It starts on a Friday morning.
I had one of those special nights when I just can’t sleep. I fell asleep when dawn was nearing. I slept through both the alarms and woke up by the call from transportation coordinator. He was asking me if I would be taking the second pickup. Got ready in a hurry. Bus was as usual late and I knew I wouldn’t reach office on time. We’ve a rule to swipe in before a certain “in-time”, or else our attendance is not marked in the system. I therefore emailed my team, informing that I wouldn’t be joining the scrum meeting, and updated them about progress of my work. My proactive update did not matter anyway. My manager called me to ask if I was coming to office. Nobody has seen the email.
I reached a good 7 minutes post the “in-time” deadline. Upon reaching office, I remembered it was day#2 of the sprint and we had a retrospective meeting for previous sprint. So I sprinted towards the meeting room. The project manager had decided to retrospect the two years that our team has been working together. I thought this was a good time to raise my concern. What was my concern?
All my team members except me, speak a regional language. That regional langauge has become the official language to conduct all meetings and discussions. Over past 4.5 years of being part of this team, I have raised my concern more than a million times with my line manager, department heads, head of human resources, and even the big boss who heads our local office. I discuss this in each one-on-one meeting with my manager. My manager, supposedly warned the team to stay cautious, repeatedly. However, despite all of this, things don’t change. So I wrote that on a post-it note.
When it was read by the project manager out loud, there was silent in room. Then everybody started to pretend as if this is a new thing and they are hearing it for the first time.
Somebody suggested I could simply stop them.
Somebody defended that they spontaneously speak the regional language.
Somebody meekly said that it is not deliberate.
I quietly listened to all these excuses. Then I asked.
I asked that if even center head knows about it, if I’ve been raising this point every fortnight for 4.5 years, then how come they don’t know about it?
I asked them my manager assures me in every one-on-one meetings that he has taken care of this, if they’re still unaware, it means my manager is lying. Is he lying?
I asked them how would they feel if, hypothetically, I had another colleague of my ethnicity and we discussed in our language?
I asked them if they would just ask us to stop. And if we still continue to do so, would they keep on asking us to refrain from it; or would rather feel pissed off, and conclude that all this is deliberate?
Then I shared one story of how some Indian colleagues were talking in Indian language in one of the english speaking office, and just one tiny little incident was reported to HR, admin, product managers and all the big shots of office.
Nobody could answer any questions. Nobody probably understood that this is potential harassment-based-on-language case.
After the meeting, I asked my manager to do one on one. No, this time it was not to complain about langauge. I had certain reservations about my work assignment and the credit was not coming my way. In that meeting, my manager and I discussed some of my work assignments. After that, he mentioned that my director was not too happy with my last week’s presentation. OK, I agreed that there was no preparation for the demo, and due to no sleep the precious night I was sort of semi conscious and may not be fully aware if what I was taking. After this, he gave some more feedback that he received from other people, all relating to my communication skills. I will not share those details here. It was not nice.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe that nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement. Specially, the communication. English is not my first language, so I am open to feedback. I felt bad, because the feedback was not constructive. It was more like allegations. You do this, you say that. That meeting got stuck to my head.
I have some really noisy neighbors. They talk very loud. On weekends, they party till 3 or 4 am in the morning . They are bullies. People have tried to ask them to refrain from it. But they threaten, and fight, and yell. And then, they still do everything they do; more aggressively, more frequently. The walls are too thin or maybe I have vulcan hearing. I am most suffered by this. And it scars me greatly, not just for the night, but forever.
This particular Friday evening the episode repeated. I could sleep only after the devils were asleep. Saturday morning, I got up just before noon.Spent time doing the usual chores – dusting, laundry, dishes, cleaning. The weekend was a regular weekend. Except the week starting Monday, was my turn for on-call support.
It was a regular work day. Only difference being I had to stay at office for 10+ hours for on-call support. It gets tiring.
I got up late this morning as well. Partly because I thought of availing “work from home” when I was asleep, like semi-asleep. I worked peacefully. The test environment was not ready so instead of writing any code, I decided to do the much-needed technical documentation. It went by smoothly, until “alert” stuck again. Yeah, there was a support ticket and I was all hyper. I did not want to work on the ticket. But as I mentioned in my previous post,I always had to be very active when it comes to on-call. I managed to keep my calm, resolved the ticket, and chanted no-more-ticket, no-more-ticket-please-god. There wasn’t. Just as I was about to log off, I realized that the daylight time started this week, and I will have to do on-call for one more hour.
