieked at the poor assistant to shut up, and the large room became instantly noisy and nastier with more queries bursting out of other members making the accountant a kind of full-grown devil. At that moment a peon came smilingly in holding up a tray of tea in paper cups. He had to face the unholy chorus that took him aback, "To hell with your bloody tea!" The peon plonked the tray noisily in an empty table nearby and escaped in a single piece.

The gloom accumulated and spread like a virus infecting the whole of the two floors of the office. In a passage in the upper floor a lady executive was found crying inconsolably to her colleagues, complaining hoarsely about something. Only the supreme boss sat unaffected and benevolently in his revolving chair in the rather oversized chamber, enjoying his lunch with unusual relish.

The peons always had their lunch together in the lounge of the lower floor, near the chambers of all the important executives. On that lunch hour some of them were seen offended while some others proceeded calmly. However, the usual casual chat was missing and it was pin-drop silence all around. One of the calmer peons broke the silence as if he thought it was his holy duty to do so.

"Guys! I think I know why our office has suddenly become so gloomy with all the shouting and the outbursts of temper!"

They all looked up expectantly at him. He narrated, as our intelligent readers must have guessed long back, that when he entered the chamber of the supreme boss with the customary morning cup of tea he found Ramesh standing in front the boss's desk shell-shocked and shaking all over uncontrollably as the boss kept on firing him for the delay in clearing an important file. The firing had been going on unabated till the peon did his job and left. "Obviously, Ramesh sir felt all the more insulted because I came in that moment!" the peon added, smiling now.

All of them started giggling and laughing aloud, finding a reason now to enjoy the lunch, the usual casual chatting taking over. The news spread throughout the office like wildfire in the post-lunch hour and the laughter virus began to infect most of the members of staff and the executives, but, obviously, for Ramesh and perhaps a handful other officers who still remained uninfected. Normalcy would be restored fully the next day, although the hierarchy percolation chain would still be there never breaking since eternity; the enlightened ones hoped.

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