Category Archives: Office capers

P is for Printer

PNow here’s a story based on a little something that happened in real life. I once worked at an office where the printer was named for the employee who was seated closest to it. It created some mirthful situations. This however, is fiction. For today’s A to Z Challenge, I give you P is for Printer.


P is for Printer

Prime real estate. That’s what they call locations that are close to desirable things like the sea, an arterial road or a green area in a concrete city. These locations are extra valuable. The reverse should hold true in office spaces. The row closest to the toilet or the cubicle next to the door? Well, it’s not like the people occupying them get to leave earlier. And the 3 second advantage of being able to get to the pot in one of those ‘when you gotta go’ times far outweighs the frequent fragrant reminders of its existence. How often do you gotta go, when you’re chained to a desk job anyway?

Now take me for example. I sit next to the printer. This is probably not as bad as being the toilet’s neighbor. It’s like being close to a very large person prone to noisy, fume-ridden outbursts, that people magically gravitate to. The printer even has my name. If you were to check the network settings of any terminal in this company, under printers, you’d see the following:


Maxima is the managers’ printer, a tiny colour thing that only the cabin crew uses, while us lowly staff get to mill around the black and white, noisy giant who sits next to me. Maxima sits in a position of discreet honour, atop the stationery cupboard, while the other one is relegated to the end of all the rows of cubicles. And management decided real estate being what it was, they had to maximize space. So they bunged in one more seat next to the printer-allotted space and guess who got to occupy it?

So how to identify the two printers on the network? How to keep the minions from actually using the power of colour print afforded to them, via IT services democratic views? Good manners prevents them from giving them the names that they merit – BOSSES ONLY and THE UNIMPORTANT. So, instead, they decided to hijack the name of the guy who sat closest to it. Voila, my electronic doppelganger!

I kept my chair turned away from it, so people wouldn’t try to engage me in conversations while waiting for their prints. But they’d peer over my shoulder, for entertainment then. The whole office feels like Big Brother. Facing the printer meant there was enough room on my table for sticky coffee mugs and unwanted prints to accumulate. Harish and I finally compromised and today we sit side-by-side. Neither friends nor foes but allies, that’s what we are. I am at peace with my namesake now.

It was through Harish that I met her. Lekha, one of the new project execs. She was clean across the floor and I’d never have been introduced to her. Her team is sniffy and snobbish that way. They also wouldn’t bother to help out the new joinee on their team. Lekha spent a good ten minutes wandering around the floor on her first day, looking for the printer that held her pages. She actually came by my place twice. But her prints had gone under the stack and someone else had dumped the accumulated pages into the waste holder below. She finally figured it out of course, and tottered across the floor to pick up her prints before they were hijacked by someone else.

One day, I plucked out a single sheet before Sinha, the accountant shoved the bundle into the dump. I’d seen Lekha running down the corridor. She braked on her high heels, smoothly and with a curse on her lips. I handed the sheet over to her. Sinha was watching the little exchange, his eyes darting back and forth. But the grateful smile she gave me in return was worth it.

I waited a couple of times and let her run the distance and miss, before I tried it again. Even so, the next time I did a miracle save, she looked at me quizzically. How did I know it was hers, her knitted eyebrows seemed to ask. I would have sat down in my chair, such was the force of that look, had I not been seated already. Instead, I settled for knocking my coffee mug across the table. I went back to my computer screen. She went away.

After that, I resolved not to save any more of her pages. But Harish, Harish, that prankish Cupid connived to bring us together again. Sitting next to it for 9 hours a day, I can tell the time by when the humming starts to become buzzing. If it were under my jurisdiction, I’d post an email on the company network at 11:52 asking them to hold their printouts for 10 minutes while Harish took a break. And again at 3:07 to avoid a paper jam. But it’s not my job. So Harish struggles through its day while I struggle through mine. Allies look out for each other, though, it seemed to be saying that day. The paper jam occurred at 1:03.

My eyes flicked to the corner of the screen that very moment. And then immediately up. Lekha’s heels laid their final tap and came to a halt in front of my table. She stared at the empty print tray, puzzled. Then she looked around. The cubicles were empty, their occupants having bolted to lunch (revise my earlier presumption; those closest to the door do get to lunch earlier than the others). Finally she turned to look at me.

I let her stare linger on me for 2 seconds before I returned it. Then, I stood up and walked around my desk to Harish. Getting down on my knees, I lifted the tray and opened the printer door. I’d thought it would be a simple jam but it turned out to be two papers twisted together and caught in the cartridge.

“Have to ask IT to take a look at it.”

“Oh God.”

she mumbled,

“I need that print.”

“Fire another.”

