Sunday, August 16, 2009

Corporate Training and Cornflakes

This morning we had cornflakes, toast and fruits for breakfast.

‘Will you have hot milk or cold to go with the cornflakes?’ Radhika asked me. I opted for the former. She withdrew to the kitchen. I was lost in a reverie.

The year was 1969. I was in Patna, undergoing induction course for Probationary Officers of a major bank. The recruits, fresh from colleges, were touted as potential senior executives of the bank. We were being groomed to take on responsibilities.

It was a residential course intended to prepare young recruits in every way for the long career ahead. Public speaking, table manners, group discussions and toasts after dinner were all built into it. The training methodology was state-of-the-art in the days we are talking about – flip charts and white boards.

We were a mix of young men from all over India. Most of the participants belonged to, were educated in or at least had exposure to metros and large towns. In fact, the selection process (consisting of a written test and an interview) was heavily loaded in favour of the urban candidates. It was not often that a country bumpkin would make the grade.

I had lived all my life in Kerala and had no urban upbringing. It was my first trip outside Kerala where I belong to.

On the first day, we had assembled in the dining hall for breakfast. White-liveried bearers with read-and-white headgears, red-and-gold cummerbunds and sashes flitted about with glass jars of cold water. I went and occupied one of the six chairs placed around a circular table.

I was awed by the fine chinaware, gleaming cutlery and the starched white tablecloth and napkins, but pretended as if I was used to all that. As I was about to sip the orange juice, I saw a group of young men ambling in, talking loudly and laughing. They must be the faculty at the Training Centre, I told myself.

They came and occupied the other chairs around my table. They continued their banter, mostly in English, lapsing into Hindi at times. Despite my diffidence, I introduced myself to them. That was when I realized that they were also participants like me.

After finishing the orange juice, I opened the glass jar containing cornflakes and put some of it into my bowl. I took a bit of it in the table spoon and put it into my mouth. It was crisp but felt dry. As I was about to put the next spoon of cornflakes into my mouth, the person occupying the chair opposite mine said, ‘You’re supposed to put some sugar and milk in the cornflakes in the bowl before having it.’

Not wanting to confess ignorance, I said, ‘I know, but I like it this way.’ And laboured through the bowl of cornflakes.

When Radhika brought the hot milk for my cornflakes, she caught me smiling to myself as I recollected those days. I told her why.

Let me add a postscript: during the whole of the month-long training period, if the day’s breakfast menu had cornflakes in it. I made it a point to avoid the table where any of these five colleagues sat.


Twisha Mukherjee said...

Well, I actually prefer cornflakes dry!

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

ha ha! beautiful piece! you have inspired me to blog on a similar episode.

wannabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wannabe said...

Twisha, I can't think of it.

KPJ, Looking forward. I have stories of a few more faux pas (by others). Let me see if I can narrate them without offending them.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

You handled the situation very well.

I keep making faux pas (is it yet another? what is the plural form?) even now. And whenever I make one, it makes me happy because it is the ultimate proof that I still have the courage to walk beyond my zone of comfort.

You could have avoided touching the cornflakes that morning. But in that case, you wouldn't have become what you are today.

mathew said...

blog hopped from parel tank...cannot stop laughing at this episode either..nice post!!:-)

please share more such anecdotes...its so much like my experiences..

The Layman said...

Beautiful anecdote! :)

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Blog hopped from KPJ. Too good! ROFL!

Gopes said...

Thoroughly enjoyed that post. To think that all these days I have been missing this blog which makes enjoyable reading especially with your inimitable sense of humour.

Coming to the cornflakes episode I was reminded of a similar incident when a close relative who had gone to a posh and expensive restuarant for the first time drank from the finger bowl thinking it was lemon juice.

wannabe said...

Santanu, Mathew, The Layman, Karthik and Gopes

Thank you very much. I am happy you enjoyed the confessional.

Anonymous said...

Haha..Am still laughing along with my father..Too good a post. I am a regular follower of your blog.
My father, who is a marine engineer faced the same problem when he made his first voyage. But he handled in a different way and immediately added milk and sugar as suggested.He was hardly 17 at the time.