The Crocodile of Shenzhen

Not too long ago, there was a tiny drinking water tank in one of the floors of one of the offices of a company in Shenzhen, China. Near that drinking water tank there lived a crocodile. Unlike normal crocs which usually swim in water and trap innocent thirsty prey that drink from the water source, this one just lurked near the drinking water tank, doing nothing but preying on people who came to drink water from the tank. Prey was easy as there were no other sources of drinking water nearby.

By preying, thankfully, I don’t mean physically eating people, but preying on their minds and their time, with talks about “How are you doing? How is your project doing?” but soon jumping to more sinister questions/statements like “You should finish the test plan by today evening, the choice is yours.” or “you’ve been browsing the internet too much” or simply inane questions like “What is quality?”. Sometimes there were more “interesting” conversations about airforce/army men escaping to Chikpet looking for whores when on leave, and having to be dragged back to the barracks and vaccinated like dogs which mingled with stray ones. You see, this croc had once served in the airforce too. Sometimes hands were offered to shake, a gesture people were reluctant to reciprocate as usually hands of this croc were known to have visited unspeakable places like its butt, and then offered directly to be shaken.

What am writing about concerns one particular event with the water hole. Before I go any further, need to tell, this was my first project ever, having graduated almost a year back, but of course there had been no work on offer till a month or so back and had by then generally gotten a hang of how to while away time in the professional world while looking busy. Its a knowledge that has helped me survive many boring years in the software and academic industries.

It was a Sunday, and I had decided to get some work done, or was probably just playing a game on the system as, well, there was no work. After getting bored, I decided to go drink some water. I went to the waterhole only to see the croc lurking nearby. Wonder what it was doing on a Sunday?! It sure seemed to be doing what it always did – nothing. “Baidya, howb are you?” I gave the appropriate nods, still not convinced if the croc was hungry or had just been fed. “You played well yesterday, that runout was really good!”. “Thanks” I said, cursing under my breath that I had bowled my ass out to pick 3 crucial wickets in a losing cause only for this thing to talk about a stupid runout of a no-good tailender! But then, even with all the knowledge of his ability to switch to sinister topics, I didn’t see the next one coming. His eyes narrowed, the smile disappeared, the way only fake ones do. And then it came “if there is any fuck up in this project, you will be responsible!”. “Mm-hmm” I mumbled. I was a tad stunned, and wondered how there could ever be a “fuck-up” in a project, the code for which had already been written and where I had 3 whole months to delete China specific parts and translate the rest of the names to English, and also given that I could tell the English specialists better names than they could come up with. Still the prospect of me being responsible for the whole “fuck-up”, if at all it happened, was overwhelming and I left after a few more customary nods, and fake smiles and back to cordial questions from him, still a bit overwhelmed (okay I wasn’t even 23 then!). Thankfully he didn’t offer his hands to shake – there was still God in China! (although the reds might disagree)

Of course that was one of my many run-ins with the croc and I realized that it functioned at its best when it was near water of any form or when eating steamed fish while spitting most of it telling Chikpet stories no one wanted to hear. Pulling it away from the water hole turned out counter-productive as we realized to our horror that when it was out of its comfort zone, it would only be repeating different flavors of Chikpet stories.

Like most crocs this one was long-living and had turned 50 around that time. Living probably in croc years it went on to form its own company in Bangalore, although there are many who think and suspect it did so because it had been turned out by the Chinese, and no other company had enough space or need for a croc, or sometimes just not enough water. After that also flopped, it lurked for sometime in a big company which saw potential in enterprising crocs, only to soon forget why and let it on the loose all over again. The croc however, still reaching its peak (we are talking croc years remember) went on to start and join a political party in a distant state near the coast which is hardly talked about. And there it lives to this day preying on a larger populace that lives near the seas and a mighty river.

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11 thoughts on “The Crocodile of Shenzhen

  1. Excellent post Baidya. Brought back all those nostalgic memories of Cheena… 🙂 You should write a China series – Considering your talent, you could even publish it 🙂

  2. Well written, love the sarcasm. But, it seems like a croc-n-bull story to me. I’ve seen my set of bad managers, but never one who would use words like that (fuck-up) directly like that on me or any employee.

    1. I’ve met this guy!! Man!! I used to enjoy it a lot when Manja, Krishna, Vaidya and Mehkri used to go on a bitching fest on this guy during Friday afternoon lunches!!
      I dont understand how a guy whom nobody liked working under got so many rises.

      1. >>I dont understand how a guy whom nobody liked working under got so many rises.
        In places like Huawei, you can reach unthinkable levels by being a suck-up 🙂
        Nice post Vaidya. This big croc also fathered lots of little “crocs” in Russia when stationed there with Indian Army.

  3. Actually I think you should write more on this guy…You’ve had some amazing ‘conversations’ during your time in Huawei which are still part of legend there…might as well share it with the rest of the world!

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