Deal Breaker9 mins 174 9 mins 174
"Effervescent" was the word that would describe her best! Arpita Mathur, was always full of enthusiasm, life and spirit. There was almost nothing that would keep her spirits down for a long time. No matter how grave a setback she had in her life, she always bounced back and emerged stronger than before. Those who were acquainted with her, would often ask her "How do you manage to stay so happy?" and she would only smile in response, because, secretly, even she didn't know what drove her. She was simply built that way, "indestructible".
She was the lifeline of every group, every event, every association that she became a part of, personally, professionally and socially. She was a natural at building relationships and spreading happiness wherever she went, by her sheer genuineness, her ability to strike a conversation and small gestures that always won people over. She always stood out in the crowd, she neither blended, nor did she attempt to fit in, to be accepted.
Her life was driven by two core purposes that were closest to her heart. First, was her job at "Time" and second was her penchant to eradicate child labour. She was passionate about her job and equally dedicated to her mission against child labour. From Monday to Friday she dedicated her time to her workplace and on weekends she would dedicate her time to an NGO that drove various initiatives against child labour. She was so determined in her resolve against child labour, that she even avoided places that employed children.
Apart from these two passions, she had a strong love for good cup of tea ("chai" as it's called in the regional language - Hindi) . She loved how people connected over a cup of tea, and no matter how grim any situation is, a tea lover always feels stronger to deal with it once they had their dose of their favourite drug. Arpita was a self confessed tea addict. Her life was quite full already and she had little time for anything else. She seldom took too much efforts with her looks and was mostly simple in her appearance and dressing. She was still quite presentable without much efforts.
However off late she had started to change. She had started to pick her clothes and accessories carefully, ensuring she didn't repeat them. She had started to put on light make up and took noticeable efforts to look pleasant. Her colleagues noticed this change immediately and showered her with compliments which boosted her self confidence. She needed every bit of it to be able to face Rajesh. Rajesh Sinha was the new head of the department of Arpita's unit. He was the youngest of the leaders among his work comrades. He brought in a fresh perspective of leadership, which was a welcome change of scene, as compared to the old school autocratic leadership at Time. Due to his instant connect with his team, he became the most favoured leader to work with, much to the chagrin of his peers who did not approve of his open leadership style. There were quite a few initiatives that he had started immediately upon resuming his position. Arpita was almost on board of his every initiative, adding suggestions, making recommendations, executing them brilliantly and much more successfully than what Rajesh had originally envisioned. He took an immediate liking to her and he often admired the way she networked and connected with people, getting them to move mountains, by just a smile.
One day Arpita was leaving from office to go home, she started her car in the office parking lot, her car made some growling noises and refused to start. This went on for a good amount of time and her car heated up, however still refused to start. She got out of her car holding a bottle of water and opened the front bonnet, and inspected it. The empty coolant tank reminded her that she had not taken her car to the service center for a long time due to her busy schedule. She cajoled her car "Come on Punto, be a nice boy and take mamma home, I promise, I will take you to the candy store (service center) this weekend." She had a habit of talking to non living things as if they had life and could feel emotions, just like humans. A shadowy figure behind her smiled as he heard her crazy gibberish with her car. She carefully covered her hand with a multi-fold cloth that she kept in the side of the front bonnet and was about to open the radiator to pour water when she was startled by an extremely sexy drawl of a voice "You will hurt yourself. The radiator hasn't cooled down yet."
She freaked out and turned around to come face to face with Rajesh who was bemusedly smiling at her, hinting he had heard her talking to her "Volkswagon Punto". "Looks like your car is out of coolant, we can get a mechanic from a nearby garage to inspect it tomorrow. Its already quite late right now, I can drop you home" he said, the smile still shone like a twinkle in his eyes. She was red with embarrassment but at the same time she was delightfully pleased at the thought of getting some alone time with Rajesh. While she locked her car she told it "Act pricey sonny boy, daddy's taking mamma home, bye!" and she strutted off excited and nervous at the same time, in the direction of Rajesh's car.
Rajesh and Arpita got stuck in the ever consuming Mumbai traffic, which they were cursing on the outside, but were very glad for, in their heart. They had started to like each other, their thought processes, ambitions, aspirations matched and they clicked instantly. However unlike Arpita, who loved tea, Rajesh, was a coffee lover, but during their candid discussion when he realised she loved tea, he did not mention about his affinity for coffee. As they reached her home, he gingerly asked her what she was doing on the weekend. She replied "I will be busy with the kids." He was completely disappointed and blurted nervously, "Oh i didn't know you were married." She laughed and told him about her efforts surrounding child labour. He was totally mesmerised by her. As she said bye to him, he realised, no other woman will ever match up to her level and he knew he was falling for her very hard.
