The place where we go for training, is quite far away from our office (and so everyone‘s houses). We’re provided a car and a larger cab to and from our office to the training place. In Bangalore, a car that can weave in and out of traffic (it’s a Qualis, but the driver steers it like a bike) can save you a lot of travel time. Upto an hour in this case. But of course, all the drama’s not just about the time.
The first time I traveled in the cab, I just remember thinking it was uncomfortable, but not too bad. But after a couple of occasions where we had to sit cramped for two hours to get back to the office ( which was still a further hour away from home) at the end of training, everyone began to realise the Qualis was a lifesaver.
But for me, its not just about the hours of discomfort. One morning when I got into the cab, I found all rows except the last row occupied. I didn’t think too much of it, and just took my place there. Later I noticed one of my colleagues had a stitch on his forehead. On inquiring, I found to my horror that he’d got the cut the previous evening, sitting in the last row (which was why everyone had stayed clear of it). The bus had apparently jerked more than usual, and one of the stronger jerks had launched the poor fellow into the air. He told me he wasn’t quite sure how he got the cut, but it was with a cut that he found himself after the initial shock of suddenly finding yourself in the air, and then back.
Needless to say the rest of the journey was a highly nervous affair for me. I had a tight grip on the seat, and kept my glasses aside for good measure. The Bangalore roads gave the cab a fair chance to launch me too, but my bulk probably saved the day.
Much later that evening, my heart skipped a beat as I glanced at my watch. Damn! It was almost 6 and I still had to write the tcl files and the test benches. The day dreams in my head quickly cleared and a slight panic hit me. My hands moved feverishly across the keyboard, as I tried to finish the day’s work. I had to. I wouldn’t get time later. As though on cue, I noticed the general langour around the room melt and a strained concentration fill in. Suddenly there was a buzz of activity, as everyone tried to finish their assignments.
Even as my keyboard groaned, I glanced at the door. The attendance register had not yet come. I kept a lookout out of the corner of my eyes, and so was the first to leap towards the door to grab the register from a startled peon. I quickly scratched my initials and rushed to grab my bag.
Everyone else had seen me lunge towards the door and even before I had signed, a crowd of people had formed around the register. Pushing my way out, I hurried back to my place and quickly saved my work. I didn’t have the time to test the code, and instead muttered a quick prayer, hoping that would be enough. Although I had the advantage of having signed in the register early, I noticed a few people were already near the door.
As I rushed out, I realized that everyone had their own strategy to gain those precious seconds in the race to the car waiting outside. Some kept a lookout for the register. Others keep their bags packed. Some didn’t bother going back to shut down their systems, and I suspected there might even be someone who’d actually finished the work early.
As I stepped out of the building, trying to form a better strategy for my future use, I noticed a group of four of my colleagues ahead. I doubled my pace (well, almost) and tried to reduce the gap, but I could see it was of no use. You weren’t allowed to run. (It was an unspoken rule I was grateful for as I couldn’t go much faster running than walking briskly) They were too far ahead. I could only hope there wasn’t anyone ahead of them. Eight was the magic number, and a group of four meant that my chances of making it were pretty dim.
As they got into the car, I tried to see if there was space for more, but from that distance, I couldn’t be sure, and knew I had to carry on. I couldn’t risk someone overtaking me in case there was a vacant seat in the cab.
As I neared it, I suddenly realized that there had to be an empty seat. That was why they still had a door open. A flood of relief swept through me as I neared the cab and found a seat empty. It was the last one. As I closed the door behind me, I saw the rest of the group behind me, hovered uncertainly at a distance. I leaned back and smiled. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist waving to the guy with a cut in his forehead as the car pulled away.