Category Archives: Overheard in public

An affair to remember


My company shares the office with a sister concern of the same parent company.

Like any office, it has people dynamics that are difficult to hide despite the fact that we do not interact with them.

One such is the one of the bosses and his (presumably) secretary or assistant.

He is bulky man. She is positively dimunitive. He must be in early if not mid 40s. She can’t be day over 25.

I have overheard him telling her things about how she should dress, walk and talk so that “people notice her.”

I may be wrong and will go out on a limb and say he definitely looking at her charitably. What’s worse is he is all she socialises with –at tea, for lunch and exits with him on her way out of office.

I sense discomfort and under confidence in her body language. I sense arrogance and anger in his.

But what’s telling and noticeable is how much the boss glares .. apparently at everyone around. I say us because I noticed some colleagues mention this glare while I was with them. I have already been on the receiving end of many such stares.

“He keeps glaring at me,” one said.

“Oh I thought he only glares at me,” said another.”After all he is having fun,” second one continued and snickered.

Me. I only have a primeval reaction. Want to stop at his desk and give him one tight slap.

(Please don’t tell me she is doing this willingly.)


Post-modernist era?


Two girls sitting in my office pantry, discussing. I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were saying until I heard the magic phrase, Can you wear Westerns when your in-laws are around?

Girl 1: Can you wear western clothes when your in-laws are around?

Girl 2: I do wear it but not often when we are at their place.

Girl 1: Why?

Girl 2: She (the mother-in-law I assume) mentioned that  it is not a nice thing to wear such clothes around your father-in-law. I tried to wear capris instead of jeans but she asked me to change out of them.

Girl 1: In my case, I am not allowed at all to wear these clothes at my in-laws. Even suits (salwar-kameez) are not ok. They only want me to wear sarees. What is worse is her daughter — my husband’s sister — is allowed to wear jeans in the house. It’s just not fair.

Girl 2: Yeah.. it’s not.. mumbling into the conversation

I don’t know what to say.. as I heard this. My heart sank and I wanted to comfort them. Tell them not everyone thinks like their in-laws. People are definitely moving beyond  how things should be. Aren’t they

But I don’t know. With our regressive trend, it was a depressing end to their conversation.

A memorable lunch


I was at a working lunch, working my through a sizzler when I drop nay almost fling my knife on the floor.

The fella is gracious, quickly gets me another.

Ten minutes later, the second knife is smearing pepper sauce on the floor, again.

He quickly gets me a third.

Ten minutes, the person next to me drops it.

He is ready with another knife to handover when a passing waiter murmurs something to him

And he says, No, it’s the other one this time!


Sometimes, I wish I were deaf


My office pantry: me sitting with a cup of bad coffee, pretending to read the Bombay Times and struggling not to hear this Hindu-para-military-kinda guy who looked deceptively harmless.

First he laughs out loud reading the paper. Of course that is usual. We all find something to laugh about in the paper, every single day. While some others sitting give him a strange look, he continues guffawing, and then turns to the table next to him and starts ranting.

“Have you noticed how the media is only talking about Hindu terrorists? How they silenced Asaram bapu and now are going after this..this sadhvi?”  Where are the Muslim terrorists? Don’t they see that Hindu terrorists are only born because of them, those Muslims? These guys will slowly kill all Hindus and make them disappear from this Hindu country and call it secular?”

At this point, I look up and gave him an irritated look. This was an office space and he had no business bringing in religion or politics into the office. I had half a dozen venomous responses ready to spew at him but when I looked at him, I realized all he wanted was a reaction. The two men at his table were wondering where was all this wrath coming from. So I went back to reading my paper.

He took off again, generally repeating the same shit. “Muslims bad, hindus good and disappearing. Wrongly being called terrorists. Where is Zaheera now? Why did they put her accused in jail? (I have no clue what he was reading and whether there is now a connection is Zaheera of Godhra infamy and this whole Malegaon mess) And his punch line: “Lagta hai kuch karna pagega in Muslims ka..” and he stalked out.

The two guys he was supposedly ranting to picked up the paper and tried to figure out what set him off and I was taking deep breaths to just calm down — calm down from the impulse wanting to open the pantry windows and push this guy straight out.

Who are these people? Such venom for a faith? What has being Muslim (or being Hindu) got to do with blowing up innocent people?

Other instances of overhearing: 1, 2

What goes around, comes around


It’s inevitable that you overhear people, in an office where sitting in bays is so common and as is the rule, you often overhear things you will not like.

The person next to me, as I unashamedly hear, is being invited to a function. He asks, ” Are there any marathis (Maharashtrians) there? I don’t want to come in that case. It could be dangerous…”

On an instinctive level, it immediately pissed me off that someone who has lived in Mumbai for some years now and called it, ‘his city,’ is now running away from the who would be his neighbours or colleagues. If he felt so unsafe, why didn’t he just leave the city?

On the other hand, this whole MNS fracas is leading to unbelieavable polarisation, in every single sphere. In buses, with autorickshaw drivers, at offices, in news, in markets. I want to believe that Maharashtrians largely don’t think like Raj Thackeray but, you know what, I am not sure. Listening to people around me who think the situation is fast becoming ‘hopeless’ makes me scared.

What’s worse is the person I am listening to is a south Indian. I guess his kind saw the same hate campaign in the sixties.

I certainly didn’t sign up for this. Mumbai was to be a place unaffected by shenanigans of politicans. It’s so evident that Raj is doing this for elections and most educated people even acknowledge it. But, in day to day living, like someone told me recently, we need more tolerance.

But was it like this back in the sixties? Today practically everyone I know, in Pune especially, hates buying flats in areas that don’t have only maharashtrians and maybe gujratis.Sindhis, the now-infamous ‘North Indians’ and people from UP/Bihar all are being ghetto-ised. Don’t even get me started on Muslims. I guess enough is being said in the papers about that.

I have an aunt, who in her fights with autorickshaw wallahs(everyone has them), tells them, why don’t you pack up and go back? She mustn’t be the first to say so… and what’s worse is that she is a teacher. Is she passing on such intolerance?

Maharashtrians are known to be a passive communite, one not really interested in entrepreneurship and contend with a stable job and good education. Maybe that’s why Mumbai became what it has. It has so many different kinds who come here and make it what it is.

But right now, I want to lean across the cubicle and slap him.

But he is doing what we’ve always done.

For one bad Maharahtrian, he is persecuting the entire community.

Other instances of overhearing: 1