It happened at a Seminar

Zulfiqar Haiderali

First appeared in Dawn

I was invited to a seminar on God knows what. Because my boss had asked me to attend, I had to remember something - so the only thing I remember is that it was one of those seminars which are attended by people who attend seminars which need to be attended by these people.

Now the first thing you do when you arrive at a seminar is to get yourself registered. I did that pretty well, I suppose, since I was the only one in jeans amongst a hundred ties and spotless shirts.

I approached the table and stood there watching the ‘official’ guy busy registering an upwardly mobile, dynamic and young male, besides whom stood an equally dynamic and young female, as they’re so contemptuously referred to in those ‘equal-opportunity’ wanted ads for these young and dynamic people.

Then came my turn. I stepped forward and the guy gave me a disapproving look and tried to humiliate me by asking, “And what can I do for you?”

“What they have put you here for, bud!” I said and winked. Offended, he frowned and handed me a form which I filled out as quickly as I could and then headed towards the arena.

Inside, I could now hear the speaker saying something like “...Rationalizing this downward trend of the upmarket POCs led me to believe in CUSL even more, since various POMs have voiced their concern over the proliferation of DMPUs, a recent QRT revealed...”

“Heavy stuff”, I thought and found a seat. Who could understand this jargon? I was wrong as I overheard a piece of conversation by the same dynamic young duo:

“Let me substantiate the role of VXB in SQL management...”

“But SQL management during its rudimentary DKB years relied assiduously on LDS and not VXB...”

Gross! I couldn’t take it anymore so I looked around trying to find someone more of my type.

Suddenly the public address system went dead and we could only see the speaker moving his lips. But apparently he was totally oblivious to the mic’s breakdown and continued with his speech. A small door behind the dais opened with a bang and a vale barged into the hall pushing a small, noisy cart loaded with cookies. Now the cart had a squeak which blended with the rattle of the crockery, produced an acoustic torture which rocked the entire hall.

Everyone’s attention diverted from the honorable speaker to the horrible sight of the cart-pushing young man.

Any further embarrassment was saved by the timely revival of the PA system, with the speaker’s words: “ time now for any questions you may have ladies and gentlemen, thank you”. He stepped down.

There were many hands raised in unison. One enthusiastic gentleman stood up and since he was quite far from where I was sitting, I could only watch him gesticulating and speaking rapidly. After about 18 minutes of his gibberish, he sat down. The four speakers on the dais looked at each other, discussed something for 11 minutes and then one of them leaned forward and spoke into the mic: “Yes, it is possible.” At which the questioner nodded energetically and started scribbling on his notebook for 15 minutes. He then got up and left the hall as if he had come only to ask that question.

Meanwhile, most of the dynamic, young men and women had started to flock around the coffee tables, while the four speakers so very diligently remained busy answering a grandma who kept asking questions after questions as if negotiating the price of her junk with the junkseller.

I quickly grabbed a few cookies, swallowed them down with a big gulp of tea, glanced at the Gameboy for my Tetris score, and headed home.