Monday, February 17, 2014

The President’s Eleven

 There was great excitement in our office. The new president of the company was to take charge and ‘walk around’ the office, meeting managers and staff. The peons spruced up their uniform, the managers transferred their files from the ‘in’ to the ‘out’ tray, the secretaries rolled paper into their typewriters and surreptitiously patted their hair in place. With their eyes ostensibly on their work, everyone’s antenna was turned on to the sound of footsteps.
At last he appeared. Unlike his predecessor, the new ‘Mr President’ was oozing bonhomie and geniality. He slapped a friendly greeting on the backs of his managers, complimented the lady executives, joked with the secretaries and how-are-you-my boyed the peons and teaboys. He had won everyone’s heart.  As he walked back into the cabin, there were exclamations of appreciation, ranging from ‘wows’ to ‘isn’t he cute!” to ‘jolly nice chap’. So things were going to be good and it was time to weave fantasies of quick promotions and double increments.

A few days later, the president’s PA whispered to the vice-president’s PA that her boss was a cricket maniac, “He has a mini-portable TV and watches the match while he’s speaking on the telephone”. The news spread like wildfire. The boss’s interest in cricket became the topic of conversation during lunchtime. Those who generally played cards and carom during lunch break, abandoned the game and discussed cricket. Everyone in the office had a common interest overnight.

“Let’s organize a cricket match and call the boss” was the suggestion made by the personnel manager. Normally, his schemes were considered harebrained but this had unanimous approval “whom do we play against?” was the question and after an intensive elimination, it was decided to challenge the factory team with the H.O. ‘President’s Eleven!’ The match date was set and the personnel manager was detailed to talk to the welfare officer at the factory into rustling up a team.

The following Saturday was earmarked for selection because just about everyone in the office – including the tea boy and the stenographers – wanted to shine on the field and win the president’s approval. Dressed in crisp white and donning canvas shoes (many of them equipped themselves with these for the event) the entire office reported at the ‘maidan’ for the crucial selection.The sales manager who professed to have played in his school team, nominated himself as the head of the selection committee, to be joined by the product manager, who’s brother was a university player 30 years ago.

The head clerk opted to be the opening batsman and the peon felt he’d make a good wicketkeeper. The personnel manager threw his seniority and decided to bowl the first ball of the over. He rubbed it again and again on his thigh, spat on it, rubbed it again and with great style took a neat circle with his arm and sent the ball sailing into ‘the air and ‘plonk’, the next thing that happened was that the head clerk was groping on the ground for his spectacles, and his nose was turning a colour, akin to Bangalore blues. There was minor pandemonium as the wicketkeeper was sprawling on the ground where he had enthusiastically dived to ‘catch’ the ball but ended grazing his knee. With the help of the stenographers who decided to opt out of ‘eleven’ the two injured were escorted away. The sales manager, very hesitantly took up position and suggested that the product manager should bowl. The ball came ‘sailing’ again, the sales manger ducked and it homed for the head of the company secretary who was fielding behind the stumps…. 

“Why is your nose so blue my boy?” asked the president the next day. “That’s the result of wanting to be your blue-eyed boy”, said the head clerk – to himself.