Friday, February 1, 2008

Panels


I took a long slow drag on the stub of cigarette.

“I need you to do this Sam” he said, “you know I wouldn’t come to you unless it was an emergency”

I released the fumes from my nose. He coughed.

“Panels?” I said

“Panels” he asserted.

“Panels”, I said with an air of finality and unleashed another dragon from my flared nostrils. The thin strand of smoke rose high above his balding head, and unfurled under the old wooden fan.

“Tomorrow at 11 Landons Road. The client is Earnest&Nubile. They want a series of...”

“Details”, I said, “are for accountants. I will come tomorrow”, and dismissed him dismissively.

I looked out the window of my dingy office. It was one of those, I thought, pristine walls and glass panelled doors. They probably had hand-sanitizers in the Johnnies. I took one last drag on my cigarette and stubbed it in the overflowing ashtray. A smooth black bowl with a naked woman hugging the edge, her ass in the air. It was a gift from Bebo.

I got up from the chair and walked over to the window. The glass pane was black with grime. I pushed it up and looked out at the concrete below.

Panels, I said softly under my breath.

...

“And this is main conference room” she said as she clacked her way past the glass doors. She smiled stiffly as I stood at the doorway.

It was worse than I thought. The carpeted hallway was lined with frosted-glass offices on either side. Fake potted plants sat discreetly below humming air conditioners.

Her well-heeled foot started lightly tapping the wooden flooring.

“So...” I said, “no sensor thingies huh? You know, the ones that open when you walk near...”

“No Mr Sampat Trivedi, we do not have sensormatic doors in our...”

“Please” I interrupted, “Call me Sam”

She pursed her lips and looked at me. Her small diamond ear studs glinted in the light. I held her gaze.

“So if you’ll follow me...” she said as she sharply turned her head and walked inside. I followed.

She wasn’t bad-looking. Her black hair was pulled tightly into a bun perched high on her head and the few wisps of hair in front, neatly pinned by the side and out of her face. Her eyebrows were pencil thin and looked drawn on. She had a small ski-jump of a nose and very small, delicate lips, shut tight. Not bad-looking at all, I thought, as I watched her tight ass move beneath the fabric. Although her ankles looked a bit thick, I noted.

She was probably the kind who bought anything in the supermarket with the words “organic” or “natural” or “holistic” on it and then went home and shoved two well-manicured fingers down her throat.

“This is where we entertain our ‘bigger’ clients”, her voice pierced the stillness. She could say a word with the quotes intact and she knew it. “Some of our biggest deals are finalized in this room. This is the room where the landmark merger of...”

“So that’s seven in all?” I asked.

“Yes, Mr Trivedi”, she snapped back, “Seven conference rooms. We have sent you the brief, the details are in there. You will revert Thursday with the copy and artwork. Upon approval, you may proceed.”

“Well now, Thursday’s not too far away, is it?” I drawled as I opened a cigarette pack.

“The accelerated pace is much appreciated” she said tightly. “And Mr Trivedi”, she added as I fished out a lighter from my pocket, “we have a no smoking policy in this building”. She smiled curtly. I stretched out the cigarette pack to her.

“Ms Fernandes”, she said coldly, “will escort you to the exit” And she left, her stilettos sinking into the carpeted floor. I watched the grey-suited figure receding down the grey hallway.

“Mr Trivedi!” a shrill high-pitched voice shattered the carpeted silence. The horrendous Ms Fernandes stood in a floral patterned dress and brown shoes, a HB Natraj pencil stuck behind her ear. I sighed, and put the cigarette pack away.

...

“...will be able to provide a complete design solution for the newly-designed conference rooms at the Ernest&Nubile corporate headquarters. The scope of services include interior signage – including office and room identifiers as well as directional signs. Type and illustration may be used together or individually to create a look to describe and reflect the spirit of the space ...”

I threw the sheet of paper into the dustbin and lit a cigarette. So that was the job. A bunch of rooms for corporate nitwits to sit around and bullshit all day. And now they wanted bullshit about the bullshit rooms. I chuckled at the irony of it.

I got up from the desk and went over to the window. I looked at the ashtray on the window sill. I would have never taken the job if it wasn’t for her. I ran my fingers over the smooth stone of the naked figurine. A gift from Thailand, she said. She thought the Thais were perverts. I made a mental note to take her to Kajuraho.

I put the ashtray back on the sill and went over to my desk. She had sent over a bunch of papers to my office. Research, she called it. The courier package still lay on my desk, untouched.

Ok, I said I under my breath, let’s see what you’ve sent. I ripped open the carefully sealed brown envelope and dumped the contents on the desk. It was a bunch of neatly typed papers. I picked up the first page and read it.