Days, weeks, months passed by, Arpita and Rajesh got more acquainted with each other. They started to share the same likes and dislikes. Arpita was always impressed by Rajesh's professionalism and the way he was ambitious, yet humane at the same time, which was a rare combination. They both shared an intellectual connect that neither her, nor he had experienced before, in their lives.
One day after a meeting, one of Rajesh's counterparts, Raghav, (who also was a tea addict), made a passing comment about an Irani Cafe in Mumbai where the tea was simply addictive. Rajesh asked him for the details of the restaurant, he visited the restaurant on a weekend to verify if the taste was as good as Raghav advocated. He found that the tea served there, was heavenly aromatic and amazingly refreshing and there was something addictive about the taste which compelled a staunch coffee lover like Rajesh, to order a second cup. He decided, someday, he will bring Arpita to this place, to enjoy a nice cup of tea combined with some soulful discussion that they always had. He never felt this connect before with anyone earlier. He had never gone to this length to do these little things for his ex-flame.
Next weekend on a Sunday, Arpita managed to find spare time after little persuasion from Rajesh. Her NGO was near the Irani Cafe so Rajesh picked her up and took her to the cafe. Arpita had no clue where they were headed. Since she liked his company, she didn't bother asking and decided to go with the flow. They parked a little farther from the restaurant and during their short walk, Rajesh smiled like a shy school boy offering his favourite candies to his first crush. Arpita watched him from the corner of her eye and she had a feeling of a flutter of butterflies in her gut.
They reached the Irani cafe, Rajesh pulled a chair for her, treating her like royalty. He took a seat opposite to her and looked around for the waiter. He spotted that same cute fellow who had served him last week, however he was tied up with attending to other customers. Rajesh called out to him "Chotu" (an endearment in hindi to call a little one) Chotu scurried a little awkwardly to their table. Arpita looked at Chotu, he was a small kid aged between 8-10 years, in a tattered gangi and shorts, he smiled at Rajesh showing acknowledgement, revealing two front tooth missing. Get 2 Irani special chai (special Iranian Tea) and two bun maska (bun bread with butter)for ma'am and me." Chotu looked at Arpita and casted a toothless smile and hurried towards the kitchen. He came back in a jiffy, with two steaming cups of Irani Chai and two plates of bun maska. Rajesh messed his hair and gave him INR 20 as tip and gestured Arpita to have her tea. Chotu snatched the note, saluted Rajesh for the hefty tip & smiled innocently, clearly expressing he was overwhelmed.
Arpita was aghast by the way the events were unfolding in front of her, she couldn't take her eyes off Chotu, until some another customer called for him to take their order. She turned her face to look at Rajesh who was enjoying his cup of tea with great relish and praising it at every sip. She stared down at her cup of steaming tea, the fresh aroma of heavenly tea filled her nostrils. She inhaled it like it were a drug. She didn't want to create a scene, so she lifted her glass and sipped her tea in total silence as if it was poison. Between her sips she looked at Rajesh, who looked at her as if he had just won a trophy.
As she took the next sip, it hit her senses and she remembered the words of Prof. Hegde, her 5th class Maths teacher, "Parellel lines are two lines that are a equidistant from each other. They can travel together till infinity, but they never intersect." That exact moment she realised that Rajesh was a parallel line in the maths of her life, he might travel together with her, but he will never intersect (understand her priorities). Rajesh paid their bill and they left together in his car. Throughout the trip Arpita was eerily quiet, however she had a smile of determination indicating she had arrived at a decision.
Next day Rajesh resumed work in a very jovial mood, he was humming his favourite song "Aye mere humsafar" from Qayamat se qayamat tak movie (a famous bollywood love song from 90’s that means “oh my companion”, movie title meaning “From one catastrophe to another”). His eyes fell on a white envelope on his desk, with his name written on it. He picked up the envelop with a smile as he recognised the familiar handwriting.
As he opened the letter, he sank in his chair with a shock. The subject line read "Letter of resignation" signed below by Arpita Mathur.
Between her two favourite passions, i.e. her job at Time and her responsibilities at the NGO, she chose the latter, to pursue it full time so that there are no more Chotus working in odd jobs deprived of a life that they truly deserve.
This left Rajesh with a vacuum as he was unable to fathom the "Deal Breaker."