“We’re bringing 2 coffees; so much of it gets left over and has to be poured away. Shall we try bringing 1 coffee from tomorrow? Then, if that itself is sufficient, we can get only 1 from now onward.”
Two of my colleagues and I have a coffee arrangement – every morning, around 10 am, we get coffee delivered from a nearby shop. The above dialogue is regarding that. If I had to ask you to guess who may be mouthing it, you’ll probably think it’s one of the coffee consumers.
Happy to disappoint you – it’s one of the lady staffs (let’s call her G) who is responsible for cleaning the college office, staffrooms and a few laboratories. Getting coffee for the office staff and us, is also one of her responsibilities.
This suggestion to reduce wastage and by implication, also cut costs, came from this woman who is herself from an economically weaker section of society. Over the years, having observed several persons from this section, I’ve seen that many of them tend to look for some personal benefit in cash or in kind whenever they get a chance.
G, obviously, is from a different mould.
If there’s excess coffee after the 3 of us have partaken of it, we generally ask the one bringing it, to have the rest of it. Until G took over the work, there would be just a little left over. Ever since she took charge of it, there’s more left over. And this is what triggered that suggestion from her. In her innocent voice and tone, G put forth this idea, even prefacing it with the humble request that the “Madams” should not feel bad that she is giving some opinion.
G is relatively new to the college. Which is why she's still wary of not stepping on toes. She doesn't yet know that these 3 “Madams” are also cut of a different cloth and don’t believe in throwing their (sizeable) weight around or snubbing those lower in the office hierarchy. So, there was no offense taken, and indeed, there was appreciation – as is evident from the fact that although she is unaware of its implication, G has featured on this blog.
Anyone else in G’s place would have been likely to not say a word in this situation. They would have either consumed the extra coffee themselves or distributed it to someone else and used that to curry favour with those persons at some later time. If you’re surprised reading this last bit, it’s probably because you’re not aware of the power hierarchies that thrive among support staff.
To quote another example, when G, on rare occasions, brings a parcel of food for one of the “Madams” from the canteen, they may, out of goodwill, tell her to keep the change that is left over. To her credit, G firmly refuses to take it – despite the fact that it would definitely be of some help to someone in her circumstances. If the “Madams” insist, she tells them, “I don’t want it, Madam. If at all sometime I have the need, I myself will ask you for it.”
In a world where even people much more comfortably placed look for petty personal benefits in whatever jobs they do, people like G are fast becoming a rarity. Which is all the more reason to appreciate and encourage them by not belittling but appreciating their efforts.