“The charanam is a part of Indian classical music made up of different stanzas of the compositions. It is usually the third part of the composition or melody. Charanam is usually followed by pallavi”

I threw it back on the cluttered desk. Bebo was efficient. She must’ve spent days compiling the research. The brief outlined seven musical terms, for each of the seven conference rooms. I spat on the floor. Well, I thought, if it was that important to her... and picked up a pen and a grimy sheet of paper.

“Charanam” I wrote, “is an important part of Indian classical music, and together with the Pallavi and Anupallavi, gives birth to countless compositions.”

I looked at the ceiling fan slowly turning round and round. I took another drag on the cigarette and started furiously writing on the paper. That’s one done, I thought when I had finished, and looked at what I had just written.

I was pleased.

It was the best bullshit I’d come up with in days. I still hadn’t lost my touch. I licked the tip of my fingers and picked up another sheet of paper from my desk, and started writing.

...

Ms Banu looked at the paper, pinching the edge with her well-manicured hands. Her hair was pulled up as usual, in a tight black knot. She was in a blue silk blouse today, and I could make out the outline of her lace bra against the fabric.

“Is this your idea of a joke Mr Trivedi?”

She mouthed the words slowly. She had placed the sheet of paper on her lap and leant forward, her legs crossed and palms folded. Her foot betrayed her impatience, tapping the hard floor in sharp clacks as she held my gaze, straight-faced. I stared back.

“Charanam” she started reading, “is an important part of Indian classical music, and together with the Pallavi and Anupallavi, gives birth to countless compositions.

In fact this process of giving birth is highly complicated, since being a threesome of women only makes it impossible for any of them to get pregnant. However, this minor difficulty is overcome by inserting a certain amount of Anusemenum to the most fertile one of the trio. The compositions emerge after nine months, the numbers depending on the amount of Anusemenum.”

I grinned at her as I fished out a cigarette from my pockets and lit one.

“It gets better”, I told her as I flicked the ashes on the carpet.

“Santoor”, she continued reading “is a Persian string-instrument made from walnut wood. Played with a pair of curved wooden mallets, the resultant melodies are similar to the music of the harp or piano.

The word santoor is actually a perversion of the words sand tool. This refers to the long members of certain members of the Royal Persian Desert Hunting Unit. Their units were indeed covered in sandy hair, as they were often courting blonde women. The idea to make an instrument called the sand tool came from the perverted mind of one of these blonde women.
The wooden mallets were originally the ball sacs of men who got a little overtly enthusiastic. The ragas were sung while kings who were not exceptionally well endowed in the nether regions needed to get it up hoping to perform better in the sack.”

“Mr Trivedi” she yelled, “This will not stand” and she threw the sheaf of papers on the floor.

I looked at her coolly as she hardened her gaze. I slowly got up from my chair, bent, picked up the papers and started to read.

“Abheri is a very pleasant raga that shines in brevity. With no scope for lengthy elaboration, Abheri emerges beautifully if the raga rendition is short.

As the name (a berry) and the above description suggest, this raga was first composed specially for men with short sticks and problems with premature ejaculation...”

“Mr Trivedi” she interrupted, as she suddenly stood up, “I expect the revised copy mailed to me this evening. I trust you have not forgotten our appointment at 10 30am tomorrow with the head of Ernest&Nubile.”

I watched her pert ass move as she stormed off. I took another long drag on my cigarette and waited for the shrill cry of Ms Fernandes to shatter the silence.

...

Ms Banu was nervous. I hadn’t mailed her the revised copy yesterday. Moreover, she wasn’t able to postpone the appointment in the morning. I looked at her nervously drumming her manicured nails on the glass tabletop. It was the first betray of emotion I’d seen.

“Mr Trivedi” she snapped under her breath, “I don’t know what you’ve done but it better be good. My boss is slated to arrive any minute now. With him, there will be representatives from the Department of Marketing and Brand Management...”

“Babe” I told her as I shook the toast crumbs from my crumpled shirt, “don’t fret. You’ll give yourself a wrinkle.”

She looked at me shocked. I winked at her, and yawned. Bugger was late. It was just her and me sitting in that conference room. I looked around. Glass tabletop...whiteboard...projector on the ceiling... Swivel chairs... It even had an automatic curtain control system to adjust the light. Wonder which one this room was going to be. I blew my nose into my dirty handkerchief.

“Ms Banu!” Ms Fernandes flung open the glass doors, short of breath “they’ve arrived...” she was cut off by the sound of voices in intent discussion. The Department of Marketing and Brand Management walked in. There were seven men, all dressed in the same suits and with the same smile plastered across their faces. They probably all used the same shampoo.

Ms Banu sat ramrod straight in her chair, and a hush fell on the room as The Man walked in. He nodded, and everyone sat down. He looked nondescript. He sat at the end of the table while one of the grey-suited men used the curtain control remote to lower the shades.

“Mr Trivedi” Ms Banu started, “has worked on the type for the seven conference rooms. He will present the copy...”

