Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Takeover (Part 3)

The day after the conference, I marched into the office and informed our HR manager I was going to take the deal from Sun Horizon. Sylvia, my HR manager, was a very bemused person by the end of the day because I was not alone. Not even close.

By the end of the day, most of the girls in the company joined me in signing on to Sun Horizon. By the end of the week, over 80% of the girls had agreed to join Sun Horizon. To say this was surprising was an understatement. At a meeting of all the girls who were willing to join, Sylvia openly admitted that she thought Sun Horizon would be lucky to get 50% of the girls. She then uncharacteristically joked that this shows how little a girl like her knows. We all laughed at the joke.

According to Sylvia, the takeover was a done deal and Sun Horizon would make a public announcement in two weeks’ time. During this period, Sun Horizon would implant some changes in the office and any girl who changed her mind could approach her. I would admit to being anxious at these proposed changes but to their credit, Sun Horizon tried to make the transition as smooth as possible.

First they install air filters in the building that gave off the same smell as what they had in the auditorium. Then they announced that from then on, all girls must address all males as “sir”. They also encouraged the men to address all females as “girls”, no matter what position the girl currently held.

At first, it was weird as hell. We had junior male clerks addressed female executives as “girls” while female managers like Sylvia were addressing men working for them as “sirs”. It was a soft launch of the new regime and I guess this was Sun Horizon’s way to get everyone used to the fact that gender was more important than positions or capabilities.

However soft it was, the underlining idea of male superiority was unmistakable. What was an order for the girls was framed only as a suggestion for the men, but if you thought people would be questioning and complaining about the unfairness of it all, then you would be wrong.

Such questions just seem unimportant. Every time I tried to seriously think about why I agreed to sign on to Sun Horizon, the problem just goes away. Breathing in the air of the office and a wave of contentment would come over me. Things were going just as well at home.

At night, my sleep was dominated by dreams of me being in a burka or wearing a niqaab. I would be alone and I would be wearing a burka or niqaab. I could be walking in the streets, in the countryside, or even on a beach but I would be walking alone and looking for something. Most of the time, I would wake up without finding this something but sometimes, I would find what I was looking for; a man.

A man would show up in my dreams and I would have this urge to kneel before him and bow my head to the ground. I would show the man my submission and he would accept me as his slave. The men that showed up in my dreams came from all shapes, sizes, age and ethnicity and I do not know any of them save one; Salim.

In these rare occurrences, Salim would appear with his 2 wives standing behind him. I would knelt and bow but unlike the other men, he would not accept my submission immediately. Instead, one of his wives would walk to my back, a cane would appear in her hand and she would use it on my body. If I stood up, ran or even moved, Salim would reject me and I would wake up in frustration. If I took the punishment till he was pleased, I would awake feeling refreshed, satisfied and happy. 

In some ways, the strange dreams helped me at work. Even though there were two weeks to go before the takeover, the work culture in the office had changed drastically. On paper, the changes by Sun Horizon had been slight but as people put them into practice, things became different. In simple terms, although no one said we had to do it, once the changes became practice; girls in the office became more submissive to the men.

Girls began to adopt a “speak only when spoken to” rule with the men. If the men asked for something, we reply. If they didn’t, we kept our mouths shut in their presence. Girls began to move around the office with their head down and when a man and a girl crossed each other in the corridor, the girl would move to the side, leaving the center to the man. At least, that’s what happened at first.

I don’t know who started it, but a few days after the practice began, girls started to stop and turned to face the wall. Only when the men passed them did the girl began to move off. If the men didn’t move, the girl would crabwalk along the wall pass the men. Only after passing them would she turned and walked normally.

It also became normal for the girls to get coffee for the men. The man, usually seated at his cubicle, would turn to the girl nearest to him, and ordered the coffee. No matter what the girl was doing, she would drop it and go get the coffee for him. This quickly became the norm in the office and before the first week was out, girls would be handling everything the men needed from coffee to photocopying of documents.

Not everything was to the disadvantage of the girls however. As the day of the takeover came nearer and nearer, the company slowly but surely shifted more work to the men. Some men grumbled of course but having a girl at their beck and call largely muted any disagreement they had.

Within the two weeks transition period, this arrangement, work for men and service for girls, became accepted practice within the office. Men stayed in their cubicle and do the work while the girls would handle any miscellaneous tasks given to them. More than one person in the office mentioned that it was as if every 3-4 men in the office were sharing a secretary between them.

Personally, I thought it was a lot more going on than that. I was serving 3 men in the office during this transition period and felt a joy whenever one of them told me to do something. This sense of joy did seem strange to me but at the same time, I didn’t really care about it. I mean why mess with a good thing? 

The girls who refused to sign on with Sun Horizon were of course horrified at the developments in the office and they protested with management. However since they were less than 20% of the female workforce and they were all leaving within two weeks, their complains were ignored.

As the days passed and the day of the official takeover came near and near, I became more and more excited. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could only wear the niqaab and greet my male co-workers on my hands and knees. To my slight surprise, I wasn’t the only one.

Every other weekend, we girls would frequent a bar where we would unwind with drinks, dance and music. That weekend, after a few tequilas, one of the girls spoke about the dream she had been having. In the dream, she was walking in a grass field and it was windy. She was wearing a thin transparent veil when a strong gust of wind came and blew her veil away.

Her veil was gone and she felt as if a part of her soul was too. She frantically ran after the veil but the wind would always keep it just out of her reach. After a long chase, she would knelt and cry in frustration. The wind would die down and the veil would fall to the ground. If she stood, the wind would pick up again. To get the veil, she would have to crawl to it. Sometimes she did it on her hands and knees; other times, she would crawl on her belly. She would crawl to the veil and grabbed it. With her veil in hand, she would put it on and only then would she felt whole. Only then, when it was safely over her head, would she feel complete.

I was alarmed when I heard her story. It was different but at the same time eerily similar to my own. Then another girl started to talk about her dreams, and it was as if a dam had burst. Soon everyone was exchanging stories about their dreams and the veils they were wearing in them. It was scary that we all had similar dreams but at the same time, strangely comforting. I was not alone and I was not the only looking forward to the day when I would be wearing the niqaab. All the girls were now openly admitting that that they were also looking forward to the day. I found that I was not a strange weirdo. I was part of a group of women who had the same dreams and aspirations.

It was a very comforting thought to have.

I was even happier a few days later when Sylvia announced that Sun Horizon had sent over our uniforms and we girls would be sent for the fitting. It was less than a week before Sun Horizon would publicly announce the takeover and our company acceptance of their bid. The day of the takeover was coming and I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.