Saturday, 18 October 2008

Searching for the Invisible Light Switch

My friend Hemant loves to crack jokes. Some of his jokes are so convoluted, only he understands the punch line. But then, you don’t mind. Watching Hemant narrate the joke itself is a performance to be enjoyed.

Like all great raconteurs, Hemant dead-pans when he builds up the story and only the occasional mischievous twinkle in his eyes gives him away. The narration is deliberately slow, with long pauses, and programmed to heighten your anticipation and increase your impatience. And finally when the joke is out, his whole body seems to sag helplessly and he is convulsed in quiet laughter, one shoulder more hunched than the other, face tilted to one side; suddenly you also find yourself infected with the same crazy virus of helpless merriment.

This is a story Hemant related to me about an incident that happened when I was on an extended overseas trip and thus away from the office.

It is Neils Moltzen’s first day in office. Moltzen has taken charge as the new General Manager. Moltzen with his round, plump visage and round glasses is a mild, soft-speaking individual with a perpetually confused look. The poor man has absolutely no idea what a devilish practical joker Hemant can be when he catches the mood. Hemant, being responsible for office administration, takes Moltzen around, introducing him to other colleagues, showing him where the photocopier and the fax machine are located and how to operate the coffee machine. The tour ends in Moltzen’s cabin which Hemant opens for him with a flourish; after which, Hemant walks back to his cabin.

Moltzen is very soon back in Hemant’s cabin asking where the light switch is. He has looked everywhere but cannot locate the light switch.

Hemant looks at Moltzen for a moment as if he hasn’t understood the question. Then he suddenly brightens up and says: “Ah! The light switch! It is sound activated. Just go back to your room and clap your hands. One clap for on and one clap for off.”

Moltzen trots off dutifully back to his cabin and, to the utter astonishment of the rest of the office, starts clapping his hands inside his cabin. No lights get turned on. In frustration, the poor man runs back to Hemant.

Hemant looks at him sternly. “You would not have clapped loud enough,” he says. “Clap more loudly. One clap for on and one clap for off.”

This time around, Moltzen’s claps are like gunshots and pretty soon the entire office is standing outside his cabin laughing their heads off with Hemant looking mournful and serious in the background.

It took Moltzen weeks to recover from the trauma.

“You are joking!” I tell Hemant when he narrates this story for the first time. “You are just making this whole story up, aren’t you?”

I get no reply from Hemant. He has dissolved into a jelly and is quietly laughing himself silly into his glass of beer.
Photo Courtesy: Kate's Public Gallery, Picasa Web Albums


Rakesh Pherwani said...

Though I have known Hemant for many years now, I am afraid I didn't follow this joke-narrating performance closely - maybe I was too smashed in our spirit-imbibing sessions to pay much attention. I will surely look out in our future meetings.

gerimox said...

ROTFL!Must be great to have characters like these who liven up the workplace!

Cynic in Wonderland said...


have i told you lately that your posts are so damn vivid?

just lovin it

Iya said...

i have one question - where was the freaking switch???

Rada said...

@Rakesh:"...too smashed during our spitit-imbibing sessions.." You said it, I didn't! :-)

@Gerimox: Indeed! Workplace could turn out to be a desert but for interesting colleagues!

@Cyn: I value your comments because I know you will not post a "cute" comment just to make someone happy. You would think you owe it to your friend to give honest feedback.

So thanks again! :-)

@Iya: Thank you for your visit and asking a very sensible question nobody has asked so far!

The switch was behind the door, btw!

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.