Here comes another meeting. Like the Mac Donald ad, I can’t say, ‘I am loving it,’ but I have no option but to drag my irritated self to yet another session of dance and drama.  This is the side effect of working in a company where the CEO is suffering with CMD, “Compulsive Meeting Disorder”. Mr. Gupta will not even come out of his chamber once to have a look at what’s going on, but meeting gets the best out of him. It is said that when you can’t change your surroundings, try changing yourself. Hence, we have all found our ways to start enjoying these meetings. Some of us looked at it as a time to relax, some see them as an opportunity to get favorable to the boss and few of us who could be certified as misanthropist use meetings to vent their feelings. Our Boss feels meetings can solve any problem. But wait. This no way means that our company is free from issues. We have as many as any other company and hence the need for meetings.

But the problem lied in the agenda of the meeting “Cost Control” because we all knew that this would somewhere mean that the knife would be on employee benefits. Post lunch we reached the forty-seater conference room, that emanated a stale smell of coffee and biscuits served at the last meeting. With a practiced eye, I choose a chair that didn’t have too many sweat marks. Our Boss entered with a rare smile on his square face.

“Friends, (Our boss loves addressing us with that particular noun, though we hardly share much of a cordial relationship), as per the reports submitted by our senior officers, I concluded that the major reason why we are incurring such high expenses is water.”

“Water!” Gasped we all.

Weirdness is our boss’s second nature, but this was too much. How can he raise his fat finger on our basic necessity?

“Oh no. Don’t get me wrong. I am not referring here to the usage of water. I want to bring to your attention the wastage of water in our office.”

I thanked God for saving us. But what wastage he was talking about I had no clue. Hence, I looked on.

“We pour water in the paper cups, and then they don’t drink it fully. Last week we did a Water Audit.”

Gosh. Does something like this even exist?

“Water thrown in the bucket placed below the water filter was measured, and the result was unexpected. On an average, each day 750 liters of water gets collected in the buckets on three floors. We have a staff strength of approx. 1500. This means each staff wastes nearly half a liter of cooled drinking water every day. Therefore, every month we waste more than twenty thousand liters of drinking water which is worth nearly one lakhs of rupees.”

OMG. That’s a considerable number. We must do something about it; I thought staring at the water jar outside, through the glass partition. Underneath lay the sizeable blue bucket, the very cause of all the agony.

“We need to find a solution. Hence, your suggestions please?”

As soon as the word “suggestion” escapes out of our boss’s mouth, it tingles the very soul of our office. The magic word whirled around the conference room, and many hands went up. Nearly twenty-five. This is going to be fun, I told myself and relaxed on the chair.

“Yes, Mr. Prajapati.”

“Sir, first I would like to tell you that you have touched the very heart of the problem. Water is precious and must be conserved. But I want to suggest that not only drinking water; in this office, even toilet water is wasted a lot.” Mr. Prajapati, the crib master, took the opportunity to share his long-withheld grievance looking sharply at Mr. Pingal.

Mr. Pingal for a few moments had little idea that this point has anything to do with him. He nodded in affirmation.

“We should see that in no way water gets wasted. We must take substantial steps to curb such negligence.” he again looked at Mr. Pingal.

But in vain. Innocent Mr. Pingal had no idea that all his morning chores were under Mr. Prajapati’s radar. Mr. Prajapati once again tried explaining his cause with an intention to expose his colleague when our boss interrupted.

“Mr. Prajapati, we are only focusing on drinking water right now. Nothing else. Let’s focus on the current agenda.”

I hated him for interfering and putting a curtain to the charade that was about to get even more entertaining. But alas!

“Yes, Miss Asha, tell us your views.”

“Sir, I think we should ration water. Only five glasses a day allowed per person.”

I looked at her pimpled limp face and wondered if she ever drank more than five glasses a day.

“Sir, people have different needs, can’t ask them not to drink if they are thirsty. That would affect work efficiency” I objected promptly.

My point was taken, and more ideas were thrown in. But finally, it was who Paromita saved us from this overstretched meeting by suggesting that we start using smaller cups. The idea was received well to solve the drinking water wastage issue or DWWI.

