Exhausted. I am deeply exhausted. Today’s creative activity was really not easy. Creative writing again, but intended to be impactful and dialogue based, with underlying conclusion etc. Something of a short skit, a one – act play – more like a one – scene play. I racked my brains real hard. What’s come out took me probably an hour and a half of serious writing. Though the premise / deciding the premise took longest. Been thinking about ‘what’ should I write for last 24 hours I think…finally when it occurred to me, everything was a smooth ride. While it might not be oozing of talent, it certainly is interesting… I hope!
The biggest cheater….
Curtain lifts and an office is seen.
(A room with four desks, on one side a cabin door can be seen, on the other side some sort of corridor leading in / out of the room etc., typical office environment. Three individuals – two women and a man are working on their laptops. Everyone in business suits. The Man is standing and on phone)
Man: Yes Baby! …..I know my sweet muffin……I’m sorry my sugar pie…..my sweet pea…did I ever? No, no my sugar…..yes, I will always, forever my candy…
(two women look up from their own laptops at the same time. Smile conspiratorily at each other)
Woman 1: (winks at the other woman) Sugar addict….
(woman 2 nods patronizingly, both look back into their respective laptops)
Woman 2: Hey, is the Boss here yet? Some urgent email from London. (looks back at her screen)
W1: (without looking up) Is he like ever? Why do you think this parrot’s rattling off for almost an hour now?
Man (still on phone): So you’re not mad at me anymore? Promise my cupcake? My sweet….my errr….my sweet potato
W1: (looks up from the screen and at the audience, in incredulous voice) Sweet potato??
W2: (Looks up at her and smiles) He probably exhausted all his confectionery vocabulary (goes back to work….)
(man continues to talk and suddenly a third woman rushes into the room. Loud noise of her footsteps….woman is little dishevelled.)
W3: (Just as she enters, in loud voice) Finally! I am here. Oh my God! The traffic! The rush, the sweat, arrgh…
(passes by the man who gives her irritated look which she ignores).
W3: (continuing her monologue as she reaches her desk, takes her laptop out and switches it on etc) Just fought with that rickshaw driver. 50 Rs he was charging me. That tampered meter I say… (shakes her head) – oh, they are so dishonest. All of them. Cheaters…
(other two women look up, share a smile again and now turn sideways to look at her from their swivelling chairs as she sets up her desk)
Man: (looks up from his phone, addresses to W3) – Can you keep it low? Ronnie?
W3 (aka Ronnie): (glares at him, dramatically puts one palm on chest and then looks at the other two women) I am loud? am I ? (throws up hands dramatically again) As if…. I’m sure he must have been speaking for last half an hour at least, using those high calorie words that you must have heard. Well, what about that? Misuse of employer’s resources….really, that’s why he always comes early.
Man: (On phone) I will talk to you later. (Hangs up and about to walk up to Ronnie’s desk.)
Ronnie: (notices this and turns to other two women) – Did I say anything wrong? Reema?
W1 (a.k.a Reema): Good morning to you too Ronnie! Looks like you got stuck in traffic….(lowers voice, looks at W2 and says sarcastically) ….yet again!
W2: (rolls her eyes) So, what happened today?
(meanwhile, the man walks up to Ronnie, is standing just little away from her)
Man: Yes ma’am, I heard what you just said. You said I was wasting employer’s resources….didn’t you?
Man: (visibly offended) And you said I come early to make personal calls?
Ronnie: (with emphasis) Spot the inconsistency,Gaurav.
Man (a.k.a Gaurav): I misuse resources? How so? Company allows you to make personal calls…
Ronnie: (starts with exaggerated tone) Oh yeah, hell yeah… but they didn’t expect employees to make daily hour-long personal calls abroad, now, did they? That IS misuse. Yes. It is the misuse of not only company’s telephone budget, but also of time, which is even more valuable. That’s cheating your employer…I lost the count of how many calls I had to take of your clients just because you were cootchie-cooing early morning on phone with your girl friend in Hong Kong.
Gaurav: Really? I doubt you took any of my calls at all…for that, you have to be here by 9 am isn’t it? But you never show up before 10.am…. How is that for misuse? Misusing the employer – given liberty of flexible hours to arrive late and leave early….that too is cheating on employer I say…Well, I don’t really care what you say Ronnie. Coming from you, this sounds so hypocritical, isn’t it Shubha?
W2 (a.k.a Shubha): (not wanting to be included) Hey!
Ronnie: Shubha? You agree with him? That I misuse resources? Yes, I do come late from time to time…but what do I do? I live so far..its an hour’s journey…I’m a married woman with kids…its so difficult…its not like I get late on purpose….isn’t he the one who’s more guilty Shubha?
Shubha: Umm…. Well…
Reema: There goes…. I’m out of this (turns back to her screen)
Gaurav: Shubha, Shubha, Shubha! just pause and think….how many of her calls have you taken because she was late? Yeah yeah, she stays an hour away, has kids and all that crap…but its not like the rest of us have nothing going in our life…. I stay an hour away too…. Reema has to commute for almost an hour and a half to reach office… What about that? Eh? You tell her Shubha, who’s more guilty?
Shubha: (relieved to have found her voice finally) Well Ronnie, I have taken a lot of your calls in the morning. That much is for sure…but Gaurav that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. I have taken equal amount of your calls too, though you were in office at that time…because you were otherwise occupied (gestures air-sign quote-unquote).
Ronnie: Well Gaurav, that settles it. You are more guilty, obviously, you are at office, still don’t take your calls.