I urged, with a meaningful look towards the BOSSES printer.

“No…I…I want Harish.”

she said, turning away almost immediately, embarrassed at how that sounded.

I smirked at her back. But I saw her start to turn, I looked back to Harish. What was to be done? I drummed on the side of the printer, pretending to know what I was looking at. At that very moment, there was a terrific screeching of paper and a sheet came crawling through the slit. A horribly crumpled and torn half landed in the print tray. I extricated the other half from inside the machine and laid it next to the one on top. It was a resume.

Then I became conscious of her stare and stepped away. She bit her lip and reached for the two pieces. Crumpling them up in her hand, she walked away. But three steps later, she turned and gave me a rueful grin. She didn’t come back to pick up any printouts for the rest of the day. And she was still there at the end of the week.

The next time I heard the printer hum uncharacteristically, I looked up. Lekha was walking towards me. Walking, not running, a calm expression on her face. Then her eyes met mine and she smiled. I reached a hand out, without standing up and retrieved the paper she had fired. When she came up, I handed it over to her without a word. And she smiled and walked away. I turned to look at the printer.

Harish, you old dog.


P is for Printer

*Image (without text) via pakorn on

#AndheriGirl: Noontime Meeting


Who needs a sauna when you’ve got a noonday meeting in Andheri? #AndheriGirl

E & E Squared: Matt Beaumont – There’s Never A Dull Byte In The Inbox

e E Squared
A good friend gifted me ‘E Squared‘, a novel about a cutting-edge/crazy-ass advertising agency, entirely told in the form of electronic communication (blogposts, emails, chats and SMSes). I loved that book so much that I couldn’t wait to read the original that sparked off the idea.

E, even better (aren’t the originals always?) is only in the form of emails since it’s set in 2000 before the advent and popularity of some of the other forms of electronic communication. E Squared was spread across a year whereas E deals with solely the first eighteen days of 2000. Admittedly the plot stays a little closer to realistic, with very minor diversions from it for humor value (an employee who is a doppelganger of a TV celebrity sharing a beach with her, hire-and-fire-and-rehire-on-whim practices) and most of the funnies come from extremely believable, if somewhat grisly situations (idea theft from students, leaked sex tapes, assault charges) looked at in a witty manner. In comparison, E Squared really pushes the envelope with bizarre twists (teenagers running away to foreign countries, Nigerian spammer heiresses). And with all these differences, both books were absolutely delightful.

The email/electronic communication only format worked perfectly and never lost the wry wit to confusion or blandness. I’d recommend both books for anybody desperately needing a good laugh about the burdens of the working world. Here’s my Goodreads reviews of E and E Squared.

E.E. by Matt Beaumont
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miller Shanks is a fictitious advertising agency whose London arm is depicted as they enter the turn of the millenium. In the first 18 days of 2000, which spans the length of the entire book, the Miller Shanks team deals with embezzled ideas, international diplomatic incidents, a sexual assault case, wrestling secretaries, broken doors, fake suicide attempts and a sex tape. It’s brilliant and funny.

E is a frothy, light look at advertising and modern office life. It also happens to be a novel written entirely in the form of emails. No conversations, no descriptions, no scene-setting; everything from characterisation to dramatic build-up and other plot elements occurs in the timing, from/to people and tone of inter-office emails. Surprisingly, this never gets in the way. It’s really easy to keep the situations and people straight, even with the lack of background information.

This might be because Beaumont puts his finger on the nub with every character he creates – all rib-tickling archetypes of people that everyone experiences in any office in the world. We meet the tyrant boss, the politicking middle manager, the bitchy secretary/receptionist, the distant God-type owner/President, the puritanical/randy client, of course. But there’s also the agenda-pushing headhunter, the utterly-devoid-of-social-skills-but-very-efficient accountant and the much-hated/long-suffering IT department. There are also all the familiar social set-ups of lunchtime buddies, inter-department grapevine and cubicle romances.

There’s never a dull email in the inbox. I loved the book!


e Squarede Squared by Matt Beaumont
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bitching about the boss, trying to hook up with the office hottie, watercooler gossip, mad clients, madder colleagues and the maddest workplace of them all – E Squared pulls you into the surreal corporate soap opera of life at ad agency Meerkat360.

The entire novel is in the form of blogposts, chats, text messages and emails. Surprisingly, the novel format doesn’t hurt the reader at all and within minutes you are drawn into the lives of the Meerkat360 staff (and some others). Anyone who has ever worked for an agency, been bullied by a boss (or a junior), juggled a weekend marriage with a demanding career or simply lagged behind their peers in the ratrace, E Squared will feel familiar.

