I am still recovering from the strobe effects of the super glam Hello! Awards,aptly titled 'The Hall of Fame.' It's in its second edition this year, and the team was wondering whether or not it was possible to top the razzle -dazzle of Year One. Well, tough as it sounds, they did it! Despite the lack of grace and co-operation from The Trident Hotel where this high profile event was held. "Never again!" I overheard the Hello! team muttering after they were denied a meal, post-event! Besides these sort of hiccups, the show went on splendidly, with everyone from a Mukesh Ambani to an SRK turning up and participating with gusto. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.... but am seriously worried. What happens next year?? Watch this space!
This appeared in The Week recently...
Belle of the Management Ball…
Recently, at an intense workshop for high powered female managers from across India , I was initially startled and then vastly amused by a particular response. I had posed this ‘simple’ question – ‘Who am I?” to the group, which was made up of forty, fiercely determined high achievers. Most of the ladies who had volunteered to share their answers, stuck to predictable statements such as, “I am a mother, a wife…a daughter…” and little beyond that. The clichés kept coming. A few variations were clearly aimed at impressing the bosses who were present, “ I am a leader… a great motivator…” Finally, one woman got up and announced defiantly, “I am a thief, a cheat and a liar.” Suddenly, every person in the room woke up and was on red alert. What? Was this woman totally crazy? Did she not care about her job and the poor impression she was creating? She had obviously anticipated just such a reaction. Calmly, she explained what she meant: “ I cheat on my husband by feigning interest in his conversation at the end of a long day, when all I want to do is put my feet up and relax. I lie to my bosses and pretend to be sick when I want to spend time with my baby daughter. And I call myself a thief for stealing time which does not belong to me to pursue my personal interests during work hours.” After the shock value of her opening remarks had died down, and the real import of her words sank in, all the women present – her colleagues and competitors,started clapping and cheering enthusiastically. She was the undisputed belle of the ball. Why? She was the one person who had spoken the truth. And given the tense ambience, that took a lot of guts.
I talk to professional women’s groups quite a lot, and the one commonality that often disturbs me is the lack of humour and the absence of poetry in their lives. Most of these women give the impression of being too uptight and wound up. Yes, they make a lot of money. But look at the irony of their situation – they have zero time to enjoy it! Yes, they get married, produce a child or two. But again, by the time they get home after putting in a twelve hour day at a soulless, impersonal work station, they are too exhausted to laugh, hug, chat or cuddle. The high pressure in the office robs them of any joy… worse, it completely depletes their energy levels. Often they are dealing with demanding clients from different parts of the world, functioning in time zones that are crazy for us in India. There are goals and targets that have to be met. Performance reviews that entail deep scrutiny. There is always the threat of an aggressive rival ready to displace the person and move into that vacated chair. Combine that with the so-called team spirit that has to be strictly adhered to even if you harbour murderous thoughts about the rest…. ooooof! Is it really worth it? What about an early burn out? And to get down to basics – what about a healthy sex life? These are women in their prime. And making love is a luxury they can’t afford! Tragic! I boldly asked them if they made the time for sex in their young marriages. Most shook their heads and sighed philosophically. One of them shrugged, “Who cares? What use are husbands these days?” This was getting sadder and sadder.
At the end of my session, as I was walking out with the bright, ambitious supervisors who were pretty pleased about the response to the workshop,I asked one of them if they had a recreational facility in that vast, green and cheerful complex. A facility where these stressed out ladies could relax a bit, enjoy a foot massage, get their hair and nails done, feel a bit pampered, listen to music, enjoy art, flip through magazines and books, maybe catch up on a movie. The answer was a flat ‘no’. But all you have here is an army of trained worker ants , I pointed out. I barely spotted a genuine smile or even a cheerful face. The women looked tense, preoccupied and miserable. How can they be productive if they are so robotic? The supervisors exchanged meaningful looks and answered mysteriously, “We have our own ways to keep them motivated. Our subsidized cafeteria has the best chefs in town. We feed them well!”
Gulp. That was my food for thought. Sorry to say, I could barely digest it.