Architect Boss

On the advice of a colleague of mine in my earlier office, I joined an Architectural Undergraduate college as a Personal Assistant to the Dean. I could scarcely imagine that my tenure with the college could be so short-lived and its end so humiliating.

I accepted this job on the basis of two considerations. The first one being, which most of us look forward to, was a hike in my salary package and secondly it was very near to my house. Before joining, I weighed its pros and cons and decided in favor of joining in. Perhaps God, without my knowledge, laughed at me.

The first day in the office was a very smooth affair. I was introduced to the faculty members, the office staff and other helping hands like electrician, canteen man etc. I noticed within a few days that our office staff started avoiding me. They would only talk to me about office work and nothing else. I guessed it could be because I was new and did not know me well so they avoided me.

My assignment was to take dictation, type letters and follow it up till dispatch, to accept application for leave of faculty members, office staff and others, show them to my boss and seek approval. If needed, the particular applicant would be called in and asked to explain why he or she could not do without leave. Before the towering personality of my boss most of them would fumble, only a few meekly presented words could hardly be heard. My work would be to tell those words loudly to my boss. Perhaps my boss, I dare say, had the problem of hearing, which he never accepted to be true.  The most funny thing would happen when the telephone rang. It was a big hall like room for the Dean.  My seat was in one corner overlooking the garden which kept my mind in a cheerful mood in an otherwise suffocating in the presence of the boss.  He used to occupy an oval like table and a big chair in one corner befitting his stature. The moment the telephone would ring, I was told by him a number of times to run and pick up the receiver irrespective of the importance of job I would be occupied with.  In the meantime, if it rang more than twice, his roaring could be heard in the whole college. I presumed others outside would enjoy such a situation imagining my state of affairs. The only saving grace was that my boss would be in college only for 3 hours. But I can assure my readers that that 3 hours would be sufficient to bring down a number of chivalrous heroes to their knees. Please do not think I am exaggerating even a bit. I am sure one time encounter would convince any skeptics to vindicate my statement.

Now let me tell you the dictation part. The first part of the dictation as you know is a mere formality and then the real body of the letter starts. He would dictate four to five lines and then would tell me to arrange the sentences in this fashion: sentence number 2 becomes one, one becomes two, 4 becomes three and three becomes 4. Then he would ask me to read out in the changed sequence the dictation part without faltering. Those who are familiar with Pitman's shorthand would agree how difficult it is to readout the shorthand form into English with such a confused direction. He would flare up immediately saying " Tumse kuch nehi hoga - you are incapable of doing anything". He would demoralize me at every opportunity and enjoy me seeing at the lowest of my spirit. However, I was managing my job quite well the proof of which was his appreciating me to other staff members.

We had a Governing Council of college for reviewing and issuing guidelines how the administration and academic syllabus would be followed. There were a number of well-known architects and estate builders as member of the Governing Council.  During my tenure, there were three such meetings. I would be asked by my boss to take a chair and sit just behind him and note down all the discussion that would take place verbatim. I do not think it has ever been possible for any stenographer to note verbatim of the discussion where 9 to 12 members talking and discussing. At times I would intently listen to the discussion and jot down only the main points. That is the time he would insist on me saying, "You are not writing anything, write, write'. But he would be so sweet at that time in presence of the dignitaries that you would hardly believe your ears.  The only seeming benefit that I would accrue was to get a good cup of tea and snacks.   Once the members left, he would be his old self.  He would thunder and ask me to make a draft report of the meeting within half an hour.  In those days I was, for the first time, using an electronic typewriter and did not have much access to computers. Those were the days when computers were a prized possession and only professional people had access to it. As the clock would start ticking for the next half an hour my pulse bit would run faster than the clock. I would consult the agenda with my notes and finally would be able to make a first draft of the minutes of the meeting.  During this half an hour he would not go anywhere but just follow me through the gap of his upper frame of spectacles and his eyebrows.  In spite of my best efforts, you can very well imagine how unfairly I would be treated.  He would direct me to make a few changes here and there and keep the final draft for approval for the next day. The moment he went out of the office, I would heave a sigh of relief.

Thus life went on this way.  Things were not so bad as readers may imagine.  In this encircling gloom there were a few silver linings however.  My wife would bring lunch from home or I would go home to have homemade food. I would share the incidents of the college with my wife and both of us would laugh. 

One day my boss over stayed to meet the AICTE members who were coming to visit the infrastructure facilities of the college before renewing the approval of AICTE.  He wanted to have lunch and there was no alternative than to have it at the canteen. In the meantime, I sought permission of my boss to go home and have my lunch. He asked me whether I go home everyday for my lunch. Hearing my affirmative reply, he looked very grave. I guessed he might have felt himself to be very unlucky whereas his P.A had the opportunity to go home and have lunch. This opportunity became a bane for me which became evident from the behavior of my boss from the next day itself.

It so happened one day that one of our staff members without informing the office absented for two days. When this matter was reported to the boss he was furious. He said, "let this fellow come and I will teach him a lesson."  When he came on the third day I reported to him about the developments. He just smiled and told with confidence, "see how I tackle this matter." On the arrival of my boss he was summoned immediately. He first wished my boss, "Good morning sir." Saying this,  he brought out a sweet packet containing the variety of sweets my boss liked most. This worked like a miracle. The mercury plummeted drastically like it happens on a hot day after a good shower. My boss only could say very quietly, "Ishka keya jarurat tha - It was not needed."  The fire works I was expecting to see ended with a whimper. 

The most important work I had to do was to type out the question papers of the internal semester examination of the college.  This work was to be done in utter secrecy which I maintained very efficiently.  But when the boss conspires can any one on earth save you?   One day, our Registrar asked me to accompany him to have all the question papers photocopied just a day before the examination was to commence.  A few photocopies came out badly which were torn and put in the dustbin on the advice of the Registrar.  Later on these torn papers were assembled together by a few students (I do not know who directed them to do it) and the question papers were leaked. The Dean called two of us, the Registrar and myself.  He bluntly asked us to resign on the issue of leakage of question papers. We both did. My resignation was accepted and the Registrar was let off with few apparent reprimands.  The administrative staff felt that it was very unreasonable on the part of my boss to have made me a scapegoat.

Thus my tenure with the college came to an unfortunate end but it taught me a few tricks of the trade. However there came many opportunities in my next service but I could never apply those survival tricks.   Recently I paid a visit to the college and found all the old members are still continuing in the college only I was dropped out. Perhaps they all knew those few tricks how to stick to a job and get promotion as well. 

Thank God I was thrown out. I got a better job within 15 days with one of the best finance companies of the country and my total salary package went up considerably.