It’s probably telling that the stories of our lives, in the future will be documented in digital mediabytes. It’s a regular Dilbert meets 2 and a 1/2 Men.

View all my reviews

The Mind Of A Writer

* Last year, I began a new job, an unusual one that brought together all that I’d learnt in my twenties in the corporate world and since then about social media & writing. I moved out at the end of January 2013 and wrote my goodbye email to the people I had shared an office with, for that time. This poem, dedicated to my team of writers (Oh, how wonderful, how grand that sounds! The best of both worlds, indeed.) was a part of it.

So once again, Dishpa, Anita, Gaurav, Vandana, Suchithra, Nayanika & Sneha, this is for you. It was my privilege to have shared words with you.

Fall in love with the written word
Let that word carry you
across uncharted regions of thought
into dangerous conversations
and unexpected ways of being

Surprise yourself
Crash land from flights of fancy
smack dab into stupid decisions
Rescue your graceless self
with a parachute of pretty words

Commit to the quest for the muse
Chase her with the keen eye of a hunter
The needy blindness of a newborn
The precision of a serial killer
and the ardour of a lover

Be an architect of stories
A trader of tales
Become a travel guide
through the landscape of ideas
Feast on a banquet of metaphors

Become best friends with a phrase
Be a writer.

I Style!: Big Bang Srini

A crazy work day is made tolerable by a Vulcan salute from a Sheldon Cooper fan.

Big Bang Srini

This is Srinivas Kulkarni (better known as Srini and the inspiration for such Sriniisms as “A Srini in time saves mine” by SWLers). For his poker-face acceptance of my announcement that he was being featured on the style section of my blog and for free Quora tuitions, Srini gets my I Style! vote.

For any of you who didn’t get the reference (shame! shame! shame!), here’s the answer:

Also see a Quora question on RPSLS. And this is how you play Sam Kass’s ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock’:

  • Scissors cuts paper
  • Paper covers rock
  • Rock covers lizard
  • Lizard poisons Spock
  • Spock smashes scissors
  • Scissors decapitates lizard
  • Lizard eats paper
  • Paper disproves Spock
  • Spock vaporizes rock
  • Rock crushes scissors

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Apna Apna Andaz

I had a crazy first week back at work. And then on Wednesday, for respite, I found this in my mailbox:

Andaz Apna Apna

Friday Night movie! Please vote for the following options!

This followed by (in BIG, BOLD font)

Guys… There’s a VOTE option at the end of the movies… So please vote there… Don’t reply to me…

I swear, this was much more entertaining than the actual movie. Which was Andaz Apna Apna, so that should tell you just how tickled I was.

It  also took me back to the early (and great) times of my last job. We’d end up doing something together on Friday nights – a movie or a drink or dinner. So on Tuesday,with great enthusiasm, I proposed a plan for Friday and asked for ideas. Unfortunately, with all the evil he could muster, SNC diverted that into a conversation on ‘Ways to torture Ideasmith’ which ranged from the irritating ‘Make her do everyone’s work and take Friday off’ to the downright vile ‘Set up a fake profile for her on a matrimonial site’.

The next week, much improved by my training, I instituted the voting buttons which were as follows:

  • I’ve got culture. MOVIE!
  • I am SNC. All I care about is…DINNER!
  • I am a loser. I’m going home.

Needless to say, that week was mine!

Don’t rain on the office parade

My first week isn’t out and the high drama has already begun! Started with a marathon meeting that went on past lunch, topped by the first cold I’ve started this monsoon (aren’t they the worst?).

Monday was better, punctuated as it was by an awkward-funny round of introductions with everyone else. I contemplated changing my name with every bay I introduced myself to (“I’m Miya. I’m Ingrid. I’m Cleopatra. I’m Socrates. I’m Obama.”) but sanity reigned just in time. Then of course the rains decided to happen.

4 and a half hours struggling through traffic & trains stalled by rains last night reminded me of Mumbai’s most famous myth – ‘the spirit of Mumbai’. I’ll have you know I slipped and fell on my butt, on one of the pedestrian walkways, despite my new, brandedwala sneakers-with-cool-technology-soles. Spent 20 minutes navigating (gingerly) till the station was in sight. I won’t tell you about the lady in the train who provided my nighttime train entertainment by yelling on the phone, chomping chips almost as loudly and picking her teeth (in relative silence…only relative but the sight more than made up for the lack of sound). I’m absolving myself from spirit of Mumbai, no thank you.

Still though, cheer comes my way in the form of this object that I found strategically (and ominously) placed in the center of the table I was assigned. SNC is back, people!!

Back In Office

After a three year hiatus, I’m going back to work. On the 1st of September, I enter the office space again as an employee.