Oh no! Those last 60 minutes felt like the longest hour of my life.
I had this inspiration session conducted by HR, where a group of randomly selected employees will share their story within the organization. With the last conversation about my “communication skills” still haunting me continuously, I was totally distracted. I was afraid that I may speak something wrong. Gotten sick of that nagging thought, I decided to speak minimally. I gave a huge sigh of relief when the session was over.
I was thinking about the whole session while doing the dishes after dinner, and I realized that I spoke alright. My introduction was funny. My hobbies surprised people. The participants were amazed by my listening skills. Yet, I had the self-doubt instilled in me, that I can’t speak well.
I asked one of the EST folks about on-call timing. I suggested we do typical IST hours irrespective of daylight. They agreed. However, I still had to do that extra hour. I cleared the way for other on-call folks.
So my day began at 9:22 am in the office. And I had to stay there till 8:30 pm. The last drop for office employees is 7:40pm. If anybody had to stay after that, she/he will need to request for late evening drop. I requested one, for 8:45pm.
I completed the hours, and signed off by 8:35pm.
I called up security to let them know that I am free and ready to go. Security person calls me back after a few minutes, saying the late evening drop is timed at 9:30 pm. Great, like my day wasn’t bad enough. I tried to book a cab, but found none. I tried to hail an auto rickshaw from outside the office premise, but nobody agreed to go to my locality, it is not that far, but I cannot argue with auto rickshaw drivers.
After about 10 minutes, one kind rickshaw drive agreed, if I paid him extra. I was tired, I was anxious, I was tensed, I had to agree. The traffic was less, but the winds… oh my god. I was frozen by the time I got home. When I stepped in, I thought warm, and cozy, and finally relaxed to be home. This is what heaven must feel like. The anxiety started to fade.
After I changed into my old, comfortable home clothes, I looked outside my window. There was a maroon sedan parked there. My heart starts to sink. Why? Cuz that maroon car belongs to my noisy neighbor’s friends. And when that car is there, there is noise till wee hours of the morning Why god, why? I wept a little. The anxiety that was fading away, attacked with more vigour this time. I couldn’t even eat. I put on my noise-cancelling foam earplugs, shut my eyes tightly, and tried to sleep.
Wait, there’s more.
All employees traveling by office bus of my route, have a typical routine. The seats they choose to take, the order in which they alight from bus upon reaching office, the entrance gate they swipe for security post. This week, it changed. A certain person took my seat. Yes, my seat. I sat there for ~6 years. I’ve been commuting in that bus for almost 6 years now.
Then: That person was sitting in the first row, right side window seat for 6 years. He always took the left entrance, ALWAYS.
Now: He is sitting in left side window seat now. That’s mine. And now he’s taking the right entrance. That was mine.
It is not a one-off thing. He did this all 5 days of the week. Agitated by this, I started swiping from left side security post. I also had to squeeze in the right side window seat, I want to stay away from the person in adjacent seat. I don’t like being very close to people. You see.
I am wondering, why did I observe that car? Why did I observe that “maroon car” means trouble? Why did I have to observe this freaks behavior in the past? What did I realize that time would change due to daylight. I could’ve worked the regular time.
I am too observant. That’s yet another problem I have. Oh, that would be my new post in daemons series.
I have stayed in office for much longer hours during my first project when I joined. I actually worked really strange hours. From 10 am in the morning to 2 am, was the routine. Sometimes, I would work till 6 am; go back to rest a little and freshen up; and be back in office by noon. Why did I feel so anxious about the long hours this time?
Am I needing more work life balance?
Do I not enjoy my work anymore?
Am I too old to work long hours?
Or have I realized that working extra hours does not have any rewards, and have settled for a 9-5 routine?
I really can’t say.
All said and done, what happened was meant to happen. God knows the best. I have no control over things.
Sick of all the anxiety I had, I decided to blurt it out in a post. That is in my control, a little bit 🙂
And so it conclues, a week in hell.