My Heart Will Go On
My Heart Will Go On
The whirl of laptop keys punctuated the silence at the office. The room was more spacious than the numerous rows of open-seating workstations made it appear. Eight people sat stuffed together in each row of work desks meant for six. A dynamic seating allocation ensured that early birds to the office got the best corner seats- the ones with rooms for occupants to stretch their legs. The organization employed more people than the seating space available on the floor. Hence, employees coming later from client sites would set up shop at the breakout zones and coffee room to work; people working on their laptops were a common sight at the office cafeteria. In the hustle of making a living, people often went about their work not knowing or noticing the person sitting beside them.
Sandesh sat in his usual corner work seat. Without a family in Gurgaon, he had no particular reason to spend more time than necessary in his rented accommodation. Living nearby, he was often the first to arrive at the office and thus avoided the hassle of finding a suitable workstation.
His hands kept on punching the laptop keys even as his mind was preoccupied. His eyes kept darting in front. He was impatient for the occupant of the seat opposite to take her place, half afraid that someone else might take up space.
His heart skipped more than a beat when he saw Swapna set up her computer in front. In a red top with matching danglers, the tall doe-eyed beauty looked even prettier than usual. He was sure that had the office been in full attendance, every occupant would have heard the drumbeats of his heart.
Good Morning,” he said to her.
She looked at him, nodded, and smiled.
Their eyes locked into each other. Seconds passed.
Sandesh blinked first. “Which project are you working on?” he blurted.
“A Japanese Financial major wants to enter India’s securities market,” Swapna said in a slow, distinct manner. Her voice was music to his ears. “Am working on the market landscape of financial services sector in India and their entry strategy.”
“Great. It must be exhilarating- strategy, market analysis, expansion blueprint, etc.,” Sandesh was wistful before adding, “I work only with miserly companies who want to cut their costs further.”
“That sounds analytical. Strategy is all about making beautiful PowerPoints. I am tired of coming up with new ideas to beautify my content.”
Sandesh laughed as Swapna settled in her chair.
The following two hours went in furious typing. Sandesh’s eyes threw furtive glances at Swapna whenever they needed a break from the computer screen. He barely glanced at the colleagues seated sideways and beyond.
His focus wavered when Swapna’s agitated voice reached his ears. “I still await the confirmation on the engagement letter sent for review three days ago. The client is after my life.” She paused to hear the speaker at the other end of her handheld before responding, “Maybe we stop making pitches to new clients to win more business for the firm since the Risk team takes ages to give clearance.”
Sandesh admired the way her right hand moved in tandem with her voice. He noticed her raised eyebrows in amusement as she put down the mobile on her desk in disdain and leaned back on the chair.
“Any problem?” Sandesh asked.
Swapna moved her chair closer and leaned forward on her desk. She seemed so near to him.
“The Risk team takes hours to respond to standard queries,” she whispered. “It seems only we Consultants have deadlines.”
“And you discovered it now! How long have you been with the firm?”
Swapna glared at him, her lips puckered.
“This is my fourth year here, so I know an exception when I encounter it.” She curtly turned back to her laptop.
“Hey, sorry. I didn’t mean it to come out like that.” Sandeep hated himself at that moment.
“I have tight deadlines,” she responded without looking at him.
Ever since he had set eyes on her last week, he had tried to muster the courage to speak to her. At last, he had broken the ice today, only to crush it with a sledgehammer.
He was neck-deep in work for the next several minutes when Swapna asked, “How long you have been here?”
“I came at 8 am. That’s my usual time of arrival.”
Her tinkling laughter chimed the bells of his heart.
“So somebody is beating me to office daily. But what I meant to ask was how long have you been working with this company?”
“Oh. Six years.”
“I see. A veteran. How come our paths haven’t crossed before today?”
“I was working out of the Emirates on the assignment for the last two years. Before that, I was in a steel plant at Jharsaguda.”
“Wow. The farthest that I have traveled to a client site is at Noida. I am advising clients in Japan and Australia from this tiny Gurgaon cubicle. I sure want to work with your miserly clients instead of giving strategic inputs to the rich clients of mine.”
He delved into his mind for a suitable repartee before deciding to keep quiet. Better to be safe rather than sorry for a second time.
