Thursday, 25 December 2014

A cranky Christmas

After I had my parathas rudely insulted yesterday morning, I wake up this morning to aloo parathas which Haresh had been perfecting all morning. 

I'm having a funny Christmas holiday so far. 

In fact speaking of, last night I overheard some American guys exchanging man talk at a house party and one of the questions to the group was "Which is the strangest place you've been at Christmastime?" Before anyone else could respond, this fellow answered his own question by saying, "Liberia!" Then, he delved into his Christmas experience in "Moslem countries like Abu Dhabi."

I had a really lousy day yesterday, mostly prompted by my crankiness and completely impatience with my staff, especially since I've been working up to have a pleasant Christmas with my staff. I was sulking for most of the day. 

But back to the parathas. Since I've been back from Pakistan and since I started my 3-times-a-week morning workouts with Ashland, I've been making breakfast of parathas and omlettes or just with plain yoghurt.  In fact, I've got pretty good at it. It's a far cry from when I first tried to make them - flour all over the floor and table top, gooey dough everywhere and the smell of burnt parathas.

I start my exercise at 6:30 up on the roof and am down at 7:30 or quarter to 8 AM. I get started on breakfast and Haresh and I have it together before he goes off to the office, leaving me behind to get Kavita and myself ready. The most irritating thing about Haresh is that he doesn't do the obligatory "Very good!" for my cooking. Insult on injury, he disparages and yesterday crossed the line by actually insulting my parathas.

So, not only do women have to contend with sexism but also endure taunts that men can do everything better than women, including cooking! 

So, I was in a cranky mood but was determined to have a pleasant morning and afternoon as planned. As planned for quite a while as I do every year since I started the company.

In the spirit of things, I've been celebrating Christmas at the office almost every year (except for the year I was in Chicago on maternity leave) with my staff. We have a Christmas tree, we do the Secret Santa gift exchange, disburse salaries around then, and have lunch or snacks together before we close shop for Christmas. I also try to decorate the office. 

Part of the end of year ritual is also submitting a post for our company blog. Not only is this towards my exhausting but unwavering effort to improve my staff's communication skills and to teach them to express themselves but also rounds up the year in a reflective way. 

Not only don't my staff submit their reports on time but my most senior staff throws a tantrum because his first submission was a bit of a cut and paste job. We asked him to do it again. That was on Monday. 

Yesterday, the plan was to exchange gifts, have some snacks and close up for the day. Salaries were also disbursed in the morning. It seemed no one had bought their gifts and everyone disappeared after they were paid trying to buy their gifts last minute. By 3 PM no one was back and I was sitting at the conference room table waiting for 4 of my 7 staff! I just lost! I threw a huge tantrum and, stormed out of the office. As we were closing up, our staff started trickling in, infuriating me even further. 

I went home and took a nap. 

I should not have lost it but we sometimes do lose it. I'm actually surprised I lost it after so long because I thought I was done with my "losing it" days. 

I was really frustrated that after quite a long time, the relationship with my staff remains quite one sided and despite efforts to do things which would help us bond, it doesn't work. I can't believe everyone waited until they received their salary to actually go and buy gifts! I was very upset to see that no thought had gone into it at all despite repeated reminders. I also don't buy the I'm-so-broke-I-need-my-salary-before-I-can-participate-in-this-activity. Everyone's salary has been increased, medical expenses are supported by the company and moreover, we have even helped with rent this year for a couple of the staff. 

The same thing happened a couple of years ago when we invited our staff for a lunch out and, two of our staff didn't show up without even informing us. 

Anywhere else, you are obligated to participate in the company or organisation's events. Even if you have to pretend you are loving it, you make the effort. It just seems to be the opposite here. 

Most of my staff has only started working in an office with us. They have been taught how to be professional and their skills by us. They are also from simple, humble backgrounds and live in communities with not much of the luxuries I enjoy at my apartment. But I still try to hold my staff to higher standards and, try to cultivate the best in them. I don't think it is much to ask of them to participate in a simple office ritual that builds a friendly atmosphere. 

It is what it is - my staff can sometimes behave like irresponsible and lazy people. And, I was definitely not interested in waiting for them so we could have the ceremony, enjoy some memorable moments and have a nice staff Christmas. I am the boss and my sense of boss over powered all other emotions.

So, after my restful nap, we were going to join our friend at a house party. While I was getting ready, I tried on a few of my old kameezes and felt extremely frustrated and annoyed because they were too tight. I took one kameez off after another and as I built up a bit of sweat I felt very angry at how much weight I've put on, especially after Kavita came along. It's going to take a lot of hard work if I am going to shed this weight and get back into some of my favourite kameezes. 

We arrived at this house party but instantly realised this was not going to be Kavita's scene. It was on a huge balcony at a house next to Anglers. It was a balmy evening and the place was only lit up with a few candles. There was a good mix of people. There were some lousy appetisers and a few drinks there and, many people were dressed to kill. I felt like the odd person out with a toddler who would start interrupting me as soon as I tried to strike up a conversation. So, I ended up hearing bits of other conversations, like the "Liberia is the weirdest place I've ever been for Christmas."

I forgot to add that our neighbour, the owner of Geochris, had passed away the night before. It struck a shocking and rather gloomy end to the day. We talked about it for some part of the party with our friend, cynically remarking on how life goes on for all of us, drinking at a house party on Christmas day while he was gone and had left a wife and kids behind.

We called a cab and took ourselves to what seemed to the homeliest option: Mama Susu's. It was quite dead at her place but it was nice to see a familiar motherly figure on Christmas eve. Haresh ordered an omlette and I my favourite baked chicken. Kavita went off to play with Florence in the kitchen.

In all the years I've been Liberia, I've adopted Christmas as a holiday that must be celebrated. Do as the locals do, no? It is the most important holiday of the year and, over the years, I've come to really cherish this time of the year. I've also had some fun times over the years, including hosting some nice Christmas day parties. 

If I'm here next year again for Christmas, I'm going to host a dinner party myself and, cook up a storm! I want to make more of an active contribution to the day I will have on a festive day instead of waiting nice stuff to happen.  My staff can go to hell in the meantime. So can Haresh's parathas.

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