Saturday, September 3, 2011

Shakespeare speaks about Corporate Meetings

I remember a book of quotations I used as an arsenal for my essays and articles in school days, to hit unsuspecting teachers with re-heated nuggets of borrowed wisdom.  Those were the days before Wikiquotes or ThinkExist made it ridiculously simple to integrate lines by a plethora of great minds into an original masterpiece. In those days, we had to laboriously look up either the topic in the contents or the author in the index to zero down on a suitable quote.

I could find the greatest of garrulous quoters of the past adorning the index in something that looked like this:

Shaw, George Bernard
10, 24, 55, 79, 133, 138-9,
162, 166, 177-9, 191, 211,
 213, 217, 223, 226, 238,
240-2, 251, 268, 271, 277,
290-3, 299, 300, 305, 311,

However, the system just did not work for the Swan of Avon. The compilers had given up the unequal struggle rather early in the game. Listed against Shakespeare, William in the index was a solitary word in italics passim.

His quotations appeared everywhere, with rare exceptions on every page. The Greatest Poet, the Greatest Playwright or simply, the Greatest Writer of the noble English language seems to have written on every topic of human interest, and several which interest perhaps no one. Not for nothing is he called, among his other names, the Myriad Minded Shakespeare. An index on him would probably amount to a separate chapter on its own. So the compliers were wise enough to sum it up neatly in one word.

Now, back in those carefree days I could not care less for the goings on in the corporate world, and never had the burning desire to leaf through and check whether the great mind had said something useful about how to run businesses, but recently, in my moments of contemplation – that is to say, senior management meetings – his corporate wisdom was suddenly revealed to me in a blinding flash.

The bard’s eye view of the future foretells with eerie accuracy the corporatisation of the world and the social evil of spending hours and hours cooped up in meeting rooms, time that could be used for making the world a better place.
In a famed short scene of just twelve lines, the masterly genius comes through with prophetic analysis of what corporate meeting rooms would look like in another four hundred years. The quill, in a flash surreal brilliance, documents what can be called the first minutes of meeting.

It starts with something that accompanies every managerial session – noise and flashy presentations – something that the greatest of all writers allegorically terms thunder and lightning.

Next,  as the participants of the meeting enter, he cuts a long story short and moves to the only possible concrete result ever taken out of a meeting room.
When shall we three meet again?”  The only question that can be pondered with any hope of an answer in the millions and millions of dark and mysterious rooms around the world with sleepy men installed on comfortable chairs, huddling together beside round tables.

“When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”  In amazing use of metaphors, Shakespeare does hint at the futility of wasting precious time when there is work to be done. Yes, he is all for a short one once the project is done and over with, retrospection, lessons learnt, but to gather again and again when the game is still underway is a strict no-no. Perceval, Verity and other commentators could have done well to dwell on this lesson, but whether it would have been included in managerial training sessions or not is a deep and dark question.

“That will be ere the set of sun.” Long before it was fashionable, the farsighted plume scribbles down the advent of the proverbial EOD. The witches call for the next meeting in now well known terms –before the end of day, the close of business.
Then comes the small thing of booking of the meeting room, and sending out the invitations. “Where the place, upon the heath. There to meet with MacBeth.” It was the subtle attention to detail with which the glorious pen documented the most mundane along with the most lofty.

 And once that is done, the following lines stun us with their detailed foretelling of how meetings would proceed otherwise.
“I come, Graymalkin.”
“Paddock calls.”
Apart from the time, place and attendees of the next meeting, all that goes on in the gathering are cell phones ringing and calling the attendees away –leading some of them to leave immediately.

And they all depart with the most accurate description of the corporate environment ever penned in the history of the written word. A couplet that etches to perfection the depressing, fuzzy, uncertain cubicular life with its weird reward and recognition system.
“Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.”

1 comment:

  1. Reminded of PGW's preface to The Heart of a Goof. Do check it out, if you haven't already.


Simon van der Wiel is a fictitious character who appears in the novel The Best Seller by Arunabha Sengupta.

These lines are both collected from the novel and extrapolated from it - additional musings of the author through his alter ego

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