Tanzin buttons up his white-purple striped shirt. He remembers that he has never put on the cufflinks his father-in-law gave him for his wedding. He hollers at Salma to find the cufflinks for him. Salma is quite delighted that her hubby wants to wear them. She always loves it when Tanzin wears the tie, or the watch, or the suit presented by her father, especially when they are getting ready for a wedding evening. It gives her a sense of happiness. She feels her love for her hubby dearest spiking up the passion curve a bit more during those time spans. “You seem very happy to go to work for a Tuesday morning honey. Here you go. Wait, let me put it on for you.” Salma takes her husband’s left hand, clips on the cufflink and carries out the same process on the other sleeve with equal love and happiness. Tanzin’s smile slowly spreads across his face. His right hand, clipped with the brand new silver cufflinks, reaches out for his bride. He holds Salma by her hand, draws her closer and lightly pecks her right hand.
“I have a wonderful idea that I want to propose at work today. I think it will be a super hit if it clicks. Wish me luck my love.” Salma smiles and it slowly spreads wide across her face.
Sir, I was going through my job description thoroughly and read – coordinate and develop defecation skills ... In celebration of World Defecation Day, I would like to excrete for a start and do it today! It would be great if a few others joined in as well
“Good morning, sir!”
“Hello! Come on in, young man.”
Tanzin slowly walks into the room, putting down slow but firm steps to deliberately exuberate his confidence. He does not get a lot of opportunity to conduct a one-to-one with his boss in his secluded, tidy glass room. He likes his office. The glass walls let in a lot of sunlight. That is why he is such a nice man. His skin gets sufficient supply of vitamin D for his mental and physical well-being. It would have been nice if Tanzin got some access to natural light as well.
“Sir, I was going through my job description thoroughly and read – coordinate and develop defecation skills. I have noticed that none of us defecates here. In celebration of World Defecation Day, I would like to excrete for a start and do it today! It would be great if a few others joined in as well. This is not only a part of our work description but also a unique process. No bowel movement is alike. It is also an opportunity for us to discover our exclusivity. Sir, here is the concept paper. I did my homework. I think it is a great image-building opportunity for our organisation. I would like to execute the event today by 5:00pm, end of business hour. We will strike the iron while it’s still hot.”
“I am glad that you took this initiative. Go ahead. Please contact admin if you need any logistical support.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much sir.”
Tanzin gets up, pushing back his chair. “So … so kind of you.”
Chandu Bhai then goes on to explain how this project just cannot be executed. A committee needs to be set up: A defecation committee. This committee will comprise of all the directors. Then the committee will decide on a core working committee to actually carry out the real work. Only then can Tanzin defecate.
Tanzin, after a long time, feels excited to be at work. He just graduated a year ago. This will be a major achievement after the day his results were out. If this really works out, it will be an excellent addition to his portfolio. He returns to his black chair, which is not yet adorned by a towel. The office has allocated a budget for a towel for his chair. He will go towel shopping next Friday. There was this one time he was looking for some tissue, but Suruj, the custodian, only had toilet paper to offer. Unlimited access to towel facility would be much appreciated in these humid summer days.
Tanzin walks a few steps to talk to the admin person, Chandu Bhai. Everyone sits side by side with a wooden table in front of them. Only the boss has a room of his own. Chandu Bhai is immersed in conversation with Suruj on how he could better prepare his tea. Suruj is standing on the other side, with his hands clasped together behind his back.
“Sir, bhalo achen?” (How are you?)
“Ki ,Tanzin, how are you?
“I am here to ask for your support. I am sure Boss told you about it as well.”
“Oh it’s a defecation project in celebration of World Defecation Day. All we need to do is excrete, invite the media to cover the event, and use Facebook and Twitter. It’s that easy!”
“Ok, write a concept paper.”
“I already did! Here it is, Sir.”
“Ok, I will send it to Khuku sir. He is an experienced manager. He knows how to write good concept paper.”
“Sir, I graduated in Economics, and have written a lot of research papers. Moreover, I talked to Boss about it.”
“Uufff, you have to respect your elders. It will be good for you if he is also in it.”
“Then we cannot carry it out today. We also have to defecate in time.”
Chandu Bhai then goes on to explain how this project just cannot be executed. A committee needs to be set up: A defecation committee. This committee will comprise of all the directors. Then the committee will decide on a core working committee to actually carry out the real work. Only then can Tanzin defecate. If the committee decides that he is not the right person, then someone else might defecate, too. It has to be decided by the committee. He cannot decide alone.
“Listen, Tanzin, you have to save your own skin. This committee is important for your own self.”
Tanzin feels utterly confused. How will any work be done with this committee and the sub-committee? He wants to have ownership of his work. He will gladly accept the praise and criticism. After all, isn’t that what professionalism is all about?
“Ok. Let’s make this defecation committee.” Tanzin re-motivates himself. Who is supposed to make this committee then? He runs back to Chandu Bhai. Then patiently waits till he is done talking on the phone with his sister-in-law. Answer extracted: Mofazzel sir, head of programmes.
“Salam, Mofazzel Sir.”
Tanzin finds Mofazzel Sir surrounded by seven persons. Mofazzel Sir’s table is covered with piles of files, tied with thick thread. He finds himself a seat at the back of the room.
Mofazzel Sir is reminiscing about his younger days when people actually worked for the country. In his younger days, he himself carried bricks with the labourers to expedite the process of building construction. These days people are not that committed anymore, he sighs. The only thing that is keeping him here is the achievements of his younger days when he was a rokto-gorom jubok, (hot-blooded youth).
