It’s that time of my life (again). I haven’t much choice but to scout around for a new job. After two and a half years, I refuse to exhibit the loyalty of the Titanic musicians and sink with my ship. Casabianca I am not.
The recruiters – they call, they email, they discuss notice periods and haggle over salaries. This is followed by calls for interviews.
And thus it was that I found myself in a cab, headed to the office of a well-known company. It wasn't something I was exceedingly keen on, but I figured it would help me get out of the comfortable rut I was stuck in and into the groove of job hunting.
I battled nausea as the cab lurched over potholed roads and the faint stench of diesel and body odour assailed my nostrils. After a bit of a merry-go-round trying to find the office, I crawled out at my destination, rather the worse for wear. A little while later, I was ushered into the office of a VP.
I sat facing the man for a good five minutes as he poked away at his laptop, checked his phone and generally played the part of a busy man. My gaze alternated between the floor, his shining pate and a rusty paper clip atop a stack of glossy booklets. Just as I became certain I was sprouting roots and merging with my chair, the VP looked up at me questioningly. It was almost like he’d forgotten he’d ushered me into his office himself a little while ago.
“Profile?” he asked. Since he was the one who had set up the interview in the first place, one would assume he had my curriculum vitae at the ready. Well, at least one of us was professional. I handed over a copy.
He immersed himself in it for a few more minutes. I returned my attention to the top of his head. “So,” he said, beaming.
“Wait for it. Here comes the first question. It has got to be good after all that perusing,” I thought.
“What does your father do?”
Huh? What? I blinked and resisted an urge to roll my eyes as I answered. Who was he hiring? My father or me?
“And your mother is a housewife?” he presumed. Yes, of course. Because women of the older generation couldn't possibly be anything else? Nothing remotely sexist about that assumption.
After providing information about the occupations of every single member of my family (“boiled egg carrier” is an occupation, by the way) living, deceased, decaying and depraved, I then launched into the nitty-gritty of my current and past jobs.
I became aware of something weaseling into the room bleating, “Saar, saar”. It turned out to be a young employee, cowering behind a sheaf of papers for the VP’s approval. “That is the best member of my team,” said the VP, beaming proudly as the weasel scurried out pinching his throat for some odd reason.
Having established my familial and professional credentials, the VP asked me another very significant question. “Are you married?” “No? Yeah, you don’t look married. Oh, then you can move closer to the office.” When I ruled out the possibility, he proudly proclaimed how he commuted 37 KM each way every day.
About 40 minutes and more inane interview questions and opinions of the 19th century later, it was well past lunch time. I was tired, hungry and more than a little fed up. My query about his company culture evoked an ambiguous “We employ females. But we don’t give preference to females.” We’re called ‘women’, numbskull.
My mind only weakly processed in snatches what I was hearing, barely managing intelligible responses if needed. The lines between my painful reality and comical fantasy blurred:
- “I have been here for three years.”
- “Okay. That’s three years too long.”
- “Are you Karnatikian?”
- “No, I am not a Kannadiga.”
- “Is that what they are called?”
- “Duh. You should call an angry mob ‘nonsense peoples’ just for fun though.”
- “Lots of sports people come from your hometown, no? Do you play sports?”
- “Marbles and tennikoit mostly.”
- “You look like a Kashmiri.”
- “Yeah, people mistake me for Omar Abdullah when I shave.”
- “Do you want to have some lunch? We get lunch here for only Rs 40.”
- “No free lunch?”
- “Write me an article on Bangalore over the last ten years.”
- “Sigh. We’re back in high school.”
I spent the next half hour banging out a really drab essay on a dilapidated keyboard and patchy monitor that appeared to be from ten years ago as well. As I typed, a few alphabet keys leapt off the keyboard and launched themselves fiercely into the air. I printed my essay out, plucked “QWERTY” out of my hair and reluctantly made my way back to the VP’s cabin.
The man cooed over the stupid essay. “This is beautiful! The chairman will love it!” He read it slowly, running a finger across each line. “What is ‘bonhomie’?" I patiently explained. “What is ‘foreboding’?” he ventured again. I surveyed the room for hidden cameras – this HAD to be some sort of a candid camera TV gag.
“What is ‘angst’?” he persisted. “Is it a real word?”
Unfortunately for him, he will never find out. His angst-ridden interviewee had fled the room.