That was the first thing I learnt when I waited half hour for him to show up for my interview.
It’s what I saw when he told me to come back to work when I know I should have been fired.
It’s what they all embraced while I created havoc.
But never once was I stopped.
In a world where degrees were a necessity, Arvind hired me for my ability. Never once were my squashed dreams a hiccup. It was always what I could do and couldn’t do. And if I couldn’t do something, he was right there, willing to teach.
I walked in on a bunch of guys that acted like a stranger had crashed their secret club. I actually had to complain to the boss that they wouldn’t talk to me. Not even to get work done! I was hoping he would talk to them in private. But you see, that was never Arvind’s style. In he walked, to the middle of our space, and announced out loud, “Shame, you guys. A girl has to complain that you won’t talk to her. What are you all doing?”
I bet sometimes he wished he hadn’t done that. Because that became the beginning of one of the best years of my life.
There weren’t that many of us. It gave us the ability to get to know each other.
The Philosopher (Hey Raj!)
The Married Man (Girish Thaatha)
The Patient Yogi (*coughs*Arun*coughs*)
The Brat (Mannoooj)
The Boss Man (He hates being called that)
The Fun Traveler (She doesn’t mind being called that)
And how can I ever forget… The Intern (Meri Shaaaamil)
Shamil was the only other girl in the gang. She also was the first person to talk to me besides the boss. We’re almost the same age. She laughed at all my jokes. She flicked me every time I swore. We got along brilliantly.
The two of us began to work our way into the secret club. With post-its about smoking, tsk-ing about nothing and laughing over everything, the wall was finally broken and the boys remain friendly until today for which Sham and I take full credit. You’re welcome newbies.
Amidst our achievements I found out that my boss wasn’t actually my boss. Arvind told me she’ll come to office at some point during the week. I expected a stuck-up and bossy human to come dictate my life. The person who walked in was anything but. She is chaotic fun redefined. “Poornima! Nice to meet you! You’ll come to my reception no?” I’d only met her ten seconds ago.
Karishma. She is your dream boss. She is my dream boss. She doesn’t care if you show up at noon. She doesn’t care if you’re working at night and wasting all day. She doesn’t care if you take a trip in the middle of the week. You can be in Antarctica, drinking with Panda bears, she won’t say a thing. “Just get the work done and have the client approve.” It was the best!
She is downright the most chilled out boss you’ll ever meet. She’ll even be your therapist if you’re struggling with something. Her reception is also where the ice was finally broken and the team became a team.
I learnt social media at this company. I learnt how good I am with ppts at this company. I learnt how to get work done at this company. And most importantly, I learnt how not to judge a book by its cover here.
The shared office space meant more people – Bushu, Laaloo and Tanya. All the people I first looked at thinking, “I bet they’re snooty af.” All the people I call with problems and gossip today. I haven’t bought something they don’t have a picture of so far. There’s not much about my life they don’t know. I can’t imagine a world where they’re not on my last ten whatsapped. The number of coffee breaks we’d take just for the heck of it. Their boss hated it so much.
Mine would join us. Both of them. That was the best part about my year. My bosses never acted completely like bosses. I’d get yelled at, obviously. But if we walked out of that meeting, they didn’t carry that fight with them. It was one of the first things Arvind told me at my interview. “We’ll argue. We’ll fight. But that’s not personal. Work is work. You can’t take it against the person in this company.” And that’s how it was. Always. Like a big gang of friends.
When I curled up sobbing about a boy, when I couldn’t finish a particular work because I wasn’t feeling upto it, when I felt sick, when I needed to go on a date, when I needed to vent – Oh my God! The number of times I needed to vent! – when I needed a punching bag, when I acted childish, when I demanded things I couldn’t afford, when I started things others couldn’t be bothered with – Nothing scared them. Nothing made them go, “Absolutely not!” I got them to play Charlie Charlie, a game that invites the demon, and they did!
And when I told them I’m leaving them in a hurry because I get to go back to study and couldn’t do much hand holding to the next guy, they smiled instead of complain. That’s why this place is so amazing.
I still go to the office. More often than most people do. I miss faces like Deepika, Tharini, Ramya Akka, Duggu and Reshma when I walk in. But they’re replaced with faces I got to know towards the end of my time there like Renuga and Vinoth. It always feels comfortable.
I still call my bosses to chit chat. When I find things that make sense to me, I always pass it their way.
I got to keep so much from my time with them. The golisoda bottle, the tiny despicable me character, the secret Santa presents, the insane birthday memories. The best of all? The friends. Sharath, Akku, Manoj, Raj and the entire lot.
The first time I saw High School Musical, I wanted to be Gabriella somewhere. I got to be her at Firebrand Labs. I got to be me at Firebrand Labs.
To finish it off the HSM way,
Once a Firebrander, ALWAYS a Firebrander.