04 March 2014

People who do have-to-do things

Some people are messy by nature or else by acquired habit.  Some are neat to a fault.  Some have messy desktops but are endowed with exceptional clarity of mind. They may appear disorganized but they have computer-like brains, with facts neatly filed in relevant mind-folder, diary-less but never missing an appointment, taking on 101 things and getting it all done on time even if it causes heartbreak and produces frayed nerves.   Some are neat in terms of how they arrange and manage their surroundings as well as how they go about their lives and work.

Kenneth is like that. Neat. 

But even the neatest of the neat slip now and then.  Kenny, as he is better known, didn’t exactly slip.  He knocked over a cup of tea.  The tea splashed all over the newspaper he happened to be reading. Knowing Kenny, he wouldn’t have been pleased with himself.  It happened early in day. No one was around.  No one knew what happened and in any case it was not an earth-shattering incident.  Kenny related the story in passing a few days later.

‘This boy had brought me a cup of tea.  I was reading the papers.  I knocked over the cup by accident and spilled the tea all over the newspaper I was reading.  He came back just then.  He didn’t ask me what happened.  Within minutes he had cleaned up the mess.  What’s amazing is that he came back a few minutes later with another copy of the same newspaper.  I didn’t have to tell him anything.’
There are people like that.  One glance is enough to obtain overall picture, ascertain what’s missing and figure out what needs to be done.  No questions asked.  They know the have-to-do things and will do it one way or another. 

It is known in the offices of The Nation that Thushara is a jack of all trades and a master of them all.  Well, almost all trades.   Doesn’t ask too many questions.  Doesn’t have to be told everything A-Z.  He’s always with a smile.  He is alert to things and processes relevant to the team as well as to individuals in the team.  He doesn’t intrude unless he believes it is absolutely necessary to do so.  He cleans up messes that are more serious than wiping spilled tea off a table and replacing a soggy newspaper.  He anticipates a lot of spilling and sets up things so that hassle is avoided. 

He makes one feel that this world doesn’t fall apart despite all the crazy, stupid and destructive things that human beings do because there’s a critical number of Thusharas living in it.  We could apply the same principle to other entities too.  States for example.  State institutions.  Organizations.  Boy Scout troops.  A traffic-choked road.  A play with dozens of actors or a choir with a hundred choristers.  In all these places and institutions there is what could be called a voice of reason which, in silence or in soft tone suggestion or in the rare and therefore listened-to sternness, rises above the cacophony and in fact obtains the degree of silence necessary for pause, reflection and direction-change. 

There are two kinds, at least.  Two kinds of approaches.  There are times to step back just to create enough space so that perspective is obtained by all.  There are also times to move in and re-arrange the furniture taking into account the relevant anthropometrics, in particular those pertaining to the minds of those who people the space.  That’s not easy.  Minds are diverse and even single minds are made of moods and eminently made to change shape and direction while occasionally re-arranging priorities. Prediction is not easy.  This is what makes the unsolicited and in most instances unpaid work of the Thusharas invaluable in preserving the minimum levels of sanity necessary for a relatively smooth functioning of an office environment.

It can’t be taught.  There are no degrees on offer on this strange subject.  Part of it must be acquired. Part, perhaps, coded in genetic make-up. Part god-given if you will, as Thushara who is a Catholic might say, or explainable by what Buddhists might call Sansaara Purudda, habit brought over from one bhavaya (lifetime) to another.  Whatever it is, there’s another attendant characteristic: unrecognizability. 

Kenny noticed and mentioned in passing in the middle of a conversation about a lot of other things, but in general the world does not notice, does not acknowledge and rarely if ever rewards.   That’s ‘taking for granted’.  But on the other hand, such things are not anticipated either.  If there’s no ‘thanks’, there is no disappointment.  That’s the nature of people who do have-to-do things.
We are so dependent on them.  If they disappear, the world would not only be poorer, it might collapse around us and we wouldn’t even know how or why.