“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
I have had a bittersweet experience with offices that I have inhabited. And by that, I mean the physical spaces that I have worked in and not the roles and responsibilities. Well! at least for now.
My first office, if you can call it that; or more appropriately my first working space was pleasant and picturesque. The first real job that I held was that of an Evening class teacher. In Senior School I would ride on my Atlas Lady’s cycle to St. Mary’s Convent, my previous school, to teach English to the Hostelers. In College, having acquired a swanky Maroon Moped by now, I took on a similar role, teaching the same subject to the boarders at Hilton’s School.
I had taken up both jobs purely to earn my pocket money. Still, the saving grace was that I loved English as a subject; so the task was not that onerous.
In both places, my classroom overlooked verdant greenery and a resplendent thicket of foliage that Dehradun, the beauteous Valley town close to the Himalayan Foothills, is known for.
My second office, as a Sub-editor with The Himachal Times, was a cubby hole with a dilapidated desk in a ramshackle building that bore the large signage of the Regional Newspaper. I despised both the area and the desk job quite a bit. So cunningly and cannily, I would like to think; I redefined my role as a columnist and feature writer that allowed me more fieldwork.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
- John Ruskin
My first big city job was that of a Creative Writer with Archies G&G Ltd. in the Capital City of India. We all had a moderate-sized work desk assigned to us in a big, sweeping room that was a sort of a precursor to today’s open office layouts. I fancied myself as a poet of some worth and did not like working in that open environment at all. But before the kind Managing Director was gearing up to get a cubicle specially made for me, I had bid adieu to him and his Company to his utter astonishment and chagrin.
Soon after, I moved on to work with the Aussies at their Diplomatic Mission in Delhi. As an Australia-India Council Assistant and Assistant Public Affairs Officer, I worked from a billowing bureau that often groaned under the weight of my files and papers and other accouterments.
By the time I was promoted as their Media Relations Officer, the Public Affairs Section, where I worked, was shifted to its new digs — a modern, stylishly-kitted, open plan office. We all had our own cubicles with ample arm and legroom, ergonomic desks and seating, big enough L-shaped desks which we could decorate with photo frames and plants if we so desired, and adequate space to fit in extra chairs if we decided to have business visitors. It took a bit of time getting used to, but the space grew on us.
My first luxurious office was at Hyatt Regency. I had joined the Hotel as their Marketing Communications Manager. MCM was a big deal at the Hotel; more for the significance of the role than the fact that my predecessor had been a Princess from one of the key royal families in India.
I don’t know what has been the case with me, but in at least three places I have had to change my seating twice during the tenure of my role with them.
“At least not having an office window means you’ll never know how nice it is outside.”
My first office at the Hyatt was lush and luxe, with an impressive, period-style desk and an appealing large side window with Sun streaming in during the day and rich, embroidered, silk blinds covering it in the evenings. Soon, the space was going to be usurped by the entire Sales & Marketing section and I was going to be banished to a much smaller office with lackluster, modern office furniture in a windowless space alongside the F&B offices.
When I joined the Oberoi Hotels, I returned to the offices of yore, with a lot of old-world charm and character, which was delightful even with its thick, indigo-hued carpeting. Though with no window on any of its sides; the space was aesthetic and always buzzing with energy! The ginormous desk and the console were vintage, in teak wood; and amidst fresh plants, I had this giant board behind me where I could show off my marketing collateral from.
My finest office just has to be the first one I occupied in my Imperial Hotel years. It was a gigantic room with a big teak wood desk, an ornate credenza where we put out all the collateral I designed, a seating niche with rattan sofas upholstered in the finest cotton with Derby ribs and in a shade of Dell blue.
There was an anteroom attached to the main office, where my staff sat. But the finest features of the swanky, majestic office were the large French windows and the priceless cumulation of lithographs that adorned its walls. Working in India’s Museum hotel with one of the largest public collections of art and artworks has its perks.
The office was so lovely that it took everyone’s breath away. It was better than even the General Manager’s. The angle of the Sun peeping through the beautiful windows made for mood lighting and changed the look of the room with the time of the day. While the Office was the recipient of appreciative glances, I had forlorn sighs dipped in envy and shot in my back like little prickly spears.
I have never believed in the evil eye, but even the sturdiest of backs can allow for only as many green-eyed monsters to ride. In about two years, or was it a year and a half, I was relocated to a basement office, with no window to the world, no sunlight, and a resident somber mood.
I do exaggerate a little, but no amount of hard and honest work done on the area by my very affable colleague — Mr. Manohar, our Director of Engineering, made me get over the sheer exquisiteness I had earlier spent my workdays in.
Mr. Manohar, on his part, tried everything — a good-looking desk and swivel chair, parquet flooring, a fancy showcase covering the expanse of the facing wall, artworks; but nothing, nothing matched up to the pulchritude and pleasantness of the first office.
My pleasure and pride of place were crucified on the altar of commercial exigency and business strategy. Where I once lorded over; today exists La Baguette, the profitable patisserie with its zillion temptations.
Once I moved out of the corporate world and into my Home Office, one thing I was sure of. I was going to reclaim my pleasure and my contentedness.
Today, I work out of a well-lit room with a large window overlooking the most striking stretch of greens, half of which have been planted by me. I work from a bespoke Table that was deftly and splendidly designed for me. I sit under an enchanting Madhubani artwork that was gifted to Dad as one of his farewell presents. The painting is given company by a pair of Thai masks with intricate work done on them. Alongside hangs a sketch of me done by a Chinese street artist at a Sydney Farmer’s Market.
Figurines of Shiva, Ganesha, Buddha bring me energy, vigor, and peace. Jostling amidst them and bringing me joy is a Koala stuffy I was presented by a Perth-based friend and a Dog-in-a-fireman’s-hat pen stand I bought locally. Talk about pulling together all the right energies!
Besides overlooking the wide landscape of a shrubs and tree-laden park, I am enclosed by my prized assemblage of potted plants. Taking a place of eminence among them are the air-purifying wonders — Areca, Chlorophytum. Sansevieria, English Money plant, Aloe Vera, Rhapis Palm, Pothos, Red-edged Dracaena, Bamboo Palm, Rubber Plant, Peace Lily — cleansing the environment around me and regaling my soul!
As for the background sound, I am far removed from busy roadside premises with the constant noise of moving traffic or a monstrosity of a Property with its unnerving intrusion of heavy-duty lighting and industrial-strength air-conditioning. Instead, I control the light and the temperature that suits me well.
On most days, the only accompanying sound is that of a sweet orchestra played by the clutch of sunbirds, the shrill yet melodic ko-tree call of Rufous treepies, the staccato Kek-Kek-Kek notes of the pair of Indian Grey Hornbill that visit, the squeaks and snorts of squirrels or the sharp and short call of the very plucky, the very brave mascot of the Fighter jets, the majestic Shikra.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
- John Ruskin
People in the know ascertain that the kind of offices we work in has a direct bearing on our attitude, our productivity, and the organizational climate as a whole. It is said that the more creative a person is, the more he or she looks to work from ergonomic offices with open windows, liberal spots of sunlight, and a semblance of a pretty scene outside.
No wonder then, in the Pandemic-debilitated world; scenic, ethereal and atmospheric locations have become sought after for Bizcations and offsite work-from-anywhere options.
If you can and have the slightest chance to, then you must choose your office well!
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
- Anthony J D’Angelo