She was trembling at her own desk. The Director had called her and she didn’t know, why. Till yesterday she had been working under the General Manager, who had actually inducted her into this office, and she had been submitting all her projects to him.But today, the General Manager had been dismissed all of a sudden. She knew he was heading a lobby that had hatched a controversy by going directly against the Director and was sure to be removed. But, she also knew that along with the General Manager, a number of the staff recruited by him would also come under the axe. Unfortunately, she happened to be one of them. She was a new recruit, but, she may not be spared only for that reason. Politics inside a corporate always ran in this fashion, so that, whenever a big shot was shown the door, it was more than obvious that others would soon follow. She was nervous because she had just begun to reinstate herself after her divorce and this job meant a lot to her. She was trying to rise up from the ditch that she had been pushed into by her treacherous husband, who tried everything in his command to demean her in every form possible. He used her as a tool to get promotions in his job. She acted as his bait, rather, a whore to his seniors whenever his job was at stake or he needed to earn a promotion. Everybody knew that he was a useless employee but had a beautiful wife who could lie on the bed of anyone to confirm him a raise in the office. The irony was, as soon as he got the raise he would come down on her with the choicest of abuses.
“Bloody whore!” he would shout at her, “Why are you still on my bed? Why don’t you go and sleep naked with my boss, for whom you have been a very good partner? He loves to lick your body completely”. He comfortably forgot that it was for him that she had to whore around. She got vexed after this happened repeatedly for eight long years and decided to quit the practice for good. She didn’t have much to lose, as they never had any child out of their marriage. In fact, he never wanted her to have any child since that would make her figure grotesque enough to be barred from the service she did for him. She applied for the divorce and got it quite easily. Now, she needed a steady income to keep her from starving, as she forsook all remuneration from her ex-husband. She loathed the relationship so much, that she couldn’t even tolerate being supported by the amount decided by the court as a divorce settlement. She bluntly refused to take that money. She didn’t want to touch anything from him.
She went to her college friend, Nisha, whose husband worked in an influential position in a reputed corporate house. Nisha had given her formal introduction to her husband, who called her one day. It was in the evening that she had visited Nisha’s apartment. Nisha had gone shopping and her husband was all alone.
She knocked at the door. A well-built man in his early forties opened it, holding a cigarette in his hand as the smell of alcohol poured out of his mouth. Initially, she thought of backing away, but her precarious condition forced her to remain unperturbed. He stared at her, or rather, at her bewildering figure, and asked, “What is it?”
“I came to meet Nisha”.
“Yes, I happen to be her college friend. She told me, you could arrange a job for me in your office”.
He didn’t answer for a full minute. He was only staring at her legs, feasting his eyes at the delicacy upwards from her toe. She felt naked before him as his eyes got glued to her thighs, which appeared to be provokingly bulging out of the tights. She thought it would have been better if she had something Indian in her dress. Now, she could do nothing about it.
“Nisha has gone shopping with her son”, he said in a voice laced with unabashed lust, “but, you can come in and wait till she returns”. She hesitated. She knew how male members behaved with the female when no one was around. But, she was helpless. She had come asking for help and till now there hadn’t been any. She finally braved in. All these days she had got used to the male advances on her body. They used to grope, fondle, bite and enter her till they had their satisfaction. She had already crossed that line where dignity and shame held ground. Now, she only needed money to keep her from starving. Only then could she think of attaining a level where she could think of dignity. If you don’t have food in your belly, your humanity, your dignity, everything vanishes into thin air.
The front room was very dimly lit. There was a table and four chairs, all made of wood. A large bottle of whiskey stood at the centre, surrounded by a bottle of soda and two glasses. One of the glasses was half-filled with whiskey, while the other had water in it. A plate of snacks and another with a large leg piece of fried chicken on it lay to one side of the table. A pack of cigarettes lay near an ashtray made of china. He pushed himself into one of the chairs and picked up a handful of the snacks. As she was still standing at the door, he ushered her in with a wave of his hand indicating her to sit in the chair in front of him. She knew she couldn’t stand there forever. So, she slipped into the chair as he kept watching at her shapely curves.
