One of the biggest challenges working in Huawei at the Leela Palace, Airport road, especially if you are a native Bangalorean was to get to work in time. It would be the same for all companies except that Huawei had this rule of core working hours which was between 10:30 AM and 4:30 PM. It wasn’t that you had to put in only 6 hours a day, it was 40 hours a week and the company was flexible about how long you spent either side of the core hours. The hours were enforced by a giant punching machine at each entrance to the office where you had to punch in when getting into office and punch again while getting out, pretty much like a factory.
The timings used to work fine for me as I would leave home at around 9:15 AM and reach work by 10:00 AM after a 13Km commute. All was well, and the world was fair, until one evening in October 2004, a mail landed in my inbox from the HR. They wanted to know if 10:30-4:30 was okay. There was a poll, and the options were the normal 10:30 to 4:30, 11:00 to 5:00, 10:00 to 4:00 and 9:30 to 3:30. I for one, with all the wisdom of 2.5 years decided that “if you get to work early, you can leave early” never ever works and maintaining a working status quo served me best, as it allowed me to leave at 4:30 whenever I required and had never felt the need to leave earlier, and the peace in reaching at 10:00 without worrying about being on the other side of the clock by 10-15 minutes was something I did not want to give up.
At this point, I must digress to discuss the demographics of the company. When I started out, the company mainly had localites who lived in different parts of the city and had homes and families outside of work in the city. Over the period of the next 2 years things changed and lots of students were hired from other parts of the country, mainly Kerala (as someone might be loathe to point out). Most of these students came in and found places to live close to the company, in and around the Indiranagar-Kodihalli-Domlur belt, pretty much like Chinese resettlement in Tibet. Around the time the poll was conducted, the demographics had changed significantly in favour of those who lived closer to the company and also, most importantly never felt the need to go home early. Having very minimal experience, they were of the opinion that if they get to office early they could leave earlier.
Two weeks later, the results of the poll were announced and it was as I dreaded. The core hours had been changed from 10:30 to 10:00 effective from 2nd Jan 2005. People living nearby were not affected. Those who struggled against the Bangalore traffic were. For me, it involved a significant shift in my routine. Soon, it came to pass that around 10:00 AM there would be loads and loads of people clogging the corridors near the elevator. Elevators ran at full load around this time. There were people waiting for the elevators at the underground parking and those at the ground floor lounge. Eventually they resorted to all sorts of antics, like people in the ground floor filling up elevators going down, only for people in the basement seeing full elevators where no one got out or worse, could not get out even if they wanted to! And then some enterprising geniuses found a way to make the elevator stop at the ground floor and not go down, even though it was headed that way. All this made for many tense moments around 10:00 AM in Huawei. People eventually found they had 59 seconds more as they were on the right side of the clock till 10:00:59. It was in fact very useful and I used to routinely clock in the 10:00:XXs, once even swiping at 10:00:59!!!
Life went on as it always does in the face of any everyday adversity, and people started laughing and making fun of the rule. What am writing about concerns one particular day during the time the 10:00 AM rule was on. Some days I would be stuck in front of the Leela at 9:55 not being able to move for the next 4-5 minutes because of the traffic. I came to know of a route through Kodihalli parallel to airport road that saved valuable time and was getting me to office on time more frequently than before. One fine and hot summer morning, as I made my way through the narrow gullies of Kodihalli in my long-serving two-wheeler, I was stopped dead by a very black and glowing road. It was in fact being tarred freshly and I promptly rode onto it. I was shooed and yelled away by the workers and after much difficulty trying to avoid putting my foot down on the road I turned back. I had a bit of an early start so I thought I could reach office on time even then. I made my way to Airport road and somehow got to the Leela entrance around 9:58! All was well with the world as I descended the ramp to the the underground parking lot. Once in the lot, I had to take a left after the entrance to the elevator lobby and being always skeptical about the ability of Bangalore drivers to appear out of nowhere I slowed down quite a lot more than necessary while taking the left turn in the parking lot. All of a sudden, I felt the world slip by under my vehicle and then my vehicle slip by under me as I realized I was skidding on the turn and was going to fall. I fell. It wasn’t such a spectacular fall, thanks to the speed I was maintaining and I knew I wasn’t hurt. My vehicle had pretty much gone from under me and was lying on my right, silently purring away.
As I lay there, a man in a blue fiero, wearing a checked shirt driving into the parking lot stopped near me. Even though he was wearing a full face helmet I knew it was my manager. Sprawled on the ground of a concrete parking lot I lay there on all four limbs looking up at him. I was oddly relieved that there was someone I knew who would help me in this hour of misery. Believe me, you need to be in such a position to see someone you know and feel good about it. I saw him smile reassuringly. Coming to think of it, I couldn’t see below his nose, so it must have been me imagining what I wanted to see. He then asked “Yenri Vaidya? Biddodrenri?” (What Vaidya? Did you fall down?) I wondered if there was anyway else I could have ended up in that position, but considering my situation, I decided sarcasm wasn’t the right mood for the occasion. I put on my most “ayyo paaaaapa” face, which wasn’t too difficult considering my position, and nodded. I heard him shifting his gears and thought he was going to stop and help me. But no, he was actually shifting to first gear and the next moment he had disappeared.
I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Forget helping someone on the street how could someone just let their colleagues lie on the road and drive away?! As I picked myself up I glanced at my watch and I had my answer. It was 9:59 AM. As I picked myself and my vehicle up I saw someone in a checked shirt flash through to the elevator. I was surprised someone could be so fast at his age. I guess “adversity” brings out stuff we didn’t know existed in people. I had no broken bones, just some pain in my left hip on which I had crashed.
I reached office some 2 or 3 mins late and could not care less about it. I was actually hurt that rules can make people so callous and hard. My manager did not speak about this the whole day and in fact avoided me the rest of the day. I was pretty curious to know if he had made it on time. I came to know eventually that he had. The late-comings and early-goings of employees were always made public knowledge.
I ended up for sometime a rebel not caring about the time I reached office. Somehow that was difficult considering me being me and the challenge against time and Bangalore traffic being oddly exciting and enthralling, prompting me to drive at unimaginable speeds some days in peak hour traffic.
The timings were eventually changed to 10:30 after a year and sanity restored. There had been complaints from the Leela authorities about boorish behaviour by the employees around 10:00 with other patrons when it came to using the elevator, large-scale rigging of the elevator and employees themselves had complained to the HR about the timings. There was a poll held around end of the year and it was pretty much swept by those who wanted to go back to the 10:30 timings.