The Cup That Bonded

So the newest management mantra is FIKA. This is a Swedish word that roughly translates as drinking coffee, munching homemade goods and spending time with people. In many companies it is mandatory for all workers to have a designated time during the day to sit down and do fika. Most Swedes have Fika several times a day.

Over two decades before Chai pe Charcha became the flavour of the nation, CpC was an integral part of our working day. Twice a day, as the footsteps heralded the bearer of the teas, it was literally and (later) figuratively ‘pens down’. Time to cluster around and “fika” as it were. It was a time for sharing—news and views, happenings and unhappenings (propah English not mandatory, and language khichdi quite delicious!), cribbings and crabbings–and above all, energising. There were snacks too—“hey taste what I baked yesterday,” “oh great, banana chips all the way from home state”, “guess what, I discovered this new naasta shop with 50 flavours of khakhra….”

Tea table became the venue for easing in the newcomers; teasing and ribbing the old-timers; there were no hierarchies and no bosses. The agenda was whatever the mood of the table—sharing, admonishing, admiring, agonising and venting, and yes, laughing a lot.

It was an important support system in so many ways. After just 15 minutes, one returned to one’s desk feeling much better. You weren’t the only one who struggled to keep going as you juggled work and home; your child’s behaviour was not as worrisome as you imagined it was; and yes, in-laws happened to the best of us!

It was not only about chit-chat and food; it was where serious discussions took place—about work and work culture; about the state of the world and the nation; about books read and films seen, people met and to be met. It was where so many “aha” moments happened—the title of a new book; the resource person to invite; the sequence of sessions for the seminar…

The two tea times were the significant watersheds of our daily schedules. I did not realise how much we took this for granted, until I spent three months working from an office in Washington DC. Everyone was so “busy”–each communing with their machines as they sipped their coffees (also from a machine) in silence, and lunch sandwiches in solitary isolation. I craved so much for some human connect and communication, I took myself off, to perhaps some raised eyebrows, to the nearby park to spend 20 minutes watching the world go by. “Time wasted”, my diligent workmates may have thought; “what wasted opportunities to bond” thought I.

It’s not just in a CCD that a lot can happen over a cup of tea!


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