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     Volume 12 |Issue 05| February 01, 2013 |


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The Illusion of Being There


People call them shirkers, deadbeats and irresponsible, unscrupulous louts but one cannot deny their ingenuity when it comes to making people believe that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing when actually they are doing something completely different, often termed as 'goofing off'.

Take the crafty clerk at an office who will disappear for long, unfathomable spells but keeps insisting to his boss that he was there all the time. He may sometimes leave his shoes under his desk giving the impression that he has gone for prayers and will be back in a jiffy. Which of course does not happen and after ruling out the possibility of him being abducted by aliens who have a particular aversion towards shoes or that a spell has rendered him (except his footware) invisible, his boss may eventually smell a rat - or it could be those mouldy, lonesome shoes.

Fortunately for our mobile-obsessed culture a quick call to the errant clerk will make him mysteriously appear - wearing a seraphic expression along with the tell-tale neatly folded up trousers and a pair of rubber sandals.

At other times asking about the shirker's whereabouts will be as useless as trying to perpendicularly balance a ball-point pen on your table. Excuses like 'downstairs', 'in the toilet', 'right around the corner' or running an errand for a much more senior executive than his immediate boss are the most used. Those who have used up all these may get a little more innovative and come up with 'trying to resuscitate the lift man' (in which case the lift man is in on it too) or 'got mugged while running an errand for the bigger boss and then started running after the mugger, then fell on the pavement and fainted, recovered and ran back to report to you.' All this will be said glibly without batting an eyelid. This is because professional shirkers have had years of practice duping people into believing that they are around when in fact they maybe halfway across town to meet their latest paramour.

These 'illusionists' have mastered the art of elusiveness to the degree that they may not turn up for days even after insisting that they were on their way. In all truthfulness we have all done it - told someone on the phone that that we are a few minutes away from the destination when we have barely stepped out of the shower. Before those pesky 3G phones become ubiquitous, you know the ones which allow you to see what the person you have called is actually doing, the regular mobile phone can lie through its micro-chipped teeth by sending text or voice messages of all kinds of plausible scenarios: Sorry I am in the middle of a crisis, will call you in a jiffy. This is not a valid number. The person you have called would really like to answer this but is now undergoing brain surgery and so...

Among the most adept avoiders, that is individuals who will make you go round and round to get anything done within the promised time are tailors, carpenters, any kind of maintenance and repair person and of course, school students who may go to the extreme of saying "my parents are anti-homework". Cleaning staff of this category are also good at this kind of circumambulation and will insist they have cleaned the designated areas when all they have done is run through the rooms with the mop pretending to be Purnima or Ananta Jalil frolicking among the trees.

Pretending to be stuck at certain areas where the probability of gridlock is about 99.03 percent is also a good avoidance strategy. When someone calls to say they are stuck at Panthapath, Dhaka's Bermuda Triangle where people seem to go but never come out of, the wait can be from two hours to two days or forever after.

Trying to look constantly busy by rushing to and fro with papers in hand or feverishly typing away on the computer (probably a rant to your boyfriend) are other ways individuals can avoid real work without appearing to. It is the greatest mystery why these people take so much trouble to look occupied when they could just as well be doing what they're supposed to with the same amount of effort. But then where's the fun in that?


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