His Boss' Bag
His Boss' Bag8 mins 627 8 mins 627
How often does one take for granted a person’s character and behaviour based on what is generally expected!
Varun was a web designer in an e-learning company. It was a fairly well-established firm and Varun was proud of his paycheck. But more than that, what he loved about his workplace was the homely atmosphere.
His office was a buzz of activity, Monday to Friday. Be it the content development team or the accounts, the web designers like Varun or the HR, they all worked as one. They celebrated birthdays together, shared stories of their commuting hassles, checked on WhatsApp status and jested about it, discussed the latest movies, had heated arguments on the latest political situations — all the usual banter without which no workplace was an enjoyable one. And in the middle of all this, they worked towards their deadlines with zest, encouraging each other and pitching in with ego less spirit when one of them was stuck.
This lively environment, however, sobered down only when Mr Sathyamoorthy was in office, which was not too often. Mr Sathyamoorthy was the Director of the e-learning firm, an energetic man in his fifties, highly appreciated in business circles for his business acumen, astute sales tactics and entrepreneurship. Varun and his colleagues knew him as a man of few words, extremely strict and very meticulous in his work. He was never known to impose his position upon his employees and would even crack a joke or two when everyone gathered to celebrate Diwali or Christmas in the office, which made Varun and some of his younger colleagues squirm with embarrassment. But his senior colleagues, especially Saravanan, the head of his department, swore that Mr Sathyamoorthy was a wonderful human being who valued his integrity, a man who lived up to his name.
One Friday, Mr Sathyamoorthy called Varun to his room. After the initial courtesy talk with Varun, inquiring about how he was getting on with work, Sathyamoorthy said, “So Varun, I heard you are going to Mumbai this weekend.”
“Yes, sir. There’s a wedding in the family.”
“Why I called you, Varun, was to ask if you could get me something from Mumbai. That is, if you find the time for shopping.”
Varun felt uncomfortable with the cool manner of his boss but didn’t show it. And his boss too didn’t seem to feel his discomfort.
“That should not be a problem, sir. I can definitely buy whatever it is you want.”
Sathyamoorthy got up and walked to a cabinet at the other end of his room. He opened one of the doors and took out a bag.
He walked back to his desk and giving the bag to Varun, said, “I had bought this bag in Mumbai when I had gone there sometime last year. It is very spacious, has a lot of compartments to hold my laptop, files, stationary, books… well, you know, all the things I need for my meetings. This is now worn out and doesn’t look good for my meetings. So I have had to buy another one, but that is not too convenient.”
Varun examined the bag. It was not the usual laptop backpack but a bag that looked like a briefcase. Very business-like in appearance, it was a shade of brown and its capacity seemed endless.
“I wanted to ask you this favour last week itself but I kept forgetting to bring this bag from home to show you. I finally remembered today, so here we are.”
Before Varun could say something, his boss got a phone call.
“I am sorry, Varun, I have to attend this call.”
As Sathyamoorthy put the phone to his ear, Varun muttered a thank you sir and leaving the bag on the table, exited the room. The day went on and Varun expected to be called in again by his boss. But that didn’t happen. By 4 o’clock, Sathyamoorthy left the office, his phone to his ear, so Varun again had no chance of speaking to him.
As the workday got to its end, Varun’s colleagues bid him a happy holiday.
“See you after a week, machi.”
“Keep updating your WhatsApp status.”
“Take plenty of pictures.”
Varun laughed too but he was preoccupied with thoughts of his boss’ bag. He had expected his boss to give him some money to buy the bag but that didn’t happen. Now he would have to shell out the money himself. He definitely couldn’t buy anything cheap.
Varun was taking the early morning train to Mumbai from Chennai Central. All through the day long journey, he ate a little, slept a lot, read some, but otherwise, kept thinking of the bag for his boss.
The following morning, as he reached Mumbai and headed to his uncle’s house, he decided that the first thing on his agenda was to set out shopping to procure the bag for his boss.
“No way are you doing that, Varun,” his uncle admonished him. “The wedding is tomorrow and there’s so much to do. Your shopping can wait. There’s plenty of time to go shopping after the wedding is over. It’s not that you are leaving immediately after the wedding. Your boss will definitely understand. He must have a family and he must know how stressful weddings can be.”
