Coffee Chronicles Episode 8: ‘Dumb Charades’

Some wise man had once remarked, “Balloons may come and balloons may go, but celebrations go on forever.” After a general mandate ousted the balloons as a means of celebrating any milestone, things have been different on the floor. It might also have to do with the transfer of the proponent of balloons as a means of celebration- the lady from the marketing team of the Projects department whose laughter was like that of a hyena in high ecstasy. Balloons left, but milestones followed their predecessors and necessitated some method of celebration that did not involve giant rubber balls falling on people. Also, around this time, the ‘engagement initiatives’ kicked off, that promised to turn the floor and the ambience from like that of a hospital ward shown in a B-grade zombie apocalypse film into something maybe more lively.

Accordingly, it was decided to have ‘activities’ in the second half of every Friday. We, those on the floor, who had not yet succumbed to the deadly touch of age and decay that had inflicted most here, were entrusted with the responsibility to think of something that could spike interest in work. For the first activity, we came up with a movie quiz. It was purely based on audio snippets- dialogues and tunes. The movies were mostly from Bollywood, a fact that would draw great resentment from the losing teams later, who turned their greasy noses up and said they do not venture beyond Hollywood. We got a little late putting everything into place and more importantly, getting people to come attend it. People were alarmed that they had to get up from their workstations, newspapers, a game of solitaire and sleep to attend a game. Never in my life, had I seen such overwhelming reluctance to have fun. The quiz, however, was a success. People cheated, no doubt, and called out each other and demanded they be given more points. What was good was that the event worked, and it set up the stage for the second event. We asked the opinion of the ‘associates’ for the second event and they were surprised at having been asked to think about a game. They looked at us with open mouthed wonder. We thanked them for their help and decided on dumb charades.

Meanwhile they put up a giant ‘10’ on the floor near the gate, to mark the ten million tonnes sold of a product. It was a great thing, the 10, and had plastic boxes on which congratulatory messages were to be written. When the plastic boxes were put in place, they turned on the lights and the figure glowed in many colours through the many messages. It was rather a pretty sight.

Friday approached, and we brainstormed on the movies we could possibly ask the people to act out. We decided against making it difficult. The time came and we assembled the people. They were divided in two teams, for looking at their hapless faces, we guessed not many had played dumb charades before and that strength lay in numbers. We explained the rules and got started. The acting was terrible, and the guesses even better. When one new officer named Mr. J got ‘Conjuring’, he did the most amazing act of it imaginable. He stood there, having indicated it to be a Hollywood movie of a single word. Then he brought his arms to his waists and started rotating his wrists, while looking towards the ceiling. His team-mates asked him if he was talking about feelings, something he could not express, emotions and so on. To us, he looked like more as if he was experiencing the curios struggle of wanting to vomit but not being able to.

However, the star act of the evening came from none other than Mr. B.  Mr. B got ‘Baby’s Day Out’-a simple movie to act out, by any standard. Having indicated clearly it was a three word Hollywood movie, Mr. B proceeded to indicate the first word. Now, there are a thousand ways in which someone can show a baby. Mr. B, however, being of a different breed, sat down on his hunches, curled his fingers in and began to hop across the floor.

Needless to say, people were puzzled. Someone whispered something about it being a gorilla. Then Mr. P.G, another luminous soul on the floor, assumed the expression of ‘eureka’ and with a jubilant smile that suggested he had got the movie right, screamed, ‘Old Man Walking’.

We still do not know if this was a sly slight at Mr. B, who disliked being called old, or a genuine mistake of Mr. P.G who replaced ‘Dead’ with ‘Old’. Mr.B was not very amused. He stood up and held his knees and waist. Meanwhile, a self-confessed Hollywood buff shouted his guess for the three word movie- ‘ No Country for Old Men’. Mr.B had a dark cloud hovering between his giant bushy eyebrows now.

Then a lady guessed it right and put Mr. B out of further misery. The performance must have caused Mr. B much trouble, at his age.  But why he chose to be a chimpanzee with a limp when he could have shown a baby was beyond anybody’s wildest guess.

The next Friday was karaoke night- which I missed- but the reception was encouraging. All in all, a lot of things were changing in the workplace and it felt good.

Now the night in nigh and I am tired and like an episode with an uncertain end, I must end this abruptly too.

P.S:

I was standing in the mini kitchen with my usual cup of sugarless nectar, when I realised something. All of us are  always trying to convey things, trying to act out people and places and ideas, and trying to reach out to an always puzzled audience over the barriers of language, time and distance. Sometimes people get us and sometimes they do not. But we still rumble through life, taking turns to act, expressing through symbols, made of situations and by us, wishing to be understood.

Shamu walked into the kitchen with a mop and broke my reverie. He looked here and there, cleaned the top of the refrigerator and a bit of the sink, then looked down, gave a smirk to the floor and left as suddenly as he had appeared.

Charades, I sighed. We are all locked in a game of charades. I threw my cup away and went back to my seat.

**End of Episode 8**

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