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Stressed Out? Try Voodoo

Western-style stress management is here-democratic, violent, sadistic, vicarious and it's all legit...

Stressed Out? Try Voodoo
CLOSE your eyes and think of your boss. Imagine that insufferable visage, that infernal, mocking grin, floating in front of you, disembodied and utterly at your mercy. What do you do? Options: POW! THUD! BANG! Knock those teeth in with a paperweight. Break an Apple Mac monitor over that head. Shove a thick, sawed-off blunderbuss up that mouth and threaten to pull the trigger. Make a Hindi film called Zinda Jala Kar Jamuna Mein Baha Doonga (your boss, of course, is the villain). All of the above.

That was fantasy. The reality: you just clench your teeth, reach for your Classic Milds and blow out the demons of your mind in insipid smoke rings. Back home, you try, in vain, to dissolve your impotent rage in the angriest Velvet Underground tape you possess. But next morning, you're that meek, submissive slouch again. And the performance dossier on you doesn't have too many good things to say.

Admit it. That pest of a colleague, who's the darnedest town-crier this side of BBC World Service; the team-mate who steals your thunder every time, by hook or crook; that upstart subordinate—how often have you harboured a secret desire to accost them, one by one, down a dark alley and beat them to a pulp on a full moon Saturday night? Chances are that all of us have felt enough burning hate for colleagues to want to lick 'em all, at least once.

Now, don't be afraid. As they say, just do it. Feel free. Indulge yourself. But, how? This can't be serious? Sure, for all those stressed-out office creatures, help is at hand. Of course, no one wants you to actually carry out your dark fantasies. Just act them out, on a surrogate scale.

Your comrade-in-arms is a Delhi-based company called Learning Curve that's introducing a popular western concept in offices here. The theory: aggro born of blinding anger is a normal emotion that, when kept pent-up, can lead to sub-standard performance, inter-personal conflicts and an overstressed workplace. Such an environment, they argue, lowers productivity, quality and profits.

Now, lo and behold, there's a whole range of products that help you revitalise the office environment. No psychopathy, no sadism. Just simple hate objects, executive toys, that "let the evil in you emerge"—voodoo dolls, desk dartboards, stress balls, mould plastiques, hate diaries and punch bags. The genteel things you can do with them: poison someone, hang a man, put pins into his body and lots more.

In the West, executive toys are a popular stress-reducing technique. "By lending themselves to a hitting action, these toys help release stress or by variation of light and colour help create an atmosphere that nurtures creativity and originality," says Gundeep Singh, managing director of Learning Curve. And how?

Take voodoo dolls. And take a situation. You've slogged eight days a week working on an innovative capital restructuring deal that could be the envy of any financial wizard. And at the presentation, your boss steals the show from right under your nose, preening before an impressed foreign collaborator. Want to throttle his neck? No problem. Write his name clearly on the back of the voodoo doll. Now hang him. Use strings to achieve the desired result. Or poison him slowly, using red pins. Black pins are for instant death, if desired. If you think excruciating pain would serve him better, try grey and insert half the pin inside. You can even paralyse him with violet pins. Leave the pins for at least 10 minutes for maximum effect. "If complete elimination of the subject is required, please leave the pins overnight," says the instruction manual.

Besides voodoo dolls, Learning Curve aims to launch two other products in the first phase—stress balls and desk dart-boards. The stress ball is compressed and released at a regular pace while the individual works on a breathing pattern—the 'squeeze' is the release point of stress and revert the ball to original size to get to the point of relaxation. The desk dartboards are pocket-size things you can throw darts at sitting on your chair.

Learning Curve is negotiating with a soft-drink multinational for a marketing alliance. It's also tapping the direct marketing route. "We're not looking at the retail market. We want exclusivity," says Singh. In keeping with the positioning, the voodoo doll will sell for Rs 275, the desk dartboard for Rs 350 and the stress ball for Rs 150.

In the second phase, the company plans to launch Mood Lit Smileys—which when kept in constant view cause maximum diffusion of light to create a positive feeling. It also plans to introduce hate diaries wherein a person finds encouragement to write down systematically as many bad points as possible about the hated person and small punch bags and mold plastiques of 'boss', 'friend', 'wife' or 'husband'. Calling executives: you have nothing to lose but that boring veneer of corporate sophistication. 

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