• Nikhilesh Murthy

I need a book case!

‘Video Call’… another set of words during this time that reach deep into your soul and bring out a groan of acute displeasure. (The other being ‘New Normal’). While my organization has been permitting us to work from home for some years now, I’m not completely averse to conducting my day-to-day work using video calls, IM and other such tools. However, during this pandemic, even I’ve grown less fond of video calls. Most of the people in my peer group have quickly grown tired of this, to a point we have abandoned things like ‘Digital Happy Hour’ and ‘Online Coffee Meetups’ because we are subjected to more than enough video calls during work hours. (You all remember ‘work hours’? That vague construct we had before we all essentially started living at the home-office?)

While we regularly receive hilarious videos of people forgetting they are on video calls and showing up inappropriately dressed the waist down, or not dressed at all, children at home coming on calls to talk to the entire team about their favourite crayon, pets deciding to hog the video feed and more… it is the appearance of a another creature that has piqued my interest… and resulted in quite a bit of FOMO… The all-important ‘Book case in the background’.

What started off with news anchors and late night show hosts using a bookcase as the preferred background is now in vogue. There’s even a Twitter account called Bookcase Credibility that curates and comments on pictures of people on video calls with book cases in the back ground. The account garnered over 105,000 followers in just four months. It’s definitely been one of my favourite accounts to have come out of this pandemic.

Bookcase Credibility uses a tagline ‘What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you.’ After a few months of sitting on video calls and webinars, this is starting to feel quite true. The humble book case seems to have pushed home décor to become yet another tool of projecting intellectual credibility. While I’m not going to delve deep into psychological effects and subtle messages that having a book case filled with various titles in the background portrays, I am going to admit that checking out people’s book cases has become a guilty pleasure of sorts. I even attend a couple of webinars every week just to check out book cases. I once even sat on my wife’s team call just to check out all the books, curios and memorabilia on one of her colleague’s book case. At times, I’m thoroughly amused by some of the titles people stack up. At the risk of sounding elitist, having the entire set of Chetan Bhagat’s books stacked up next to a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Immortals of Meluha confuses me to no end. I personally know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t waste time reading books, but have strategically placed themselves in front of a bookshelf for all video calls. (PS – A few of them have told me in the past that if the book is good, someone will eventually make a movie or a TV series out of it. I’ve learnt to smile and nod instead of arguing how it isn’t the same thing. To each their own). I was probably most excited when one of speakers on a webinar had the entire Tintin and the Asterix and Obelix comic series on her shelf, along figurines to match.

I unfortunately do not have a book case background to impress you with. The layout of my room doesn’t quite allow me have a desk placed in front of a book case. Also, I must admit, with great shame that my reading frequency has gone from a book a fortnight down to a book a month down to a book a quarter. In one of my moods to minimize clutter around the house, I had given away a lot of my books and went digital. And I was completely fine with it until everyone started getting book cases. The FOMO is real. I find myself idly browsing through furniture websites checking out desks and book cases and thinking of what all books I would buy and stock them with. I imagine myself even being featured on an online blog for ‘What books do top marketers read’ or ‘Quarantine work-from-home décor’. Alas, I will have to live life without a mighty bookshelf... for now.

PS - I’m planning to hang my Kindle over my head the next time I have to get on a video call.

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