Bliss was in that dawn to be alive – 14

Time Punching Machine

The Sardar became my friend, philosopher and guide in the nuances of Industrial Training.

“No way are we gonna give these geezers our ass for 600 rupees a month”. His demeanor was bristling, the choicest abuses drove his conversations and the unbridled aggression made everyone sit up. I don’t know why he took a liking to me and decided he was going to watch out for me.

He would meet me at the fence straddling the Golf Course in front of the Ashok Hotel gates – we would have a chai from the tea-wallah’s rickety stall adjacent to the gates, and generally stroll in around 9 am taking the tarmac path that would circumference the green lawns and end up in the time-keeper’s office.

Now, in Ashok Hotel, the time punching machines were meant only for the employees. The trainees had a register to sign into, a page for each college, wherein you basically entered your name, the time you checked in, another column for checkout and, finally, a signature to formalize the entry. The time punching machine was in another office next door and the chief time keeper roosted there. Low-lives like trainees deserved only an assistant time-keeper and half the time, he was in the locker-room chatting up colleagues, leaving the register unmanned. We could stroll in anytime, check if the assistant was around, lounge around until he left and then sign in with a time that suited your shift.

Until, I met the Sardar, I was the quintessential good boy from a good college, IHM Kovalam. Now, it dint take many green-lawn sessions for him to educate me that stress could be easily managed during Industrial Training by following certain rules. You never needed to be in time for your shift because you could always fudge the time register. So, in cold climes like Bangalore, you had your sweet time to get up in the morning, get done with a shower, make your uniform look presentable and then, even have a relaxing cuppa before checking in.

If you were under the illusion that you were a low-life zombie, then you needed to roam around the hotel property, basically to avoid doing anything more substantial than walking and still look purposeful like most harried trainees do in other respectable hotels. Key was the look and the ready-made replies for any manager who you happened to bump into – you always had to mention an imaginary task assigned by the General Manager so that the junior manager would never have the gumption to call and check the veracity.

Sardar would always sign in and then walk out of the hotel, telling the security guard that he was going to the canteen, then generally loll on the lawns with his books. I was slightly better off, in his words totally un-cool, because I did report for duty on every second day. Otherwise, I would join him on the lawns, my jacket zipped up and staring at the sunless blue sky and wandering off into endless banter with Sardar about girls in his college. While he became very imaginative and almost conferred himself a Casanova status, I would wander too, but I was always thinking about that IT logbook, standard issue from IHM with a green plastic cover, that I hadn’t cared to fill up with weekly reports as mandated.

In the 4th week of our training, one morning, Sardar and I wandered into the register room to sign in. Just as I was about to enter the room, I heard a feminine voice do a muffled ‘Hello’ right behind me. I slunk back, out of the room, and looked straight into a pair of pretty eyes that were beginning to look a tad worried and helpless.

The Steve Miller Band pays a tribute to how time keeps on slipping into the future.


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