There was a survey result appearing in Times of India that India’s Y generation is the “fourth most vacation deprived” ones in the world. Now, vacation is not the highest priority in any Indian citizen’s list- in the past or now. They constitute one perquisite called Leave Travel Concession (LTC) for which an employer places an arbitrary value since it is taxable. All my life I have encashed it and whenever I spent the full LTC on a holiday, I felt guilty of over spending. So I am not surprised when I saw the above headlines.
Our ways of enjoying holiday or relaxing are slightly different (as comparable to a foreigner sitting idly on a sunny day on a beach). We attend meetings. These consist of a bunch of executives of proximate grade (not all and sundry- those left out should feel depressed and left out) going off to an ‘off site’ location. Some of the more sincere individual or those staying far off work hard till the last moment and then rush off to catch the last possible flight. More sensible ones go home, put on a colorful shirt and stroll into the airport looking relaxed. The “sincere ones” wonder whether the destination of both groups is the same.
Now, reaching the destination in time is a matter of chance and providence. My flight some days back was late by 100 minutes. I reached the destination around midnight. A more fortunate situation would be to reach before dinner and have a relaxed meal, then go around for a walk, comment about our superiors (mostly negative or frivolous), boast to each other on our achievements and so on. Then we go back to the room , switch on the television (with no competition around for remote), watch anything from CNBC to Fashion TV without interruption, find out whether the English Movie has on foreign channel has enough action or masala and then nod off to sleep on freshly washed sheets and soft and yielding pillows.
However it is vital to ring up home and moan about lousy hotel food, boring colleagues, need to go through presentations for the next day, loneliness, empty bed etc to cover possible nuclear fallouts at domestic Headquarters. There is no need to say that the hotel room on 17th floor overlooks a vast, beautiful maidan, the brightly lit lights of the city make a beautiful view, and the populated swimming pool looks glorious that too with eye filling scenery at certain times of the day. If you are in a great property in Goa, there is no need to exclaim about the pristine beach, vast landscaped lawn, entertainment program with free flowing liquor in the evenings. Instead, during daily reporting to HQ, you should keenly focus on bland five star foods, lack of your home cuisine, incessant mails and calls from office and less efficient subordinate.
Meetings are of two kinds. One is where you only have to listen and try to digest the morsels thrown at you. The other is where we have to listen, participate, react and then take some steps after the brief holiday ends. The former is a more pleasant experience and its enjoyment depends on our retention and grasping ability (and intelligence to understand what is spoken). The latter kind of meeting is fraught with risks. It is even worse if our presentation is part of Agenda. Firstly, it reduces the pleasure of the holiday by introducing an element of work in it. Secondly, there is a risk that some pest will actually listen to your presentation and ask some silly questions to impress others present and awake. Thirdly, the leader of the group may, to show wisdom, suggest action and direct some further steps to be taken.
Surprisingly, laptops are allowed to be opened and displayed before each participant to enable them to pretend to be on the job even during holiday. It is a very viable alternate to ennui. You could stare intently at it even if you are reading the review of Jab Tak Hai Jaan ( a Hindi Movie starring Shahrukh Khan) or Skyfall (James Bond Movie) or Thuppakki(Tamil Movie starring Ulaga Nayakan Vijay). But be careful to sit where only co-sympathy holders can watch.
There is only one potent form of Corporate Communication now alive and kicking- that is Power Point slides. It has many advantages. It appears on the screen and vanishes (like advertisement slides in Cinema Halls) leaving no trace on the screen or in your brain. You may add color and images in it, unlike printed notes which can only be in black. The Slide Pack need no signature and sometimes bears no name of its owner. Unless carefully stored in hard and soft form (Printed copy and digital copy for technically challenged), no one can say with any certainty which set of slides were presented and who exactly the owner was. Finally, unless one is very particular or fussy, no one stores these things carefully. So, you can get away by making all kinds of statements and not be held responsible for it.
How to survive long and irrelevant presentations and discussions? This is an art gained over decades of experience (though Microsoft Office became popular during the last twelve to fifteen years, count each month of this period as an year for this purpose). First , reach the venue early to choose a seat which is strategically situated. It should not be below the AC outlet and should be close to the exit. It should not be too far, or too near the leader presiding in splendid isolation. The chap noting down the meeting proceedings should not be anywhere near. Be wise to choose a neighbor who is not in competition with you and is in a totally unconnected function and hence would be pleasant with you. Ask questions at sporadic intervals to prove that you are awake. They should be inquiring, need a specific response and should reflect your brilliance and if possible the presenter’s lack of it.
Finally, some slides may actually be of relevance and use to you and keep you awake.
I believe that we have a broader view of time. We know that time is infinite (unlike those sniping foreigners who are fussy about anything relating to time) and can be used generously. So the starting point is purely indicative and should not be equated with Muhurtham for marriage (even that is spread over a 90 to 120 minute range). Ambitious executives dedicate a time slot for each topic of the meeting. This is more to impress the leader’s superiors on the discipline he imposes. The meeting could end any time before or after the scheduled timetable and should not be predicted nor should any important program fixed based on it. Remember, it is a holiday.
Good meetings are those which end without any major bruises and homework. It should be sufficiently relaxing from a physical perspective and mentally invigorating (as you can give it a brief holiday).
Is this a different perspective of some of our meetings? a