SHE found herself manning her new department, alone, when her work transfer was approved… albeit overnight. It was a new department, but Saraswati was just a workhorse, really. But, the department was to put out some workpapers that very day.
“What to do? How to do?” she thought, determined to do the job despite not having a boss.
So she went to the overall supervisor, who already knew the situation, and had more details that he cared to share with the newbie.
Work was assigned to other, more senior people. “Help the new one,” was the gently-issued war cry from the supervisor to the jaded, smoking, drinking male seniors around her.
But this particular supervisor took the time to teach the newbie some of the ropes needed for the job. From using pica rulers, to measuring space in ems and ens, she learnt the task on the job, to help put out the workpapers that very day.
Along the course of that day, which hours simply flew as she learnt the ins-and-out of the job, she also learnt why she was the only workhorse at the new desk.
“Your boss wanted a title to go with the new desk. There was no title given…yet” Saraswati learnt. And the rest of the desk coolies? “They are also waiting for your boss to get the title.” So why then give it this person? Ah, it boiled down to good networking, who you know, and a matter of conversion to the “right” Malaysian path.
The new boss didn’t get the much-wanted title for 3 days, and Saraswati turned up for work at her new section like clockwork. The big supervisor seemed to expect such work ethics, and she was trained for the workhorse detail every day. If he didn’t do it, the other smoking, drinking seniors would reluctantly give some assistance, to some silly, ignorant questions from Saraswati.
Sly looks were passed to her, as she laboured over formula calculations. Some did saunter past her table, to snigger at her work, or to make needed suggestions.
Saraswati was happy at work, learning new stuff. At her old section, she had been derided by a misogynist who also picked on race. “Are you sure you know what you doing, even with a degree? You should be married la,” was the old boss’ famous last words.
With all that under the bridge for her, Saraswati didn’t care if her new boss liked her or not. She was at work, and had learnt the new job tricks!
When the new boss finally turned up, “special friends” followed. Some had made the grade by being tattletales, rather than good at the job! But Saraswati didn’t know old from new, being merely some months at the workplace.
She just carried on the work blithely.
“You said this, didn’t you?” she was confronted with one evening by the new boss. “This” being some rumour passed about her expertise.
“No, I didn’t. I was not even there, to begin with. So you need to check your premises because your conclusion is wrong!” Saraswati replied, firmly but with a gentle tone. Actually, Saraswati was scared shitless because this was her boss after all.
A few years later, she was offered to another section by her boss, to replace someone leaving. Saraswati went ahead and did that new job, but asked to return when she found the work too gentle for her!
Decades later, a whole of section changes and wrinkles added, Saraswati was at a loose end at work, and asked the “titled” boss if there was space for a workhorse at the section.
Nope, came the reply. Maybe, just maybe, those little voices who had said that Saraswati’s give-the-title boss hadn’t wanted her at all at that section all those years ago were actually telling the truth!
Sorry little Saraswati, such a workhorse. But she knew full well by then, you don’t know who your friends are till you need them. Thanks to that overall supervisor, she knew her job well.
“I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.”