Unfettered

by Ashish

I went out for lunch the other day, with an old friend. Left to my own devices, that’s all I would do, ever. Not go out for lunch with old friends in particular, mind you, just go out for lunch. You should try it sometime – apart from a debilitating effect on your wallet, there is hardly a downside to this engaging hobby.

In any case, said old friend happens to work for a large multinational corporation. The kind of corporation that plonks at least five offices in every major city of every major country, and successfully convinces its employees that the Holy Grail of their lives is working hard enough for years on end just so as to have your stuffy cubicle replaced with a stuffy cabin. That kind.

We were to have lunch at a roof-top restaurant located in the same premises that houses this corporate behemoth, and I landed up there, on schedule. And it was while I was waiting in the lobby that I chanced upon the topic du jour.

Sleeves that are not rolled up. I don’t get them, and I don’t think I ever will. Back in the day, when I was a corporate stooge myself (and remind me to tell you one of these days about my many joyous experiences) my one form of muted rebellion against the enforced sobriety of the corporate world were my rolled up sleeves.

Think about it – buttoned up sleeves make one feel hopelessly constricted. Your arms can’t move about as freely, you want to do sober, respectable things and you want to be an upright pillar of society when you button up your sleeves. Leave your forearms the way they were when you were born, however, and the world is suddenly a more liberated, enlightened and freer place. One feels (comparatively) alive.

Every single day that I walked in to the place where I worked, I’d roll up my sleeves. Just a couple of folds, no more, but they’d always be up. More than a couple of times did my superiors cough meaningfully in my direction with regard to my transgressions, but I always managed to avert outright censure by pretending to be completely stone deaf. Meetings, seminars, video-conferences and year-end appraisals – all forms of battle were enjoined with bared forearms.

And so I’d move around amidst my fellow inmates, otherwise scarcely discernible from the best of them. Nice black, suitably expensive shoes, socks with no (noticeable) holes in them, trousers that were creased at only the appropriate places, a formal shirt that screamed boredom – all was dutifully complied with. But where all others would shuffle along with buttoned-up sleeves, your author would embark on his jaunts with a spring in his step. And I’m convinced that the secret to my jauntiness was the fact that I wouldn’t button up my sleeves.

I urge you try it one of these days, if your job forces you to look all prim and proper. Just before you settle into your torture chamber for the day, and wage war against common sense for your required eight hours, wait up. Look around you, and make sure your manager isn’t looking. Stealthily, furtively, slip your left hand down to your right wrist, and unbutton that damn cuff. Repeat the exercise for the other hand. Roll up your sleeves, and now settle down into your seat.

Your work, dear reader, will still bore you to death. But on your boredom stricken faces, you’ll be glad to note, there will be the beginnings of a smile.

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