Avirupa Basu

Romance Inspirational


Avirupa Basu

Romance Inspirational



10 mins

I stared at the wallpaper blankly. The bold black letters on the red background screamed out "FATE." I had put up this wallpaper a few months back, after I read an article about how we have the power to control our future if we believed in fate. Right now, the wallpaper seemed ironic as I didn't know what I wanted from life anymore, let alone control it. I just knew that I was aimless, and the future didn't seem to hold any prospects for me. I had studied for a year, each day 14 hours straight. I had topped all the coaching institute's mock tests, with exceptional marks in the optional subject. But yet, as I stared at the wall, my UPSC grade sheet kept flashing in front of my eyes. I tried to shake away the crippling fear that gripped my heart again. I shook my head and tried to think of something positive. But nothing…absolutely nothing came to my mind.

The only thought that kept hovering in my mind was I had missed the final merit list of UPSC 2019 by three marks. My heart ached, and a tear rolled down my left cheek. What had I not done to succeed? I had quit my corporate job, I had broken up with my boyfriend, and completely cut off from my friends. All because I wanted to study hard and leave no stone unturned to crack the Civil Services. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to have enough power to do something for my country. The six-figure monthly pay, the weekend outings with my casual boyfriend, and the late-night parties with my friends were just not enough anymore. My parents, our village in Himachal Pradesh, our ancestral home, my neighbours there…these people kept popping into my mind ever so often. I had left my village for better opportunities, and I had received them in plenty. Graduation from a top IIT, followed by MBA from IIM B…Investment banker at a foreign bank…Life was good. But over the years, something felt amiss. Like I was being someone I was not meant to be. The glamor of the corporate world and its associated benefits…was it enough? Was owning a plush 2BHK enough? Was owning a swanky SUV fulfilment? I didn't know anymore. I wanted to go back to my roots… I wanted to go back to Himachal…I wanted to do things that would benefit my state…my people...my country. I just wanted to start somewhere. In any capacity...but was it so easy?

I had enough savings to live off comfortably for a year or more. I quit my job. I could always come back later if I wanted to…but I had to give the Civil Services my absolute all. I just delved myself into a full-fledged preparation. My boyfriend…now my ex-boyfriend…hooked up with a common friend of ours. Not that I cared much. All my focus was on my studies. And now this…a year later…I had nothing left! I don't know where I went wrong, but the failure of my endeavours was staring at me in my face. My parents had come to visit me, and I could sense that they were worried. They kept an eye on me from their room, but I was too numb to reciprocate their concern right now. I just didn't know what my life held. I didn't want to get back to corporate at all. I felt suffocated at the thought of slogging away for hours at a job that didn't bring me any fulfilment. I could sit for other public service exams, but I also had family obligations to fulfil. I had to take care of my parents and our home back in Himachal. The very thought of my home back there brought a lump to my throat. I wanted to go home, I wanted to do something for my people. But I also had to keep my earnings afloat because my family needed me.

My phone beeped. I looked at the message flashing on the screen. It was from a dating app I had registered on ages back...when I had not been subsumed by the UPSC passion...when I had gotten my promotion two and a half years back, and meeting men on weekends, splurging money, and drinking wine were considered norms for a 26-year-old woman.

I had not even used the app in the last year, even though I continued to get requests all the time. Today, I picked up my phone. I wanted to distract myself from the constant sense of failure in my mind. It was a request from a guy named Rahul. I glanced at the wallpaper in front of me. Let fate decide this conversation.

"Hello, I really liked your profile. Could we chat some time?" he said.

I looked at his picture. Average-looking fellow, decent enough. Not that I cared at the moment. I just wanted to distract myself.

"Hi, "I pinged back.

"I am Rahul. I work for an NGO," he replied. "So, you are an investment banker?"

"Was," I typed back. "I hadn't really updated my profile, post my resignation. I quit a year back."

"Oh, that's quite similar to what I did," Rahul sent a few emoticons.

I sighed. Now, he would pretend to be "my type" or "have similar interests." Oh God, I was rather better off staring at the wall.

"Really?" I typed out disinterestedly.

"Yeah, I was working with a top consultancy firm, post my MBA. I quit around five years back and started working for this NGO that deals with the rehabilitation of orphan children. I moved back to Guwahati, my home city. Earlier, I was in Mumbai," he said.

"I am in Mumbai too," I said. Surely, quite a coincidence.

"So, what are you doing in Mumbai, post you quit your job?" Rahul asked.

I wanted to rant it all out. We would never meet, for sure. At least, I would have the satisfaction of pouring my heart out to someone whose judgment wouldn't matter to me.

