New Delhi daze

July 5th, 20095:51 pm @

It's good to know they've added rule number three to the list

There’s one thing worse than sitting in a sweltering office for weeks with the temperature hovering around 30º Celsius.

It’s sitting in a sweltering office with the temperature hovering around 30º Celsius after enjoying fresh, cold air conditioning for all of one day.

My new job – the one that brought us to New Delhi – is in a grandly named but not so grandly maintained office building in the centre of town. When I first heard that I’d be working at the World Trade Centre I imagined a sleek modern office building oozing with modernity. I pictured myself rubbing shoulders with a global cast of workers in classy eateries, drinking imported beers in slick bars and enjoying the comforts of a world class office.

What I got was a relic from the 1980s with one cafe, although it may be an insult to the French nation to call it a cafe, and no multinationals. The most global tenant sits next to the stationery stand – which sells far more Post-It notes than anyone could ever possibly need. Akbar’s World Of Travel promises exciting journeys to Goa and the Taj Mahal.

A sign on the wall by the (often non-functioning) lifts asking people not to dump rubbish or clean plates and utensils in the stairwell says it all.

“Not what I was expecting” would be a fair summation.

As mentioned above, the ambient air temperature in our office – which, I must admit, is very nicely appointed – sits around 30º C and isn’t the most comfortable place to spend nine hours of your day. This is thanks to a non-functioning air-conditioning system that the building’s managers maintain is working fine.

I haven’t been involved in the discussions over the lack of air conditioning as I’ve been too busy trying to stave off dehydration by drinking my body weight in water every few hours. The short version of this story is that the building manager says the AC is good, so the AC is good. In the universe of our building his word is God’s word and nothing can change that – not even thermometers registering temperatures in the low-30s.

To get around the problem the company decided to install an extra air condition unit. For weeks we were promised that the new unit would be arriving “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or next week”. You could delete as required. When the unit did eventually arrive – about a month after it was promised – we watched in excited anticipation as two guys struggled for three days to install the unit in the ceiling.

Of course, having them pull the ceiling apart, drill into concrete and cut through metal above your head – in 30º heat – doesn’t make for the best working environment. Still, the promise of cold air was on offer and we were happy to suffer any slings and arrows to get the temperature down.

When the unit was finally installed we spent the next day shivering under an icy blast of cold air. It was so cold I could feel my fingers going numb. It was bliss.

The next day I sauntered into the office only too happy to spend nine hours at my desk. I even wore woolen trousers just to keep me warm.

As the day wore on I started to notice beads of sweat forming on my forehead. My arse was sticking to my seat and there was a bit of whiff about the armpits. I didn’t need to look at the temperature on the wall-mounted clock to know something was amiss.

“Hey, what happened to the AC?” I asked a co-worker.

“The building manager says it wasn’t approved, so he’s disconnected it,” I was told.

“But, apparently, our regular AC is working just fine.”

Well, if he says so.

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