“When will Nisha be back?” she had to fill in to make the atmosphere somewhat cordial.
“When she has finished all the money I have given her,” came his blunt reply.
“Women don’t get satisfied till they have drained off the last coin,” he chuckled as he grimaced after taking a sip of the whiskey. He went for the cigarette, picked up one, lit it, went for a long puff and released a mouthful of smoke. The tobacco was quite strong as she felt giddy from the smoke in the room. She tried to look straight at him. He was wearing a loose shirt and a pair of Bermudas. He had a fair complexion and an aura of deliberate disdain about himself.
There was a knock at the door.
“Open it up,” he said, “That’s your friend”.
She got up and went to the front door. Yes, it was Nisha and her ten-year-old son with a number of filled shopping bags in their hands. Her face lit up on seeing Nisha.
“Hi Auntie!” came the shrill voice of the lad, “How are you?”
“I am fine, darling,” she retorted, “and how are you?”
“I am fine too,” he said, as he got into the room with the bags.
When she came into the dimly lit room, she said, “Why didn’t you switch on the main lights? The room is so dark”.
He hushed her aside and spoke up, “Your friend has been waiting for you. I don’t know whether she drinks”.
Nisha nodded her head in a fashion, meaning- you are up to yourself again. However, she only said, “Yes! She told me, she needs a job. Why don’t you try for her in your office?”
“You haven’t told me anything about her,” he quoted back.
“Does that mean, you won’t do anything for her?” came her sharp reply.
“When did I say that?” he retorted.
“So, do it,” she said, a tinge of urgency in her voice.
“Let’s see,” he said, and turned at her to say, “Leave your CV with me. Let me see what can be done”.
She had come ready with a typed out copy of her CV, stating her qualification as an Arts graduate and a Diploma in Computer Applications. She handed it over to him. He didn’t even feel the need to see what was written and tossed it over into a bag.
A few days later, when she was ushered into the office of the District Stevedores Limited, she had no idea whether she would be able to clinch the job or not. She sat in the lounge for an hour before she was asked to fill out a form of application for the post of clerk cum Personal Assistant to the General Manager of DSL. Another half an hour passed. She was only watching at the receptionist seated at an elevated desk in the lounge, attending to phone calls every now and then. Her heartbeat was unusually fast at the time as she dreaded to think what may happen if she failed in getting the job. She was now staying in a rented house alone and her rent was already due, but she didn’t have enough to spare for her food, rest alone the need to pay the rent. The landlord was a bit generous and did not insist on her paying the rent in time, but, he would turn rude in no time if the delay continued. She couldn’t go back to her father as he was no more and the house was occupied by her brother. Her sister-in-law wasn’t so liberal as to allow her to stay there. Everything was crushing in on her. She desperately needed a job.
“Mrs Monica Bedi!” the receptionist called another name. She was startled at the mention of her name. “Yes!” she somehow mumbled. “Mr Jyotish is calling you. You can go in”. She didn’t know who Mr Jyotish was. She was staring blankly at the receptionist. She had never asked Nisha her husband’s name either. “Mrs Monica! The General Manager is calling you for the interview”. She heaved a sigh and stood up, rather confused at who he was and how to reach him. The receptionist showed her a door and said, “Go in. He is waiting in room number five, the third one to the left”. She understood something and went in, not knowing what to expect.
As she reached room number five, she waited in front of the door. The door was a large one, probably of teak wood with a door latch made of brass. There was a small glass opening in the upper part of it. She thought of peeping in to see who it was inside when the door suddenly opened and a uniformed peon called her name asking her to get in. With a heart-thumping irrationally she went in and uttered, “Good Morning, Sir!”
“Good morning! Please be seated”. She could easily recognize the voice as that of Nisha’s husband. He looked quite elegant now, dressed in a black suit and a blue tie. She wasn’t sure whether he was looking at her curves today, but she gave a respectful bow and sat on the chair in front of him. Another gentleman was seated with him across the table. He was in a white shirt and a red tie. Both the men were looking at her now. The other person greeted her saying, “So, you are Mrs Monica Bedi!”
