April 24, 2004

The Shifting

This is the first time I’m seeing a crow this close up.

Sitting in the ‘dry’ cafeteria of my new office, a fourth floor view of Marol, I’m looking out the large tinted windows, the type where you can look out but cannot look in unless maybe if you press your eyes to the glass and fairly squash your nose in the bargain. This is a new building, part of which is still under construction.

The L, a short way off Chakala, sits beside the Andheri-Kurla road, a busy artery with significant cholesterol deposits. A part of our workforce of seven hundred have shifted here from Jacob’s, around a month ago. Our team came in today, and is beginning to find its feet back.

There are four of us in the team - one content, two tech and, one graphics. And here I’m in the cafetaria now, contemplating the scaffolding outside after spending a good deal of the Sunday morning looking for my PC.

I had passed cubicle after cubicle in a maze of green and yellow partitions, bending to read numbers off PCs - M007, M138, P472 and so forth. There were tens of them. Hundreds of them actually. In looking for the elusive one, I had lost my way in the maze more than once and read numbers I’d read before. Still no P134. I came across other new arrivals doing the same, exchanging sheepish smiles each time our paths crossed, which was often. It was not an easy task bending down to read numbers where women in swivel chairs sat at their PCs. So, I’d given up and headed for the reception, manned by two security guards. They ought to know, I thought.

“I’ll look up the list of PCs that came in yesterday,” he said.

I nodded, waiting while he opened a pad and ran his pen down the list.

“It’s not there,” he said, looking up at me.

“But they packed up my PC at J’s yesterday and told me it would be sent here the same day,” I said, reaching for the pad in his hand. He passed me the pad.

It wasn’t there. No P134.

“We’re expecting a delivery this afternoon. If they’ve packed it yesterday then it should be there in this lot. Check up with me later,” he replied as I returned the pad.

“Hmmm. Ok. Thanks anyway,” I said and headed back to the unrelenting grip of white light filling every corner of office space, even those corners that didn’t exist. That’s how I first noticed the innocuous corner door with the sign - pantry. And I’ve been sitting here ever since, with the crow for company. It is perched on the scaffolding that rises all the way up, to floors six and seven, passing within two feet of my window.

It is here that initial nonchalance at seeing the crow land on a metal pole has given way to an active ‘interested observer’ mode. And, as I watch the pesky bundle of black have an enthusiastic go at the rope holding one of the numerous joints making up this rusty skeleton of criss crossing ribs, the tea in the Styrofoam cup, tasting like thin old plastic, begins to go cold. If there is any taste to be found in tea from a fancy dispenser with colourful buttons and cryptic commands that are more labels than instructions, it’s because the dispenser looks good - and cool, and novel, and … expensive. It has too many other things going for it. The novelty remains even if the idea is old.

Anyways, I don’t drink much tea, maybe once a month or thereabouts. Moreover, one cannot even enjoy the imagined taste of ‘tea from a dispenser’ if you are sitting opposite tinted windows. Surely it would’ve made the communists happy - to reduce the vibrancy of diverse colours to a single tint. Where steam rising up from a porcelain cup should’ve tinted the blue skies in front of my face in a moist velvety haze on a sunny morning, instead a shade of dark, featureless entity drawn like a veil, now frames me for the world outside as I try to summon colours from tenuous memories of sunfilled days.

To be framed for the world outside, now made up of a single crow that cannot see me from two feet distance brings home the line: ‘If the whole world but me were blind then I would neither want riches nor clothes.’

I look at my watch. It’s a Timex Expedition gifted by a childhood friend, Anand, when he had come down from the USA. I’ve grown fond of it, wear it all the time, well, almost. If you wear anything long enough, it becomes a part of you.

The dial shows 13:50. I lean back and fix my eyes on the crow. There’s still time before I can go looking for my PC again.