Half an hour into an ordinary Wednesday morning, something feels different. You look around and fellow slaves are typing away, scratching their heads, staring at their screens…the usual.
But it looks different. It is the lights, they are not on, not one. You inquire.
‘Don’t switch it on,’ beckons a colleague with the seriousness of a method artist.
‘We are cutting costs. Haven’t you read the mail?’
‘You mean the notice?’
‘I am sure there are better ways than…’
‘At this salary, I can’t think of any better ideas.’
And he goes back to his desk, dimly lit by his monitor. He does have a point. There is no way of unleashing Austerity without hitting morale. Try as you may, you go through the day with the most pedestrian of thoughts/ideas:
In the loo, you are surprised to find the soap dispenser still functional
At the pantry, you are surprised to find the same brand of biscuits still available.
And the coffee tastes just as bad as yesterday.
You check your self and keep the ‘penny-wise-pond-stupidness’ out of your scrooging brain. But from meeting room to canteen, there is an outpouring of the choicest ideas:
> Scribbling numbers on one’s palms instead of taking printouts
> ACs on only in alternate cubicles
> Washroom lights to be flicked on only when in use
> No tissues, handkerchiefs to be made compulsory
> Lower insurance for smokers
> Only Economy flight tickets, better yet, travel by trains
> No Stapling, U-pins to be re-used
> Coupons for tea/coffee…
…‘That might lead to hoarding and a black market for coupons,’ I offer. The brain stormers stare at me for a couple of seconds and go back to their ideating without even a chuckle.
What could have brought about such seriousness? You go back to your inbox to read the notice again. It seems there is a prize for the ‘Best suggestions on Belt-tightening’.
Ingenious. You remember something about HS flying to a ‘Belt-tightening’ conference just last week. Needless to say, he travelled business class. All you can do is smile at the miniscule-ness of your fiscal apprehensions.
By the time you round up your day’s labour, the would-be cost-cutters have left. Their systems are still on, blinking. You take the effort to bend down and switch off their workstations. By stepping on the backs of thousand poor men does one rich person emerge! But poor men don’t have to be against conservation.