“Do you stay with your family here?” she inquired while looking into her laptop, seemingly adept at using her brain and tongue at the same time.
“I stay alone in a one-room PG accommodation. Folks are back in Jaipur. What about you?”
‘My heart will go on and on. And never let go until we are gone.’ Swapna’s cellphone buzzed just then, and she got busy with the call. It was back to work for him.
After some time, Sandesh got up from his desk to stretch his legs. He realized that he was starving and stole a glance at Swapna, who was hard at work.
“Care for some lunch?” he asked her before his mind had time to think.
Startled out of her concentration, Swapna looked up.
“The cafeteria would be full at this hour. Anyway, I’m not too fond of the menu here. I will skip lunch today.”
“Not what the doctor ordered. I have one of the restaurants here in Cyberhub on my mind for a quick bite.”
“It will take time.”
“Not that much. We deserve to eat well after all the slog. Let’s go.”
They went out of their eighth-floor exit to the elevator lobby. Sandesh’s heart danced on the way down.
Located on the National Highway 8, Gurgaon’s main artery to Delhi, Cyberhub as a premier food and entertainment-themed socializing zone, providing an unparalleled ambiance to food and culture lovers with uniquely designed spaces, futuristic themes, and enticing facilities like rooftop terraces. The palate of restaurants there was more than enough to satisfy every taste bud.
The place was modestly crowded in the daytime by the considerable fraction of the young working at swanky offices in the adjoining Cybercity. It was in the evenings that the area came into its own with the congregation of revelers from all over the city.
Even though they had a choice of plenty, Sandesh and Swapna settled for Finger bites and coffee at Vaango to avoid feeling sleepy after the lunch hour. The outlet was sparsely occupied, and they took a table for two at a cozy corner.
They discussed every possible work and globe topic, including Work Assignments, Engagement partners, Organisational Culture, Job change, Indian Cricket, and Bollywood after placing their order. Gastronomic delight took second place to their camaraderie, and they barely noticed when the waiter served their order.
Swapna came across as a beauty with brains. She was well-read and had nuggets on every current affairs subject. She put forth her views in a coherent, lucid, and respectful manner on topics where she had strong opinions. The lunch hour was gone all too soon for Sandesh, and he felt sorry when they got up for work.
“I had a whale of a time,” he whispered to Swapna in the lift on their way back. “I don’t remember the last time when my meal was so enjoyable. Thank you for your company.”
“No. THANK YOU for dragging me here. Next time let’s catch up post office hours so that we don’t have to hurry back to work,” Swapna smiled.
Sandesh was in seventh heaven when he sat back on his work desk. He kept on replaying the lunch hour conversation with Swapna while pretending to be immersed in his work.
‘She said next time. That means she also likes your company. Please don’t wait for long to ask her out on a proper date. Move fast,’ said the voice inside his head.
‘I spoke to her for the first time today. We had a good time. We will keep on meeting at work and will probably go out more times during the week. What is the hurry? I don’t want to scare or antagonize her,’ he reasoned with his conscience.
‘Why delay the good things in life? If it is a No from her side, it is better to know now when there is a limited emotional investment rather than getting hurt later.’
‘And thwart the chance that I may have got with her later if I had kept my patience and waited. No, thank you so much,’ he told his conscience firmly.
“I will be late today, sweetheart.” Swapna’s words interrupted his inner dialogue. He strained his ears to listen to her phone conversation. “I will come on my own from the office. Please don’t wait for me after you finish your work. Bye.”
Sweetheart! Who was she talking to?
He realized that he must have been staring at her when Swapna asked, “Was I too loud? Sorry if I disturbed you.”
“No, no. Who were you speaking to?” He asked unabashedly.
“My husband. He works out of the adjacent building. He will be leaving early for some household errand today, so I told him not to wait for me.”
“Husband?” He reiterated the word loud.
“Something wrong, Sandesh?” Swapna gave him a strange look.
“No. I just…you didn’t tell...you don’t look..” He struggled to put his thoughts into words.
‘My heart will go on and on. And never let go until we are gone.’ Swapna’s phone rang, and she got busy with the caller.
Sandesh was left alone to nurse his broken heart.