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Vol XXXI No. 22, March 1-15, 2022

Belonging to Westland

Varsha Venugopal

When I was in class 2D, my best friend told me that she was moving to another city. I bawled my eyes out, crying louder each time she tried to comfort me. I spent the days until her departure pretending it wasn’t happening at all until there was an empty chair beside me in class. I haven’t felt such dismay until recently when news broke of Amazon’s decision to shut down Westland, my former workplace.

Does that sound sentimental to a fault? But you see, the loss of Westland is also the disappearance of a work culture that is harder and harder to come by these days. The company quite effortlessly created an environment of trust, respect and care that even big organisations struggle to foster. The camaraderie with which Westland conducted its business is hard to put into words; perhaps it is best described by way of an anecdote.

When I interviewed with the company, I had broken my foot. Gautam Sir, KK (Mr. Krishnakumar, the then marketing head) and Satish sir graciously fixed an appointment at a venue close to home for my comfort. My father drove me to the cafe. He helped me to the table where the Westland team was seated and then pulled up a chair for himself like it was the most natural thing in the world. I was mortified. It had never occurred to me that he would invite himself to my job interview; clearly, he was under the impression that this was an informal chat. I looked at Gautam sir, KK and Satish sir and was pleasantly surprised to see warm smiles and genial proffers of handshakes. They gave the impression that they were genuinely pleased to have my father join them. Appa enjoyed his cup of coffee throughout the whole conversation feeling like he had been welcomed into the fold, too. I can’t think of any other company that would have handled this twist with such grace.

Many companies call themselves a family, but in Westland’s case, the words were true. The office served as a second home to those who worked there. I suspect that they won’t be away from publishing for too long, though – they can’t keep away from the industry and it can’t do without them either.

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