Having grovelled in the chasms of unemployment from a time when 'President Donald Trump' was nothing but a frivolous joke (some argue it still is, but faulty microphones might differ), I find myself empowered with the experiences of multiple interviews I subjected myself to. A gradual detachment from the corporate stooge I initially purported and the nihilistic interviewee that I ended up becoming was just a corollary of one of my first interviews in the UK in which I had unknowingly waged a bloody duel with the reigning, defending and undisputed paragon of corporate success, Venkataraman Sundaraman.
It was, literally and beyond, a tussle with the law of jungle where the strong survived.
As I stepped through those revolving doors, I was immediately ferried to the centre of a jeering pre-medieval Colosseum. An innocuous rodent in ominous hostile territory. A rat chasin' some cheese. Hordes of unseen eyes were assiduously trained on my slightest movements. Movements that were once subconscious but in this moment incredibly forced. All of which was supplemented by permanently plastered plastic visage that exuded false bravado in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity.
The games had begun.
Careful, calculated steps led me to a receptionist who proffered a wide smile that didn't reach her eyes. In return I gave her a smile that would probably have reached Mars, having reserved my most potent smiles for such occasions - meticulously polished by numerous auditions in front of unassuming mirrors.
This was, after all, an occasion for plastic smiles.
As I sat and waited, mocking interest in the numerous brochures littered around me and making polite conversation with other, similarly robotic candidates ('Oh, did you take the train as well?'), in walked the guy who ruptured my bubble of corporate plasticity, by being nothing but the entire bubble himself.
Venkataraman Sundaraman was a portly lad, with half the reserves of an oil rig sacrificed to slickly pat his hair onto his head, neatly divided by a side-parting. To add to that, he was adorned by a polka-dotted tie that couldn't be defended by any extreme fashionista in 2016 and a wide plastic smile that put all my prior smiley auditions to irrevocable shame, in retrospect.
I wasn't allowed to appreciate the spectacle at my own pace, for confident, greasy Venkataraman spotted the only other brown candidate in the lobby (yours truly), and with a glint in his eye, strutted gleefully right up to his first victim. A smugly insidious cat ready to pounce. Where these is cheese, there are rats. Where ever there are rats, there are cats.
You tell 'em, Andre.
I don't know about you, but when I see a brown portly thugger with the name Venkataraman Sundaraman on his name tag, I involuntarily resort to certain stereotypes. Maybe it was wrong to expect him to burst into his rendition of 'Lungi Dance', but I'm a brainwashed entitled man, right? So I needed a moment to drag myself back to disillusioned reality when this legendary figure blurted out the choicest introductory slang in a half-northern British, half-southern British but inarguably, a fully fake British accent.
I was he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
It took a bit of inquisitive needling from me to break him down to his original Sri Lankan accent, but it didn't last long as we were soon ushered into the actual assessment centre. To this date, I consider the fact that I heard the real Venkataraman one of my life's biggest achievements. But all Venkataraman had was big achievements (or so he wanted us to believe). This lad was an assimilation of all exemplary interview books, guides, speeches and 17-Things-That-Would-Wow-Your-Employer listicles, and he was out to prove it. Every conversation with an employer, be it as mundane as a comment on the weather, would be deftly converted into a speech on his superior teamwork skills, management experience, volunteering services and strong support for gay rights.
Venkataraman Sundaraman wasn't just playin', man he was slayin'
When candidates were asked to present solutions to a given problem, big ol' V would survey them with quasi-nonchalance, but immediately shadow practice any assertive hand or head movement he liked in any other candidate, visualising himself the Marc Antony to the employer's mob. He would constantly remove a miniature comb to meticulously keep his oil fields in check, before shadow practicing his apocalyptic declaration of independence while other candidates exasperatedly tried to give their presentations.
At times, when I was embroiled in the engulfing darkness of the unemployment chasm, I often questioned the entire
Why is a modicum of fraudulence still lauded in society in 2016?
Venkataraman didn't rebel against this system, he was the system. He had memorised all the pointers and made himself the ultimate candidate - a candidate that openly focused on his extra firm handshake, visibly stumbled through his presentation in an attempt to sneak in popular corporate buzzwords and in lieu of selling himself ended up selling his soul.
I feared him in me.
*inspired by a true story
**maybe I'm just messin' with you