Three shocked expressions, three pairs of wondering eyes, three confused countenance, three men who I hardly knew … these are what I got on my second day (technically my first day, since day one was spent on orientation procedures and HR formalities) at work. Was it a baptism by fire? Nope, it was more like a baptism by a slippery floor and a sliding chair. Rescued from embarrassment as these three pulled me up from the floor, a replacement chair was arranged and I was somewhat made comfortable, though of course, the feeling of awkwardness remain for a day or two.
This was how I began my journey working with a company where I have to sit amidst men in the manager’s cabin. Some may call me a rose among thorns, but I would like to put it as a thorny rose among the bush. I have never been in this situation before, and the person that I am was not convinced that I can ever be myself again while surrounded by these serious looking faces glued to their laptops keying in codes and what-nots. My initial question was obviously, “What have I got myself into?”
Days passed and work started piling-up. I got myself busy with meetings in between projects, trainings in between building my team. The awkward situation became more at ease. I saw myself blending into the system. The serious faces started lightening up. Conversation started happening, laughter fills the room every now and then (when the workload is at its ebb.) Then, it dawned on me that these men are actually just like women. A lot less complicated, but as complex!
These guys may be of the same species, but they are definitely of a very diverse breed. Sitting in the equator, I have the pleasure of tilting on either the north- or south- pole. The north was a lot easier to explore, the south was a bit of a challenge. We at midline serve as go-between. The northerners may be on the same flank yet they are still as assorted as Snow White’s seven dwarfs. OK now … don’t let me get started on who is Grumpy and who is Dopey! The guys in the cabin already know who is who, and they are very much aware as to whom to be carefree with and most importantly, who to be careful of….yes, there’s a mole in the house! The southerners, as I have mentioned, were not as easy. It took me a while to decipher and get to know each and every one of them. But just like the other set, they are as dissimilar as the flavors of gummy bears all in one jar. And of course, I did not want to get started describing who is the orange, mango, or blue raspberry. But then again, everybody knows who the sour grape is! However different they are, however intricate their characters may be, however convoluted their personalities exist, and however complicated their minds function … they made my stay in this company a lot more amusing, interesting, and worth looking back to.
After almost a year, I have established good friendship with them. Over my baked goodies, and murukkus and halwas from their kitchen or native villages, we bonded. A few came and visited us at home, one invited me to his house warming, another made me a unique present for my daughter, the person next to me helped me with my gadget purchases, one called me for his church activity, and others told stories of how we may have been at the same place and time, without actually knowing each other yet. With the passing days, I have almost forgotten that I am the only female in the room … I just know I belong to that cabin and they are my fellow managers and cabin mates.
Changes happen every day, and our cabin is no different. People come and go, the same is true in this space we call our own. Some go for a few days on official visits. Some go for a lot longer period as they may have been shifted, in most cases, unwillingly. Some go for better opportunities (there always is!) Some go, because it’s time to. The men in my cabin … as oblivious as they always seem … blasé I would describe them … go about their daily routine, unmindful of the change happening. People who left are easily forgotten.
In a few days, I will be one of those whose face will be erased, seat will be taken over, and name will be forgotten. Allow me to indulge as I would like to hope that a few of them would look back at the memories we shared as friends, as cabin mates … that there once was a thorny rose among the bush they belong to. As for me, these men will always be part of who I am … and I will ever be grateful to these guys who treated me well and respected me not just for being a woman but more, for being a professional who is on par with them.