Shubha: (more confidently) – In my eyes, you both are equally guilty… (both look at her with contempt).. Why should I take your calls when I have enough on my platter? I come here on time, many a times, even earlier, and all I have to start with is your calls? What am I? your PA?
Ronnie: Wow! That was nasty.
Gaurav: Miss goody two shoes…. Isn’t exactly that turns out… Makes me want to remind you how you’ve been a bad girl in your own way…
Shubha: I? Heh! I got the best new employee of the quarter across all the country offices. For my talent, commitment AND honesty, of course.
Gaurav: Sure, but nobody else knows the real truth that we do ma’am… Why you’re always in office, why you come early… Platter full my foot! You just came in like – 3 months back… You’re still being trained. You don’t have any clients of your own… So what if you attended our calls? Technically that’s your job if we are unavailable at that moment…. You know that…
Ronnie: But Gaurav, what’s her secret you mentioned? Spill it at once….you’re killing me.
Gaurav: Oh yes, the novel isn’t it? She’s been writing a novel at work! Doing all research about it, printing bundles and bundles of drafts, copies and what nots, forwarding to publishers using the office courier, misuse of stationery, misuse of couriers,and of course – misuse of time, electricity, internet…whoa whoa whoa… We have a competitor here…
Ronnie: Oh yes, it totally is… Never thought the meek Shubha can also be the mean Shubha….your own hands are soiled and you’re calling us dirty….
Shubha: (visibly shaken) Hmm… Well at least internet research for a novel is better than what you guys do in office when you are (again gestures quote unquote in air) available in office – the stalking of various females on Facebook that you do Gaurav, or the internet-dredging of recipes that Ronnie does…God knows if she ever cooks them though….never brings anything at work….
Ronnie: Hey, hey! You’re over-stepping your boundaries. You’re so new into the system, that if we don’t train you anymore, you’ll be wiped out in no time!
Shubha: (Turns to Reema, who has now and then been looking up at them and rolling her eyes or smiling to herself) Reema? …Reema (now walks up to Reema’s desk)
Reema: (Sighs with resignation) – Yes Shubha?
Shubha: Reema, help! Please help! These people are trying to eat me alive! All I’ve been doing is taking their calls and attending to their clients, but all I get in return is this! So what, if I am frustrated with doing their work? Don’t I even have the right to vent it out?
Reema: Who told you to poke into their business? You should have ignored them. More so since your own linen is dirty.
Shubha: You too think I misuse company resources? more than they do?
Reema: (patronizingly) You all do. Equally I’ll say. Its question of principle here. A misuse is a misuse is a misuse. No levels there. Who misuses more, who misuses less… After all, every one of you does something which is not intended to be done…all of you are guilty….
Ronnie and Gaurav have been listening to this and now walk up to Reema’s desk…
Ronnie: (Clapping hands) Well, well, well! Look who’s talking. All three of us are guilty eh? We misuse resources eh? Well we found the most guilty after all… We don’t take client’s contact numbers to later call them up and sell a spare – part not manufactured by the employer, but by our spouse’s own factory…. In fact our spouses don’t own a factory. We, all three of us, work here for money, to run our own houses… Not for the express purpose of time pass and implied purpose of stealing contacts….like you do…. Hows THAT an answer for your question of principles ma’am?
Gaurav: Oh yeah, and I don’t even have a spouse yet…
Shubha: and I don’t have clients yet…
Reema: (Looks stupid and apologetic) Well, I’ll say by far that principle of work – ethics is quite complicated on the face of it. Just too many sides and angles and viewpoints to it. Too many situations, scenarios…quite a delicate thing if you ask me…
Gaurav: We’re listening, go on, till you get to the point.
Ronnie: Yeah, the point explaining about how you’ve been cheating on the employer…
Reema: Er… Well…look! (takes a pause, looks here and there as if is racking her brains to come up with something. Meanwhile Ronnie, Gaurav and Shubha share a triumphant look) See, I feel we are quite junior to really cheat on the employer in such a way that it impacts them. Now someone at our Boss’s level, if he cheats, it probably would impact…. In fact, he already is and has…you know what, the raw materials that they source have been contracted out from Boss’s brother’s company and Boss’s brother gave a huge margin to the Boss.
Gaurav: (slightly skeptical) Oh yeah?
Reema: Well, how do you think he bought that condo he bought? Is that even in his league?
Gaurav: Wow! You’re right! In fact, Ronnie, weren’t you telling me of one time when he took a cruise – vacation that a client sponsored and then gave the client a huge discount?
Ronnie: Oh, yes! He’s been cheating big time on the company…. Oh, by the way, that client called last week. I heard the discussion. Door was slightly ajar I guess. He was complaining…
Shubha: What? He was still unhappy after all the discount that he got?
Ronnie: No. Apparently, the product doesn’t match the quality that he ordered for. It looks the same, difficult to tell from appearance, but performs poorly. They suffered some losses because their clients in turn have been cancelling orders now.
Reema: Ah! The market news. That’s been discussed for some time now. Apparently, these substandard products have been produced to jack up margins…. profit by cheating customers. Really bad.
Shubha: Great! I began my career with a cheater company….
Ronnie: Really! Better that you sell of your novel and get a good publishing deal and get out of here…. Me too…I need a job now, before they brand me as an employee of a cheating company.
Gaurav: Oh Well, now time to look for a job too….in addition to a wife….
Reema: Hey, what about that girl-friend in Hong Kong you were just talking to…
Gaurav: Well, long distance relationship doesn’t really suit me. Been seeing others since a couple of months now…and if I know her well, she must be doing the same…
Shubha: Hey, but that’s cheating!!!
(Everyone shakes their head and walk back to their desks. The curtain falls)