In the eyes of others

In the late eighties, when I started working, in India, there were a handful of car models to choose from and very few cars. An air-conditioner (AC) in a car, though not unavailable, was a rarity. After all, a car was a means to an end. It served the purpose of transporting you from Point A to Point B. Its reason for existence was not to make you comfortable in an AC environment while transporting you, or to ensconce you in a cocoon while shutting out the external sounds, or to enable you to watch your favourite TV programme while travelling, as seems to be the case today. At that time, it was a big deal for a person to have a car with an AC.

One of my many early management lessons was from a senior colleague, who had a Sales job in the company and who believed that it was important to keep up appearances, who once told me “It does not matter that you don’t have an AC in your car. You should still drive with your windows rolled up. After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not. Hence, when someone outside sees you inside a car with the windows rolled up, he will naturally think that you are travelling in an AC car, and your position in his eyes will grow manifold.”

That lesson stayed with me. And I spent many joyful road-trips inside the car with windows rolled-up, feverishly wiping sweat off my brow and everywhere else my hand could reach, happy that my stock was rising in the eyes of the people outside the car who, of course, I did not know from Adam. Those joyful days of steadily rising in the eyes of the world came to an end as soon as I got a car with an AC.

A few years back, when Blackberry handsets had started becoming popular and one could do emails “on the go”, it was fascinating to watch senior people carry them around and keep peering into them or typing on them, especially when they were inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place. It imbued them with an air of importance. At least they must have felt important. Of course, I could not afford one. 

On one of these occasions my early days lesson came back to me and I heard the prophetic words again “After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not” which morphed to “After all, you know that you don’t have a Blackberry handset but the guy receiving your mail does not. And I sent the next email from my PC with “sent from my Blackberry handset” as the last line.

Thereafter, whenever I sent an email from my PC, I made it a point to type at the bottom “sent from my Blackberry handset”. So much so that it became a part of my email signature. Not sure if anyone ever noticed that I sent emails only from my Blackberry handset. Certainly my stock would have risen with all the people who received my emails in those days and they would have placed me in the same category as the important people who need to respond to important emails only from their handset even if it after three days of receipt, especially when they are inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place.  After flirting with the Apple iphone message for a short period, these days I am increasingly getting into the habit of typing “sent from my Windows Phone”, the one that I don’t have.

I am constantly window-shopping for newer and more expensive technologies and lifestyle rages that I will never buy. 

This stuff is addictive. I am hooked onto it.

When I am unable to accept an invite for golf I always text saying “Sorry cannot make it.  My Honma set will need to lie in the closet for another week.” Of course, if I accept an invite I send no such message because of the Honma set that I don’t have.

I have now even started writing “written by my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” on office documents which one needs to write on. Even where just a physical signature is required as proof of authorisation, I add “signed with my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” after every signature or initial. I did the same when I signed on the form I had to fill for renewing my Passport. My application got rejected. Seems like the government folks don’t get it.

Not only that, during meetings in office, whenever I speak or need to concur / differ, I make it a point to remind others who the concurrence has been given by. So, if the meeting organiser were to ask at the end of the meeting “do you agree?”, if I agree I would nod my head and immediately hoist a poster (prepared in advance) above my head that reads “this agreement has been given through a shake of the head that solved innumerable Calculus problems at MIT”. If I disagree verbally I would say “I disagree” and follow it up with “this disagreement has been voiced by the vocal chords that spoke out aloud at Oxford”.   

And it helps one aspire. For example, I am already planning my next email message line which will say “sent from my diamond encrusted Vertu handset”.

I feel great about what the external world may be thinking about me….

39 thoughts on “In the eyes of others

    • Thanks Sanjay.
      ipad10 huh!! Wonder if Tim Cook has seen that far.
      Also adds a new angle to the aspiration. Not only do I aspire for stuff that I can see today but don’t have, I could even aspire for stuff that I cannot see, may or may not be available in the future, and I probably will not be able to possess.
      Thanks for the idea!

  1. Well done Ankur ! Makes for some exceptional reading ; ur writing prowess , which began with Bro Ritchie ,has lasted through the years .

    • Thank you Amit. Glad you like it. Yeah, getting minus forty, or trying to avoid getting minus forty, in an English test was certainly an incentive to work hard.
      Watch this space for more….

  2. Quite an impressive collection of tips to score in this materialistic world you have here! Perhaps sometime in the near future it would become the norm to wear blazers inside-out to work just so the Armani label can be seen. 😉

    Viewed and replied from a HTML 5 compatible browser.

    • Haha! Reminds me of the scene from “Back to the Future” where Marty is greeted with “Hello Calvin” by a girl (his mother in her past) because he was in his briefs (from the future) with the brand prominently displayed.
      Your HTML5 compatible browser should work well on the ipad10 through which another comment to this post has been submitted. Scroll down for full details…

  3. Fantastic post, Ankur! My vote for your best, so far. Pithy tone of satire at work here.

    You touch upon an area that is often easily missed by most of us, caught in the razzle dazzle of projecting (and sustaining) an air of importance. Thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Replied from my Octogenarian laptop (in technological time scales)

  4. You definaley hit this one on the head. I can’t imagine driving in India without the AC and the windows rolled up. You probably lost 5 pounds just going to work.

  5. reminds me of early cell phones ( 1996) when calls were a whopping Rs 16/ per minute for outgoing and Rs 8/ p.m for incoming ,and being a fad many people used to pace up and down in public places furiously talking into the mouthpiece with curious onlookers looking on with fasicnation at these ‘mobile phones’ and leaving the caller red faced when the phone used to suddenly ring in the middle of the ‘animated conversation’.

    • Haha! Bang on. With call rates falling to the levels they are today, some of these people have now started having actual conversations while pacing up and down. Other than that, I don’t think much has changed. Thanks for visiting this Blog and commenting.

  6. I am forwarding this observation from my space pod to Mars but as you Earthly types are just eons away from my extraterrestrial gadgetry I guess that I can forgive your lack of awareness, however I will be expecting a reply before I send this one out to you so get out of that one without losing your grip on reality.

    Just kidding, or should I say just getting
    into the groove with your style of writing 🙂

    An excellent posting my friend…


  7. This is simply incredible writing – a perfect combination of satirical humour and a fact of matter said on a lighter note. I am glad I found your blog! I can see some really interesting write-ups here – all having a theme that is very tempting to read, and I guess from your style of writing that they must be full of wit!!
    Strange but true that how much ever people may say no, they tend to care a lot about what others are thinking about them. On a personal note, I am a complete misfit in this zone of people .Maybe I’ve to learn this art!
    Great post!

    • Thank you Lopa. Unsolicited advice, but I don’t think change is required. If you are clear about who you are and what you want, I am sure similar souls will gravitate towards you.

  8. Dear Ankur – I enjoyed very much your writings. Now, I cannot say that I read all of them although I aspire like somebody’s iPad10 to do so. Thanks for being what you are.

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