So Varun had no choice but to get involved in the running around for the wedding. For the next three days, with all the hungama of the wedding preparations and the galata of the wedding itself, his boss’ bag took itself off to the shadows.
On the fourth day morning, as the tired family members were rousing themselves from the celebration hangover with coffee, Varun suddenly sat up erect from his supine position on the couch. His boss’ bag had come to haunt him.
An hour later, Varun and two of his cousins set out to explore Mumbai and also look for the tormenting bag. An hour later, after scouring various shops, rejecting at least a million specimens and haggling with irate shopkeepers, Varun finally found a bag that matched his boss’ preference. It was very business-like, sturdy, endlessly roomy with sufficient partitions and stylish. Even the colour was a fairly similar shade of brown. But the best part was the price. Though Varun had to pay Rs 1250 for it, which almost cleaned out his wallet, leaving him with just enough to get him through the train journey back to Chennai, he felt it was a very good deal.
How Varun made it back to his uncle’s house by train, holding on to the precious possession without getting it squashed in the crowded Mumbai train is yet another story. But he made it, not only to his uncle’s house but also, two days later to his own home in Chennai and on Monday morning to office too.
His colleagues welcomed him back and asked to see the coveted item he had carried all the way from Mumbai. Varun wouldn’t take it out of its polythene cover and wouldn’t let anyone touch it even. But the bag looked smart even through its transparent cover that everyone went gaga over it. And when Mr Sathyamoorthy came in, a proud Varun went to his room with the bag. Unfortunately, Varun chose a wrong time to go in. He found his boss talking into the phone, an expression of anger on his face. Very quietly, he left the bag on his boss’ table and walked out.
A few minutes later, Mr Sathyamoorthy left the office. Varun was aghast to see the boss dragging a trolley luggage bag. Mr Sathyamoorthy, he was told, was travelling, was going to be away from office for the next ten days. One thousand two hundred and fifty rupees was a big amount for a middle class bachelor guy like Varun, especially when there was still a week to go for his salary to be credited.
Ten days later, Mr Sathyamoorthy returned to office from his travelling. Varun, in the meantime, had managed to eke out the week on his shoestring budget till his salary was credited. Varun waited for the whole of that day to be called by his boss. He was disappointed. Mr Sathyamoorthy was in office the whole of the following day, and the day after that. In fact, he was in office the whole of that week, maybe going out for a few hours. But Varun’s Rs 1250/- did not seem to be on the agenda.
“These bosses are like this. They don’t understand what it means to have less money.”
“Did he think you got it for him for free?”
“You shouldn’t have bought it in the first place. You should have insisted on his giving you the money before you left for Mumbai. Or you should have taken it from Accounts and told them to file it under petty cash or something.”
“Varun, just barge into the big man’s room and demand for the money.”
“No, no, don’t do that,” said Molly, a senior content editor. “Speak to Saravanan. He might be able to suggest something.”
Molly’s advice seemed sensible, so Varun proceeded to Saravanan’s room.
Saravanan’s room was at the far end of the corridor beyond Mr Sathyamoorthy’s room. Varun dared not to turn his head as he passed by.
“Excuse me, Saravanan, can you spare me a minute, please?”
“Yes, Varun, come in please. What can I do for you?”
“Saravanan, when I had gone to Mumbai, the big man had asked me to…”
Before Varun could complete, Saravanan’s phone rang.
Then putting the phone down, Saravanan looked at Varun and said, “Boss is calling you.”
Varun hesitated a bit before dragging his feet to Sathyamoorthy’s room. But even as he entered, Sathyamoorthy started speaking, “I am so sorry, Varun, I should have given you some money when I had requested you to get me the bag. And even after you returned and gave the bag to me I should have made arrangements for the money to be given to you. I am so sorry it has taken me so many days to repay you.”
He then went to the cabinet where he had kept his old bag and opened the door. There, sitting inside, was not the old bag but the new one, its polythene cover still intact as Varun had brought it with.
“See, I haven’t even used it. It’s not right for me to use it without having paid you for it.” So saying, he pulled out some notes from his wallet and gave Varun his one thousand two hundred and fifty rupees.
Varun came out of the room richer because of the lesson in values he learnt that day.