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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.