The last time I was a corporate employee, I was an anonymous blogger. A few colleagues were friends but not one of them knew about my blogs. I carried two people inside me and lived two lives – that of IdeaSmith and my (real) life – and rarely, if ever did the two meet. This is the final step in closing the anonymity with which I began my blogging life. It feels like a coming out of sorts; apprehension & relief jostling for my mindspace.

This blog began in an office, on a boring Tuesday afternoon. Some of my early posts were about the new world I found around me – the professional one. At some point of time, they made it into a blog of their own called Office Capers. I gave my colleagues funny (and generic, it is to be hoped) nicknames, reported nonsensical watercooler conversations and my personal reflections alike. And then, in 2007, when recognition got too close for comfort, I locked the blog away from prying eyes that might make the connection between the blog and me.

Today, my online and offline avatars have merged and mirror each other. So it feels like it’s time to bring Office Capers back. The posts from that blog can be found under the category Office Capers.

This time round, I’m older. I may not be wiser but I certainly carry the weight of more lessons. Concern for consequences is one of them and diplomacy may be another. I don’t yet know what I’m going to say in Office Capers yet. But I’d like to keep the tone funny, whimsical & chatty as it was when I began. I imagine that’s not a tall order considering what’s waiting for me on Saturday – new colleagues!

Wish me luck!


And in case you still haven’t gotten the hint, I really want you to go and check out those old posts! Here are some of my favorites:

Ideamarked Nov2011: Window Gardens, Bookstores, PS3 & Kolaveri Di

I’ve always loved November. Diwali festivities, vacations to look forward to…as I’ve gotten older, I find the end of the year packing up. The weather is crisper, even in hot & humid Mumbai. Everyone starts to let their hair down and spends more time thinking about parties, picnics & get-togethers than work. The world takes a break next month & November is all about the planning and anticipation of just that.

It’s been a packed and enjoyable November for me. I attended the NH7 festival in Pune, in its second year. A story on women bloggers featured me in a prominent way. For the few of you who remember my long-winded adventure with NovelRace, I finally managed to complete it! Whether this ever comes out or not, I can now die happy knowing that I did write a full novel. 🙂

On that cheery note, here’s this month’s links. As you can see, there was a lot of link-love going around too!

  • DewarsIndia’s channel features music travelogues across India. (on Youtube, link courtesy Sangita Bhargavi)
  • Simi’s new show: India’s most botoxed, banal & brainless‘: Of course, I agree. (via FirstPost, link courtesy Lakshmi Shesadri)
  • MasterChef India: Guaranteed to cure you of any desire to cook‘: Sadly, I’m having to agree. MasterChef India has a long way to go before it can be in the same league as MasterChef Australia. (via FirstPost)
  • Window gardening for the urban-dweller longing for a touch of green – ‘Growing Organic Fruits & Vegetables at Home‘ (via Earthoholics, link courtesy Vishal Gadkari)
  • ‘Worklish’ is a way to cover up how much one doesn’t know. They why is it that we who don’t speak it, are left out in the cold?: ‘Buzzwords at office driving you crazy? 6 ways to cope‘ (via Huffington Post)
  • If your interest in astrology, tarot, dream interpretation & the predictive arts extends beyond mere curiosity, you should definitely visit Magick. The store  is currently looking for fulltime apprentices to initiate into the Wicca tradition. (via Swati Prakash)
  • If you ever wondered why the people you follow, don’t follow you back, here are some possible answers: ‘The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You On Twitter‘ (via Mashable)
  • Reviews, recipes and workshops, you have to stop by Tulleeho if you have a love of the drink.
  • India as the Indians see it – non PC humour (on Facebook, link courtesy Shweta Madan)
  • ‘5 Tips To Help You Decide How Much Of You Should Show Up On The Blog‘ (via SharingWithWriters)
  • Hail the motherland of idlis, software dreams & kitschy Kollywood songs! This month’s music craze – Kolaveri Di (via Youtube)
  • A 5-yr old post that’ll still interest Mumbai’s booklovers: ‘A Bibliophile’s Guide To Mumbai‘ (via The Idea-smithy)
  • A lovely gift from blogger to blogger – ‘It’s Not Just A Car‘ 55 word story by Manuscrypts!
  • Kitab Khana, a bookstore recommendation courtesy Anuradha Shankar.
  • A little thought on liking and love (via Slices of Time, link courtesy Rehab Chougle)
  • MICHEAL: PS3 Long Live Play‘: A fun advertisement for gamers (via Youtube, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)

* Catch these links as they happen on The Idea-smithy Facebook Page. You can also post an interesting link of your own to the page and get featured on the Ideamarked post at the end of the month!

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