ID Fiction: The Flame of Life – A Verbal Snapshot.

Instructional Design or ID Fiction, Short Stories and Cases set in the e-Learning and Corporate Training Environments

The Flame of Life

Afternoons were meant for naps. The draftsmen, the officers, the H.O.D., even the department’s dog took a nap after lunch. If an outsider came visiting at this hour, he’d find the rooms darkened and the silence eerie. Every new recruit found the practice funny, but in a few days he would fall in line. It was in this sleepy department that Vasu found himself, when he took up his first job after college.

Vasu wanted his life and his work to hold meaning. He was proud to have made it this far. He was born in a small village in the Kakinada district of Andhra Pradesh. In his village, nobody had ever studied beyond the fifth grade,  so when Vasu didn’t just complete school but cleared EAMCET, the Combined Entrance Test and made it into the best Engineering College in the State, he became the village mascot.

In his village, nobody cared that he wasn’t the best looking guy around or that he wasn’t a great communicator – they were all dazzled by the fact that he was an engineer. And to top it all, he had left college with a job waiting for him. What more did he want?  Well…he wanted his job to mean something more than a way of earning his livelihood. He also wanted recognition and respect.

His first few days in this organization were enough to make him realize that things weren’t going to be easy. In the hall where he was given a seat, sat eight managers – most of them senior to him. The day began with a general chit-chat, followed by a cup of tea that one of the junior officers made on an electric heater that sat on a wooden table against the wall nearest to Vasu’s seat. The older officers spent rest of their afternoon chatting, napping, and every once in a while, signing off a new drawing of an old machine part.

Vasu was the newest recruit. He was largely ignored as he sat in his corner, waiting for some work to land on his desk. Nothing came his way for the first three months. By the end of those three months he had realized that this was the way things worked or did not work in this sleepy organization, and that if he had to survive, he had to stop questioning.

With each passing year Vasu continued to withdraw in his shell. He became so introverted that he even refused to marry, and when he turned 32, much to the chagrin of every eligible girl’s parents in his village and around, he announced that he would never marry.

Vasu would’ve continued living his mechanical existence until his retirement if it weren’t for his colleagues who for some undecipherable reason continued to climb the hierarchy while he stayed where he was. Why? He asked himself. There was hardly any work in their department. Their job was to maintain the drawings and every once in a while re-draw something to incorporate a tiny change requested by those managers in the Operations. So, there was nobody doing any work at all, including Vasu. Then why were his juniors being promoted, while he was ignored?

Then he attended that workshop called “The Flame of Life” and realized the truth. The problem was with the way he projected himself. In fact he didn’t project himself at all.  He  needed to feel more confident of himself – and so he began attending those sessions regularly.

Within months, Vasu’s life changed completely. By the time he hit forty-five, he had become the Head of the very same department that he had begun his career with. In ten years Vasu had moved from being an introverted nerd, to a confident conversationalist,  and then to a self-centered, talkative bore! But now it had stopped mattering because as the Head of the Department, everyone would nod their heads at every silly joke he cracked and every insipid remark he made.

But Vasu was still lonely. The adulation of his juniors did nothing to improve his self-image. One after another, the few people he called friends, began to slip away. He realized that they didn’t want to meet him as frequently as he wanted to meet them, and that the phone-calls were getting shorter.

They are jealous of me, he told himself. They can’t accept the fact that I am now a better conversationalist than them. They hate my guts! Horrible people! Wonder why I ever thought that they were my friends.

  1. If you were the instructional designer for “The Flame of Life” programs, how would you structure the programs to:
    • Help Vasu become aware of his problem?
    • Enable a change in Vasu’s personality?
  2. What went wrong with Vasu and why?