Within a week new cups were introduced. They looked even smaller than the teacups used in our cafeteria. We all now stood in front of the water counter filling the cup multiple times before it could satisfy our thirst. Some of us filled a number of cups, took them back to their seats and gulped them one by one like tequila shots. Only instead of getting high, we all felt low and frustrated. And to pep up the environment, we once did a water filling and drinking contest. Manya, boss’s executive assistant won a chocolate bar, and we lost nearly five dozen cups. If that was not enough, Mrs. Bharati made a craft out of the cups for her daughter’s school project.

A month went by loaded with many more meetings but none on drinking water. But then one fine morning once again a notice popped up. We gathered subsequently to hear how the last plan failed, pretending we knew nothing.

“The smaller cups did reduce the wastage by half but consumption of cups increased manifold” reported Manya remembering the taste of the chocolate bar.

“And more paper cups mean more trees being cut.” cribbed Mr. Prajapati, though this time he was correct in his view.

Once more suggestions were welcomed, and the debate started. Eventually, after much arguments, insults, and protests it was decreed that employees will have to bring their bottles. This will solve both the problems. Water wastage will decrease, and the paper cup will no more be needed.

“But what about people who forget to bring their bottle someday? Will they have to remain thirsty all day?” the ever forgetful me asked visualizing myself swallowing my saliva to wet my throat.

“Good point. Few glasses will be kept for such contingencies.” Mr. Gupta replied to my relief and called off the meeting.

That day, the first thing I did as I reached home was to find out a bottle for office. It had to be sleek to fit in my bag as well as neat and beautiful. I found three but none that I could use. One was a coke bottle. I didn’t want my colleagues to think I was stingy so I discarded it. The second bottle was a nice Tupperware one, but it had scratches all over. And the third one leaked. So, the next morning I pushed myself into a shop while the owner was still busy with his morning prayers. He gestured for me to wait. But by the time he came, I had already selected a beautiful purple bottle with butterflies from the display. I visualized myself glamorously with the bottle just like the model does with the mango drink in an advertisement. I was confident that the container would not only quench my thirst it would also enhance my status in the office. I could be called the lady with the most beautiful bottle. But all my dreams shattered the moment he quoted its price. The shock was so evident on my face that he offered me a glass of water. I gulped it down, settled and asked for a bottle within my budget. The simple, transparent bottle with the company logo traveled with me to the office mocking me and making me wonder, what’s the use of doing a job if I can’t even buy a bottle of my choice.

Every desk in my office today was adorned with a bottle mostly new and of the latest design. I sheepishly hid mine behind my computer and went to fill it when no one was around.

“What if I forget to bring my bottle and all the glasses are already taken before I reach the water area?” Asked Samir, with serious concern, standing in the queue to fill his bottle at lunch hour.

“Why don’t you store one or two cups for emergency” replied Riya gesturing towards her desk where four cups were smiling at us all.

“Well that’s a great idea!” beamed Samir.

The idea that Riya gave and practiced went viral. Now, our office starts at 9 am. And if on a not so beautiful morning you forget to insert your bottle in your bag you have to make it a point to reach before 9:15. Else, you will have to use your hands to quench your thirst that day. But though the bottle idea did improve the punctuality of the employees, it failed to solve the DWWI.

The story went like this. Mr. Prajapati and few others probably had only a two-liter bottle in their homes. Hence, they brought and used them to satisfy their thirst. Certain days, an hour before leaving office, their bottles would get empty and they would fill them up to the brim. In an hour, no one would gulp in two liters of water down their throat unless he or she is a cow. Hence the left-over water would remain in their bottles waiting for the sun to set and rise again. Next day the water in the bottle would get stale and would be thrown away guiltlessly.

Therefore, for the nth time in the history of my office, meetings failed to solve the problem, and we remained bottlenecked. But my boss’s faith in meetings has remained undeterred. And since writing such a story has made me very thirsty, let me say goodbye to you and move towards the water area. Bye. Happy drinking 🙂

– Nita Bajoria







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