Monday, November 5, 2012

The Buzzer

The shrill cry of the buzzer jolted Arumugam from his seat. The short-lived nap and the exciting dream was snuffed out instantly by the prolonged ring of the buzzer.

The ring of the buzzer sounded like the simultaneous humming of a million bees. The spectre of  several thousand mosquitoes singing in chorus while whirling around the ear might describe it better, felt Arumugam.

The ringing of the buzzer was unbearable to him. He despised his Manager who frequently activated the demon by pressing  the button of the buzzer and pumped a torrent of noise in his head. Perhaps, the placement of the button was so convenient to make pressing it a favorite pastime for him!

Armugam had no choice except to dance to its tune, if one can call the cacophony a tune. After all, he was a peon in the office who should respond to the ringing of the buzzer and attend to the needs of the person pressing it.

He had a stool for his seat outside the Manager's cabin. And right over his head was the abominable instrument.

He had seen and heard various kinds of buzzers and calling bells in different offices and homes. They were of varied types ranging from the musical types playing pleasing tunes to those spurting out husky and hoarse tones. But the one in his office emitting such a ghastly noise appeared to be specially ordered for him!


The damned buzzer again! It was hardly ten seconds since it rang the last time. It was his mistake to have not barged into the Manager's cabin immediately after the buzzer rang. The ruthless Manager won't grant him even a few seconds to respond and struck again with the deadly device.

Perhaps that despicable instrument was deliberately positioned right over his head only to ensure that he (the peon) would respond to its call instantly and rush in, without even a few seconds' delay.

"Yes, sir"

"....Oh...Why did I call you?...Ah....Well.....Where is that KMV file? I have been searching for it for the past half an hour."

"It's here sir. Right on your table." He picked up the file and handed it to the Manager.

"Oh...I see...Ok, ok....You may go now."

Arumugam beat a relieved retreat and was almost out of the  room, when the buzzer shrieked again. Unable to bear the impact of the noise  on his nerves, he instantaneously pulled himself back into his room, almost jumping in. He felt a powerless rage surging through his entire body at his Manager's insensitivity in activating the buzzer again even before he could make his exit.


"Ah....  What's it? ... Why did I call you?....Wait..Wait....Yes..Send Panchapakesan in."

As he came out, Arumugam was cursing his fate for the umpteenth time. 'What sort of a job is this? Whenever the Manager wants to call someone in, he summons me by pressing the deadly buzzer and asks me to send that person in. Why couldn't he summon everyone directly by pressing the particular buzzer placed over his head?'

He wondered how it would be if the Manager were to call Panchapakesan, the Accountant, directly by sounding a buzzer situated on the wall behind his desk. The thought of Panchapakesan getting jolted out of his seat on hearing the buzzer pounding him from behind with its shrill voice made Arumugam laugh aloud.

After sending Panchapakesan to the Manager's room, he returned to his seat. Even while being seated on the stool, he was constantly daunted by the prospect of the buzzer giving out an explosive cry any time.

The Manager's stenographer Miss Sakuntala was seated very near Arumugam. She must also be finding the cacophony of the buzzer intensely annoying. He wondered how she seemed to be totally unaffected by this.


Arumugam almost tumbled down from his seat. A revolutionary idea of imposing a ceiling on the number of times the buzzer could be pressed per day germinated in his mind. As he turned towatds the Manager's cabin,  he looked at Sakuntala. She didn't even move her attention from the typewriter. Why didn't the noise disturb her?

Perhaps the buzzer annoyed only him because it was targeted only at him. Why should others be annoyed when they knew that they were immune to its assault?

By responding to the cries of the buzzer and answering its summons, he had become a slave of that mechanical (or was it electrical?) device, he mused. The buzzer, not the Manager, was his real boss! He had become its errand boy and was being terrorized by its call. Oh, what a life he was living!

A funny thought occurred to him: He is sitting inside the Manager's cabin and the Manager is sitting on his stool. Arumugam presses the buzzer and rattled by the battle cry of the deadly buzzer, the manager rushes in and says, 'Yes, sir.' He is deeply engrossed in a file and has not noticed the Manager coming in and standing before him and pretends to be searching for a paper in the heap of papers accumulated on his table. With his pen supporting his jaw (another sign of his deep thinking!),  he presses the buzzer again. The Manager standing unnoticed before him, unable to stand its cry (though coming from outside the room) jumps like a toy activated by the turning of its key.


Arumugam jumped like a doll activated by the sudden turning of its key.

Arumugam was retired from his job last week. Till his retirement, he remained only a peon. His fantasizing a role reversal had remained just a fantasy. Even on the last day, he danced to the wild tune of the devilish buzzer.

The Manager was still there. Another man had been posted in Arumugam's place to answer the Manager's call. But his replacement was lucky. His ear drum seemed to have had a filter to tone down the shrill cries of the buzzer. He was a little deaf. Perhaps, the buzzer in his office was designed to be effective for people with hearing deficiency as well. No wonder, it had the effect of rattling normal persons like Arumugam.

Though his dreams had remained in the domain of dreams, he enjoyed the pleasure of living with his dreams. Perhaps, if there was another birth, he could exchange places with his Manager and relish the sight of the Manger answering the buzzer pressed by him. Didn't the Law of Karma say so? He was not sure. In any case, the idea of next birth appeared intangible.

Arumugam reluctantly opened the compound gate of the house and stepped in. He proceeded to the door, looked for the calling bell and pressed it.

Oh God! The horrendous shrill released by the calling bell was no less insufferable than the noise delivered by the buzzer he was used to in the office he worked.

He heard the creaking of a sofa inside and imagined the person who was sitting there. The memories of the innumerable occasions of his jumping from his seat flashed in his mental screen for a while. He could not suppress his smile.

The door was opened and the figure of his ex-Manager appeared in the door-frame. "What Arumugam? What has brought you here?"

"Nothing, sir. I was just passing by this road. Seeing your house, I thought I would just drop in and pay my respects to you. Good bye, sir."

Without waiting for the response of his host, Arumugam turned back and walked with a feeling of immense satisfaction. After all, he didn't have to wait till his next birth!

(Written in the year 1978)

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