Thursday, January 12, 2006

Night Shift

My manager had put me on the night shift for the week. I had just joined the 24/7 production support team for a key client - an US automobile major. It was my turn as Sailesh was on leave, and Raghu had quit. This was his last day in office. He had agreed to see me through the first night. And then I was to take it ahead. But that was no solace. In our short association, we had only grown to dislike each other. No real ground for enmity, but I found him snobbish, and extremely conceited. As if he was God’s gift to software. Thank god, he was leaving. Good riddance. Wonder what he thought of me. Whatever he may have thought, I was sure of the negativity. So, with such grand chemistry in broad daylight, the prospects after dark seemed all the more bleak.I reached my desk much before the scheduled time of 8.00 pm. I thought it fitting, more so for the inaugural day and was glad not to find Raghu around. I put on my machine and its faint hum filled the vacant cubicle within minutes. When the scheduler flashed an error code on the screen, I almost panicked at the sudden reality of my job. “Errors have a 5 per cent chance, buddy. Most of the time, you will surf the net or doze off” Sailesh had assured me. But here it was, right at the start of my daunting mission. It was a system error, something I was not equipped to tackle. I felt a cold chill run down my spine. As I sifted through the pages of the biblical user manual, I felt a shadow lurking behind me. It was Raghu and I could already imagine his wry smile of contempt. But he wore a homely grin along with his T-shirt and faded jeans, a rather strange sight for a formal guy with an high-and-mighty attitude. But what happened in the next few minutes was truly unbelievable. He fixed the bug for me, called up the client overseas, and signed off the help desk log with the “success” tag. Before I could recover from the shock, he was back with piping hot tea from the pantry.He was such a great conversationalist, I found that night, with an incredible sense of humour. And what a bore he seemed all these days. Imagine my perception, it had changed overnight…literally... I never knew he was among the first batch of software engineers that were recruited by our firm. How young he looked. And a proud member of the IBM mainframe group, with the fierce loyalty befitting a pioneer. The error that almost killed me minutes back was very rare, he told me. It had happened only twice in his whole career before. Somewhere, in the middle of the night, he got out an Old Monk from his leather bag. My first-ever liquor jaunt in office was truly memorable. After the third peg, he unexpectedly turned pensive; with open regret for the current breed of software guys. “Their pride is killing them” he declared with prophetic authority. Now that was funny. … And what happens to your belief during the day, my friend? Wish I could ask him. Taking my amusement for boredom, he changed the topic to girls. How did he guess my only passion in life? He asked me for my favourite list from office and I revealed a few secrets that reigned my lusty thoughts all the time. But I could not place any of his choice, probably, these dames were no longer in the company, I reckoned. There was no Raghu around when I woke up from my awkward slumber on the revolving chair.

I found his curt email in my inbox in the evening “Sorry dude, can’t make it and I don’t care. Fuck you all. Good bye” The date and time of the email indicated it was written the day before. That meant Raghu never came to office. Then who was the soul who helped me out? A chill ran down my spine.

Later that month, I won the “best performance award” for the bug fix from the management. The secret of my success is still in lock and key, but every word of the rich citation haunts me in my solitude “His group was in a quandary following the resignation of a key resource who absconded despite an assurance to help the team on the first day of the support exercise. In an exemplary performance in the most trying circumstances, he single-handedly solved one of the most complicated job control language bugs without any prior experience of trouble shooting”