“You are accustomed to working in Word and Excel, both. Right?”
“Have you ever worked anywhere earlier?”
Nisha’s husband cut in, “How many family members do you have now?”
This was an embarrassing question, but this was an interview and she had to answer.
“I live alone, Sir”.
“You are married!”
“Where does your husband stay?”
Nisha had probably not mentioned anything about her divorce, but she had clearly stated her marital status in the form she had filled up after coming here. Then, why this question!
“I am a divorcee, Sir!”
“Oh! I see. “
The interview carried on and on. At first, she felt that they were testing her, but gradually the truth dawned upon her. They were awestruck by her appearance. So, the job was hers already. The interview was merely a formality. Whatever it was, she needed it desperately. The interview ended just before lunch.
“So, Mrs Monica! When can you join us?”
She was thankfully relieved to hear this.
“Any day, Sir!” was her prompt reply.
It was three months ago. Now, she is a bonafide employee of the District Stevedores Limited working as the Personal Assistant cum clerk to Mr Jotish, the General Manager of DSL. But, only a few days back, she heard that Mr Jyotish had gone against the Director of the organization and could be sacked. The order of his dismissal was confirmed yesterday. All the time she was worried about her position and she was really apprehensive whether the management would keep her in service. So, when the Director called her to his cabin, she didn’t feel quite at ease. Nervousness was, in fact, so deep-seated that she was practically trembling.
As she approached the Director’s cabin, she felt a lump coming up her throat and almost choking her. The frosted glass door in front of the Director was intended to prevent anybody from seeing what was going on inside, but, for Monica, it was the last line of defence before her death knell was blown. The peon came up to her and said, “The Director just left for a meeting. You can wait here or go back to your desk. I will call you when he returns”.
So, the mystery wasn’t solved. The apprehension did not subside. She came back to her desk, but could not concentrate on her job. She made mistakes, which were not quite common to her since she always considered herself a perfectionist. She knew, she was passing through a very turbulent phase. Once she thought, if the Management wanted to remove her, it would only need to send her a pink slip through the peon. The Director wouldn’t call her to his own cabin. Again she thought, “Maybe, it was the regular practice in this office to call the employee in front of the Director before issuing a dismissal notice”. At some corner of her mind, a thought also occurred that the Management might have recognized her hard work in these three months and decided to continue with her, although her boss had been removed. Whatever it was, it would have been better if the matter was known immediately. Being kept hanging in balance was quite nerve racking. She couldn’t bear to carry the tension for long. Her palpitation increased manifold. She just put her head down on the table as tears of tension overwhelmed her. How long she remained in that position is not known, for when the peon called her name she rose up with a startle. The peon was, as good as, intent upon asking her whether she was taking a nap, but her teary eyes stopped him. He bit his lips, lest he might utter something that might hurt the sentiment of the beautiful lady already in tears. He again opened his lips to say, “Monica Madam! It is already seven o’clock. Won’t you go home?” She looked up at him once again. He said, “The Director won’t come today. You can go home, now”. Another sigh escaped her lips. “That’s great!” she said, as she started picking her bag up and shutting down the computer in front of her. The peon gave her a napkin to wipe her tears. She gave him a wry smile saying, “Thank you”.
As she sprinted down the stairs, she wondered whether she was relieved that her job was saved for the day, or whether it multiplied her burden yet more. She went to a nearby temple offering her heartfelt prayers before getting into her quarters. On reaching home, all her inner composure betrayed her and tears flooded her eyes as the fear of losing the job returned to haunt her. She couldn’t get to sleep that night. The thought of losing her job constantly shook her awake every time she tried to sleep and the nightmare continued throughout the night.
