That was the scene last afternoon when I went to the factory canteen to extinguish my pangs of hunger at around 1:30. I knew it was late by their standards, but what I found there dazed me. A change in their standard operating procedure required a slip to be given since we were guests at the client’s factory premises. Upon producing the same, we were told that contract laborers had their place on the other side of the canteen. Did we appear workers to him? (I know we are, but not in their context) Or he was too busy to read the contents of the slip (or perhaps wasn’t adequately literate) to make such an insidious remark? I was out of my wits while my colleague tried to chide the fellow for appearing too lax.

Okay, we got permission (and plates) for the buffet lunch (which could be compared to the one I got during my hostel days) and I made my way to an empty end of the table. I was strongly told not to sit there. Upon asking the reason, the worker promptly said “Garg jee aa rahe hain?”

So the truth had come out. It was the veritable president who preferred being revered by people touching his feet every time he came in the open. And everyone seemed to be scared to the core, for they wondered what flaw would cause a rebuke. And the president was well known for his penchant for perfection, while the people were painfully aware of their own lack of it.

When it was time for the dictator to arrive, there was full attention. The remaining tables were promptly emptied and I realized that the managers would get an opportunity to taste the canteen food with the big boss (whom we call as ‘paye lagu”), probably one of a lifetime.

That was my experience of sycophancy that still exists in Indian companies. It did not matter that the people were hired (or bought) at hefty salaries, they still had to show respect in every possible way. And while my manager once commented “the company does not work on whims and fancies of one person”, I could see his words of wisdom going naught. In one of his actions, all the requirements of a purchase order print layout proposed by the core team (who, after all should be taking the decisions) was vetoed by the veteran. It has resulted in weeks of work going waste. It is yet to be realized the cause of such a change of heart.

There is so much to see when one visits places. I wasn’t there to give a solution to the age old practice, but it surely amused me enough to put in my blog!

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