Tanzin wonders why the hell Mofazzel Sir isn’t signing the papers instead of talking. He does not have to run with his frail legs anymore. He has a sit-down position now because he is a rokto-thanda briddho, a cold blooded old man. He is better at sitting and signing and that is what he should be doing. Why the hell is everyone surrounding him to listen to his stories? Do they have no work to do?
How the hell is he supposed to defecate today? Real work has not even started! He had a big breakfast intentionally and his intestine might burst sometime soon. He looks at his watch. “What the fuck! It’s two o’ clock already!”
Mofazzel Sir gets up. All the directors surrounding him follow suit with obedience. Tanzin misses the cue, and finds himself the only one sitting down for a few seconds more.
Before Mofazzel Sir is gone, he rushes up to him and tells him that he has been waiting for a while. He explains his wonderful idea to defecate by the end of the day. Sir listens for half a minute, and orders him to leave the concept paper. He will take action as necessary.
“But... Sir, do you think we can defecate today? When will the committee sit? I mean you have to make the committee.” Tanzin wonders.
“Tanzin. I do not head committees. I will assign someone who will form and lead the committee. The committee will then decide on a core working committee.”
Confused, Tanzin returns to his table. He sits and thinks. What is going on? Why are people so reluctant to defecate? How does anything happen in this office? Should he go to the boss and explain what is going on? No, then all these people might perceive he’s complained. But, how will he defecate? If he backs off now, then his boss will perceive that he cannot pull things through. Therefore, he is not a problem solver.
Tanzin discovers that he is alone in the whole wide room. Fans have been switched off. He is feeling hot gratitude to white fluorescent lights glaring down at him. His colleagues probably have all gone for Zohr namaaz and lunch. Tanzin remembers his mother who advised him to always appreciate the positives when engulfed with negative emotion.
Tanzin closes his eyes, sits straight and reminds himself, “I appreciate that my colleagues are punctual. They come to office right at nine o’ clock and leave sharp at 5:00pm. It is great that they are also punctual about lunch and prayer...” Tanzin repeats.
Khuku Sir returns. He sits right across Tanzin. Tanzin wonders how he will react if he gets to find out that Tanzin has already given the concept paper to Mofazzel Sir. Khuku Sir He is not his boss. So, he cannot hurt Tanzimhim that bad. Tanzin thinks that for some reason, admin department is trying to delay the process and using Khuku Sir as an excuse. Still, he asks,
“Sir, did Chandu Sir give or talk to you about the concept paper?”
“What is it about?” Khuku sir asks nonchalantly.
“I think we should all defecate today in celebration of World Defecation Day! Sir, here is the paper, please let me know...”
Khuku cuts him short. “Ahh... Tanzin...what’s the hurry?”
“Sir, here is the concept paper.”
“Tanzin, I can only get the concept paper from Admin. Let Chandu Sir return and he will take care of the papers. Don’t you worry! You seem very impatient. That’s okay though, not your fault. It is the age you are in.”
We all sit right across each other in the same room. Why can’t we just work? It’s funny how they can all lunch together and pray together, share the best practices on purchasing fish early in the morning from Karwan Bazaar, but have files that move slowly and steadily...
If he does not defecate, what will his boss think? Even his colleagues will make fun of him for initiating a project and being unable to follow it through. If he goes to his boss and complains, then the whole office will turn against him! If he does not, then will the boss welcome any new proposal anymore? How will he hop into a better job if he cannot build up his portfolio?
Tanzin feels anxiety burning in the pit of his belly, twisting and churning some more and forcing its way up his stomach, reaching out to his heart, then his hands, and legs as well. Does blood carry anxiety along with oxygen too? He has to ask Salma. She studied biology.
Tanzin takes out his cell phone, an iPhone his uncle presented him last month. He brought it back from Canada. Most of his colleagues use basic phones. He is sure his colleagues did not even understand when he mentioned Facebook and Twitter.
Instinctively, he goes to his boss and informs him that he will be defecating on the road side. He shouts to all his colleagues. He asks Suruj, the tea maker to spread the news of his defecating in celebration of the day.
Tanzin closes himself off everyone. He walks to the road side besides the office building. Turns on his camera with his right hand and holds it up. Tanzin pushes down both his trouser and underwear. Sits. His muscles feel distorted. Butt cheeks clench.
With a forlorn expression of pain, insecurity and confusion to what might explode from his body, he waits. Stress waits inside his gut; twisting, turning, and churning some more.
Tanzin returns to his table to find a congratulatory note from the boss -- “Congrats to you and your team who pulled off such a project. Great work, Tanzin!”
Even Khuku Sir comes up and says, “Congrats, young man! If you had explained to me in detail before, I could have booked a nice bathroom for you in Paris. You know, my daughter lives in France, and we could have done it in a much better way.”
Chandu Sir seems very reluctant to talk about it. Still, for the sake of chokkhu lojja (preserving honour), he comes up to Tanzin and says “Good work! For a start it’s good. For next year’s World Defecation Day, We can celebrate in a befitting manner.” Chandu Sir packs his bags and is gone by 5:01pm.
Only Tanzin and the tea maker, Suruj Mia, are left in the office. With a sense of accomplishment Tanzin returns home. He will explain to Salma how he’s beaten the system. It’s very easy, actually. You just do! That’s the trick. Salma will be so proud of him. He loves it when Salma tells him how proud she is of him.
6 months later:
Chandu Sir gives leaves Tanzin’s evaluation form on his table. Tanzin arrives at work. 9:00am sharp. Like his fellow colleagues. Opens the envelope and reads:
Tanzin possesses a positive attitude, but needs to pay more attention to rules and regulations. Tanzin needs to respect the organisation’s policies.
Maherin Ahmed graduated from Whitman College with a degree in economics. She adores literature just as much as she enjoys nature and travelling.