She took a hurried breakfast in the morning and shot off to work. All the while she was thinking whether her job was still there or was it a pink slip waiting at her desktop. Seeing no such paper on her desk, she switched on her computer and started the mandatory scan for viruses. At the end of it, she flicked on the Wi-Fi connection and waited for her personal mail to open up. As soon as the inbox opened, she started scrolling through the messages. No, there wasn’t any mail from HR. Somewhat relieved; she picked up the file she was dealing with on the earlier day. She knew the Director entered his cabin only after eleven. Till then, she was safe. She was looking at her watch quite often and the time seemed to be remaining standstill. The peon came up and handed her a large file. She looked up at him as if to ask if the Director had come, but he slid off to another desk. She again looked at her watch. It was ten minutes to eleven. So, she thought, there are ten more minutes for my job to go. She shook her head to remove the ghost of joblessness from her head and absorbed herself in the task at hand.
“Monica!” the only other female employee in the office called her, “Are you going to miss your lunch today?” She looked at her watch and was surprised to find it ticking away ahead of one o’clock. “By no means,” she said, forcing a smile across her lips. Both of them left the office building for the canteen. She looked at the Director’s cabin and was a bit surprised to find it locked. So, he hasn’t come yet. O.K. “He won’t be coming for a week”, said Natasha following her eyes. “How did you come to know of it?” she asked. “He has gone to China on a business deal. He won’t be returning till the next week”, Natasha said. “O.K,” she said as if a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
As the week passed, Monica got more and more relaxed. But, when the weekend approached, her nightmare returned to haunt her. In the meantime she had applied for a job in all the vacancies she could find, but, no one seemed to be interested in her short-lived work tenure of only three months. Everywhere, she was asked to produce at least one year’s experience. How could she do that? That would be deception, and she was not quite accustomed to it.
On Monday, she wrote her resignation letter and kept it in her bag, so that she could furnish it as soon as the Director told her to leave. That way she could, at least, save her dignity instead of being fired. Now, she felt much relieved. She had the courage to meet the Director. On reaching the office, she switched on the computer as usual and started the scan. When she started scrolling the mail, her heart skipped a beat as she found a mail from HR. She looked around to check if anybody was there to catch the shocked expression on her face. So, the dreaded moment had finally arrived and she was going to lose the job. She opened the mail, but her moistened eyes did not allow her to read it. She looked here and there trying to find a way to escape.
She looked up to find the peon calling her name. So, this is the end, she thought. She couldn’t completely hear what the peon told her, but could only discern that the Director was calling her to his cabin. She rose from her desk and walked up to the cabin, only to return when she remembered the resignation letter. She got back to her desk, picked up the letter from her bag and slowly walked up to the cabin. Her heart was thumping inside her as she opened the door of the cabin and uttered, “Good morning, Sir! May I please come in?”
“Yes, Mrs Monica! Do come in please”, said the Director in a matter-of-fact way. “Please sit down”, he said, on finding her uncomfortably standing behind the chairs in front of him. A piece of paper was lying on the table in front of him. So, that’s my letter of dismissal, she thought. She opened the letter in her hand before sitting.
“The Management has decided”, he began.
“..To throw me out and follow my boss”, she thought to herself. No sense of nervousness prevailed in her anymore. She was prepared for any kind of eventuality now. Her name has already been shortlisted in one of the organizations she had applied for and she might be able to clinch the job anyway. So, she need not worry about this job anymore.
The Director continued, “To take up a new office at the outskirts of the town and a few of the staff here may be asked to join there. We are recruiting new candidates there, no doubt. But, experienced people accustomed to us will be needed there. I thought it better to ask if you would like to join us there. Of course, there will be a raise for all those who opt for that location. Now, please tell me, if you could join there”.
She folded the letter back in her hand. The Director was looking at her as she hadn’t answered him till then.
“Oh! Certainly Sir! I will go there, Sir. No problem”, she somehow replied.
“O.K. Thank you so much. Our HR personnel will get in touch with you soon. They might already have sent you a formal mail”, he said.
“I will check it, Sir”, she said and started to rise from the chair.
“O.K. You may go now”, he said as she rose to leave.
A huge load had been removed from her head and she could not contain her feelings any longer. She was genuinely surprised at what she thought and what actually happened! She ran to her desk and opened the mail from HR. Yes! It was that mail that gave her the details of the new job at the new location. Had she seen it then, she wouldn’t have felt so depressed.