"I actually sat for the Civils this year and missed it by three marks. I don't know what I will do next," my fingers trembled slightly as the thought of my indecisive future crawled into my heart again.

Rahul started typing…and I waited. To hear what he had to say about my failure. Would he laugh? Would he be sarcastic?

"You know, I totally get it. I missed catching the train to meet my ex-girlfriend by 5 minutes. And now she is married to someone else," he typed out with a series of laughing faces.

I would have blocked him right away. But I felt a surge of anger. I wanted to get back at him.

"Wow, such comparison. I am sure that's why your ex-girlfriend dumped you. Aren't you an insensitive prick?" I lashed back with emoticons.

"Well, at least I am not the one worried about my future. Who knows I might find someone cuter?" he smiled back. "But you, my friend, are wallowing."

"So, what do you expect me to do? Make merry, get drunk, and get laid? That I wanted to do something different with my life? I wanted to work for my country and I couldn't? I am going to have to get back to my corporate job because I need to earn for my family. And I can’t sit for the exam again! I don't think I will be able to continue my preparation with my job. I was working at a senior level, and my work hours sometimes extended beyond 12 to 14 hours. If I try to do both together, I will screw both up. I really want to sit for UPSC again, but I have to keep earning too. The flat and the car I have here in Mumbai are still on EMI instalments. I have a younger brother at home, who has just finished 12th and will begin college. It is not easy for me to do as I wish. I will have to take care of my family, and as a result, I will have to get back to my corporate career again. And that's what is killing me!" I can't believe I typed it out. Normally, I am a very calm person. But I actually screamed all my grievance out…and that too to a random stranger.

Rahul was typing again. I waited. I don't know why I wanted to listen to his opinion. This random stranger I knew nothing about…what would he say? And why did I care?

"So, why do you want to crack UPSC? What attracts you towards it? If you ask yourself, what is that factor which motivates you the most for civil services?" Rahul's message read.

I took a minute to think. I closed my eyes. When I typed back my answer to Rahul, it was lucid and clear. I knew I was speaking from my heart.

"I just want to work for my country, my people at the grass-root level. I just hope to bring a change…a positive change, I don't know what yet…but a change that makes a difference to people… I want to bring in that change."

Rahul sent back a smiley. A big happy face. His next words were:

"Maybe that change you want to see is within you."

Before I could reply back, Rahul went offline. I clicked on his profile frantically. I didn't want this conversation to end. I read through his profile details. All regular stuff...Like he had mentioned…His past experience at a consulting firm…His present NGO…His hobbies…

Why had he gone offline? And what did he mean by the change is just within me?

My phone beeped again.

It was from LINKEDIN. One of my contacts, Joe Varghese, had dropped me a message. My mind was still focused on Rahul. But Mr. Varghese messaged again, and I hastened to check what he had to say. I had worked with Mr. Varghese on his personal wealth management project a year and a half back. He had stayed in touch ever since because I had managed to do a good job there. In fact, the bank had offered me another promotion, but I hadn't taken it because the UPSC bug had bitten me by then.

I wondered if Mr. Varghese wanted some advice on his asset management, but his message shocked me.

"Miss Chandra, my partners and I plan to start a local tourism agency at different cities and towns across Himachal Pradesh. We will have our headquarters at Shimla, but we want to cover Kardang, Kibber, Chitkul, Langza, and your own village, Dhankar. I have seen your resume and worked with you closely. It would be an honour to have you on board as the CFO for this venture. We wanted to promote the local economy through tourism with our project. I have sent you all the details on your email. Let's schedule a SKYPE meeting if you are interested. Let's discuss it. Looking forward to your response."

I re-read the message 5-6 times. My heart was pacing super-fast. I could work from Shimla and move around Himachal Pradesh. I could work with the local people and boost their livelihoods by bringing in more revenues. I could move closer home. I didn't know yet whether this was what I wanted. All I knew was this could be my solution for now. Maybe this is the change I was supposed to make for now.

The word "FATE" gleamed at me. Suddenly, the wallpaper's message seemed to make sense. Was this where I was supposed to be now? Was this the change that I could bring in? It still is in my hands, right? How I choose to work? What I choose to work on? How my education can be effective for my state and its people?

Rahul… how could he guess? I went back to the dating app. He was still offline.

"Please ping me when you are online," I typed.

Who was this stranger?

I opened my official mailbox with a smile on my face. I had found my professional solution for now. And even personally… Rahul… ummm I don’t know? But my heart felt warm and cozy all of a sudden. I again glanced at the wallpaper. FATE?

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