Sunday, August 22, 2010


It's almost the end of my six week internship at a certain multinational bank. As it so happens whenever a certain chapter of our lives draws to a close, I find myself reflecting upon the entire internship and what aspects of it I'll miss when I'm back to eat-sleep-eat-repeat mode.

The most uncanny thing about interning here has undoubtedly been the kind of devotion that employees show towards work. Hence the term RoboCorp (short for Corporate. Yes I know I'm very smart to have coined that term). The first day that I entered the department I had been assigned to, I chose to be the Extra Preppy Internee and went around introducing myself to everyone there. The head of the department was effusive and cheerful enough. So was my supervisor, who was quietly surveying me and wondering if he would regret volunteering to be my supervisor over the next six weeks. I strode over to the other employees, especially one who hadn't even participated in the conversation I was having with the others and was staring at his computer screen with alarming attention. Not blinking. Clack clack clack, went his fingers on the keyboard. Eyes affixed to the screen. Silent and motionless, otherwise.

'Hey, I'm the new internee,' I chirped happily, trying not to get freaked out by the zombie-like behaviour.

'Yes, I know.' He replied shortly. Without even looking away from the computer screen. The keys on the black keyboard continued the staccato.

I shrugged off this incident, unnerved by his brusque behaviour. However, as I later found out, I had misinterpreted his abrupt manner. It wasn't just him, it was everyone. And that's when I realized that two years at this bank had transformed them all into RoboCorps.

Each morning, they would all troop in silently. Like missionaries on a secret vigil. They'd plop themselves into their identical swivel chairs, switch on their systems, and whoosh. What then ensued was a mindless marathon of never ending work- poring over spreadsheets spreading over so many columns that I never even know MS Excel could hold, devouring financial frameworks like teenage girls over the Twilight series, and matching figures from ledgers like mathematical superheroes. Of course, mindless would be the wrong adjective to use in this case. All of this work required immense concentration and dexterity. And undoubtedly resulted in heavy salaries.

Nevertheless, it was freaky. Every morning, I'd be forcing my bleary eyelids open just so that I could wrap my head around the rows and rows of figures splayed on the screen. All around me, these mathematical maestros were in their element, engrossed in their work. The only sound in the room was that of six pairs of hands going clickety clack, clickety clack. Morning passed into afternoon, past twilight and into the late hours of the night. And still, the clicking and clacking went on relentlessly, like the harbinger of some kind of impending doom.

Sometimes I felt like going up to them and shaking them. Unplugging their computers and scattering all their papers everywhere. The monotony was dreadful.Yes, there were pockets of laughter where they would crack jokes, pick on each other or have a rare conversation, but this mirth was seldom to be experienced.

It would be hours before any of them would even look away from their screens. Most of them arrived promptly at 9, or even before that at times. Instantaneously, they'd morph into RoboCorps and start working. Most of them didn't even go for lunch, and merely subsisted on the chai that the Bitchy Peon brought in twice a day. Nowadays, they even have aftari in the office. It's a wonder that their families haven't disowned them yet.

Their robotic indifference to everything around them was perturbing. As mentioned in my previous post, a number of employees in Business Planning & Analytics and Commercial Banking have had babies every week. Each time anyone in my department received an email, or was greeted by a peon bearing the glad tidings and mithai, someone would comment nonchalantly 'Guys, Zubair/ Hamza/Taha has had a baby.'

Awkward silence. The spell of the sinister staccato had been dispelled, painfully cleaving the air into half.

'Oh,' someone would finally say. 'I didn't know his wife was expecting.'

And that was it. The ceaseless agony of the keyboards would start again.
The day the AirBlue crash took place, someone piped up 'There's been a terrible crash in Islamabad. Over a hundred people were in it.'

A weighty silence pressed down upon us all. Then another whispered solemnly 'Mr. XYZ's wife was in the crash too. I just got an email.'

And then they all went back to the clickety clacking.

Fast forward to the day that the ANP member was killed. 'Some political person been killed,' someone spoke up all of a sudden. 'There are riots everywhere. You should go home,' he advised an employee who lived in Johar.

The employee's' eyes briefly moved away from the screen. 'Yeah,' he finally blurted out after much thought, and went back to his keyboard. He finally managed to pull himself away from his seat after half an hour. Maybe that's how long panic sets into a RoboCorp, I thought.

The other day, a fire drill was being conducted in the office. My heart leapt at the sound of the low, repetitive siren blaring throughout the office. Yes! Finally a chance to get a break and stretch my legs. I surveyed the people around me, waiting for any of them to make a move.

Nobody did.

The employee mentioned in the beginning of the post motioned me to come over and started explaining what I had to do with the file I was poring over.