I threw the sheaf of papers across the table. It slid across the table and stopped in front of The Man. The room went silent. The Man slowly picked up the first page and handed it to Ms Banu.

“Charanam” she started reading in a faltering voice, “is an important part of Indian classical music, and together with the Pallavi and Anupallavi, gives birth to countless compositions.

Like the different components of music that together create beautiful harmony, diverse inputs come together in this space to craft a unified vision. Charanam embodies the spirit of partnership and teamwork through the emergence of a single vision from individual thoughts.”

She stopped and looked nervously at The Man. He nodded. At least, I imagined he nodded. From the shadows it was difficult to make out exactly what he was doing.

Ms Banu continued, “Santoor is a Persian string-instrument made from walnut wood. Played with a pair of curved wooden mallets, the resultant melodies are similar to the music of the harp or piano.

Like the sound chamber of walnut wood that houses exquisite harmonies, Santoor is a sanctum of thought. Like wood, signifying strength and stability, this sanctuary exemplifies strong values and solid ideas rooted in sound judgment.”

The Man leant forward in his chair, and rested his elbows on the tabletop. I imagined he placed the tips of his fingers together in an inverted V as he brooded over the presentation.

“Abheri” she continued, “is a very pleasant raga that shines in brevity. With no scope for lengthy elaboration, Abheri emerges beautifully if the raga rendition is short.

A space exemplifying lightness and simplicity, Abheri sees the appearance of fresh thoughts and new directions. Wisps of ideas take flight in this light and refreshing space.”

Ms Banu paused. The Man made an impatient gesture for her to continue. I couldn’t be sure; it was too dark to see. Ms Banu read the rest of the copy. She reached the final one.

“Raga Malhar is a powerful and legendary raga in Indian classical music. According to legend, Raga Malhar is so powerful that when sung, it can induce rain to fall from the sky.

A powerful space where great decisions with far reaching implications are made. Intense discussions tackle the toughest problems here, till even the most complicated issues are unravelled, leading to a downpour of clear ideas and solutions.”

She placed the sheet in front of him and sat down. The room was still. The only sound was the sound of humming from the air conditioner. The Man spoke. “Mmm” he said.

“The Man approves”, said Ms Banu. The Department of Marketing and Brand Management broke out in exclamations of approval. “We will release the payment” she continued in a low clear voice, “for the remainder of your commercial terms immediately.”

The Man got up from his chair and walked around to where I was seated. I got up. He gave me a single-pump handshake while I peered intently, unsuccessfully, in his heavily shadowed face. If there was a face, that is.

“Secretery” He said in his assertive, nondescript voice, “Follow up on this.” Ms Fernandes dropped her HB Natraj pencil and got on her knees to look for it. The Man turned to me.

“Good job, Mr Trivedi” he said, and left with his army of grey-suits.

I fished out my dirty handkerchief and wiped the sweat off my brow. I hadn’t noticed I was holding my breath. I took out a pack of cigarettes from my pocket.

“I am sorry Mr Trivedi,” Ms Fernandes’ shrill voice rang out as she sprang up, “but smoking is not permitted in this building.”

I cursed under my breath and put the pack back in.

...

That crack on the ceiling seemed to be bigger. I lay on my bed and watched as a cockroach ran up the wall. I need to clean up this mess.

“Good job today” Ms Banu said, leaning against the doorway. She was in her silk blouse and heels. She lit a cigarette and took a slow drag.

“Like I said Bebo” I told her as I propped myself up on the bed with my elbows, “don’t fret. It’ll give you wrinkles.”

She laughed and walked up to bed. Her blouse was open down the front. She leant over to kiss me, and I moved my hand up to exposed left tit.

“My father was impressed” she continued, as I kneaded her soft breast, “so were the Department of Marketing and Brand Management. He’s considering giving you a permanent position.”

“That” I said, as I pinched her hard nipple, “would be ideal.”

Bebo gasped as I moved my fingers down to the wetness between her legs. I took the cigarette from her with my other hand.

“The next time you have a job” I continued, “you can forget that bald nitwit, and come straight to me.”

I took one last drag on the cigarette, and stubbed it out in the overflowing ashtray.

...

note: Much thanks to Mayank for his perverted interpretations of the classical terms. Monkus, I owe you one.

4 comments:

W H said...

I hate it when people smoke while walking on the street, especially in front of me. Sense. Lacking sense. Typical I'm-An-Arse-Hole mentality.
Sometimes, I feel, they should mix cyanide with cigarettes.. The world will be a better place..

Kaushik said...

I agree with w h.

Also, good story, I feel.

Kaushik

Amrut said...

nice nice!
Can be converted to a sketch i say!

Full with music and lights and action :)

Gomathi the Cow... said...

uh... yeah... what was I going to say... fabulous... mind blowing type level it is in... love it... hmmm... thinking too many things about this to put it all down to make it sound all cool like...