I was stunned. Were these people deaf?

Finally, some female barged into our department, apparently out of breath. 'Get up you guys, it's a fire drill!' she hissed viciously and ran out.

These guys looked at each other and grinned amusedly. A slow smile flickered across their faces as they contemplated whether to participate in a silly fire drill or continue with their RoboCorp-ing.

Then someone finally pulled back his chair and ordered everyone to lock their systems.

I skipped down the stairs of the emergency exit and out behind the Branch Operations area. People were milling about and talking to each other; the diversion seemed to have been quite a welcome one. A much needed one, I might add. I hung around with my other internee friends for half an hour after that, and when I finally trooped into my department, bracing myself for those wretched keyboards, a calm silence descended upon me.

There was no one in the entire department.

Apparently that was the only time that the RoboCorps decided to get a life. I sighed, grateful to know that these guys were human too.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Baby Boom

For all those who are interested (and even those who aren't), my internship is Mashallah sae going great. Not only do I have a very chill boss, but the only hot guy in the entire place is on my floor - EEEEE! :D

There is this one particular department on my floor where the employees are always having babies. No, I don't mean to say that the employees are giving birth in the department, during office hours. But seriously. So far, during the three weeks that I've been here, there have already been at least three babies whose births have brought glad tidings into this world and sentenced their parents to years of Pamper-ing (the brand, not the verb) and putting wailing tomato-faced cherubs to sleep. To celebrate the occasion, boxes of greasy mithai (sweetmeats) promptly arrived, carried in by peons who were by then tired of distributing them to everyone in the entire office.

I don't really like mithai. Gulab jamuns maybe, but nothing else. So every time a wimped out peon would offer me some from a box, I'd disdainfully survey the globs of mithai swimming in sheer (syrup) and politely decline. My friend Emma interns in another department, and time and again she's been boasting about boxes of Lindt and other chocolates that have been coming to her office and how successfully she's managed to swipe a number of them. So my interest in these babies eventually declined.

But today, an employee in Emma's (fellow intern) department has had a son. And Emma has promised to pester him until he gets chocolates to distribute in the office. Let's call this employee Daddy. Apparently, Daddy had told everyone that his wife was expecting, and since he's new, this kind of stayed in everyone's minds. It's hardly been two weeks since Daddy has joined, but he's been trying to be popular. While this is an insanely joyous occasion for him, it does have a downside. He now has a new nickname - Daddy- and whenever anyone calls him that, he pouts like a petulant five year old and childishly admonishes 'I'm not a daddy. No, I'm not.'

My friends and I have immediately labelled Daddy as a wannabe. I also feel sorry for the day old baby whose dad is denying his very existence in an attempt to be cool and sustain the non-existent interest that females here have in him. Tch tch. But our interest in getting our hands on those chocolates has still not subsided.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


My boss has been away for umra for the past two weeks. A day before he left, he called me up and told me that this new kid would be coming in to teach SAT/GRE/GMAT. 'At the moment, he's being trained for both Math and English, so please help him out with anything related to English. He's very bright,' Boss vouched. 'He was a student with us last year and scored a 2300 something in his SAT. AND he's topped the IBA test this year.'

Any new addition to the prep center's staff is always looked forward to, and a smarty-pants would be all the more interesting. But when I finally met the alleged the IBA test topper, it turned out to be totally unclimactic.

I was sitting in the reception area talking to Sohaib (another teacher and one of my seniors at university) when Smarty-Pants strolled in.

Sohaib had just been praising him 'Yaar he has a great SAT score too.' I rolled my eyes inwardly- coming from KGS, SAT scores fail to astound me anymore. 'Hey, what was your score in the IBA test?'

Smarty-Pants adjusted his askew glasses. 'Um, I got a 345 out of 400,' he muttered in an embarassed tone.

I looked on impassively, unaffected. I mean hello, I've never even bothered to ask about my IBA test score in the past three years.

'So? That's good!' Sohaib chirped, noticing how downcast he looked.

'Not really,' mumbled Smarty-Pants, shifting from one foot to another. 'I could've gotten a better score, it's just that the Math section was really tough.'

Sohaib cocked an eyebrow. 'Dude, you topped the test. What else do you want?'

His tone immediately got Smarty-Pants all flustered. 'No, I just meant that it could've been better,' he finished lamely.

That very instant, Smarty-Pants' past and future flashed before my eyes. I saw him getting mini awards for coming first in primary school, mugging up stuff from exercise books and crying if he didn't get a full on a test. Getting a world distinction in Add Maths and cursing himself for not getting them in a couple of other subjects as well. I envisioned him having a heart attack on getting a GPA of 3.99 in his first semester at IBA.

What a wimp.