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The Curious Case Of Mr. Sharma

The Curious Case Of Mr. Sharma

12 mins 21K 12 mins 21K

Mr. Banerjees’s enlightening discourse on political pragmatism, Prasad Raju’s dejection over the censored scenes in an upcoming film, Suhani Devi’s advice to replace curd with tomato puree while cooking paneer and Rajnath’s resounding laughter on his own dim-witted jokes came to an abrupt halt as clad in a black and orange cotton saree, the manager, Sonali Sharma entered the floor.  

A series of obsequious ‘Good morning madam’ inundated Sonali as she walked in the direction of her cabin. On her way, she stole a quick glance at Mr. Avinash who had burdened the poor office chair with his eighty-five kilos of overwhelming personality. Negligent as always, he did not pay attention to the boss’ arrival for he was too engrossed in plugging his phone into charging. “Mr. Avinash, I hope Raman Ahuja’s file is ready.” Sonali interrupted his diligent effort to forcibly insert a small-pinned charger in the socket. “Yes. It is,” his response was lazy and incurious as ever. “Please see me in my office with the file after ten minutes,” she said and headed towards her cabin clicking her heels.

Avinash searched for the desired file and his spine shuddered. He had carried the file home to finish some pending work and had forgotten it there. His chair heaved a sigh of relief as he got up to go to Sharma madam’s office. He pulled his trousers upwards and strode towards her office like an undaunted soldier. “May I come in?” he knocked at the door. “Come in,” Sharma madam replied. Preparing himself for a long, tedious and loathsome lecture, he entered her cabin with empty hands. This was not the first time when Sharma madam had summoned him and reminded him of his inadequacies. She looked for the file which was not there and estimated that once again the gentleman was all set to offer a wide variety of excuses to her.

“Where is the file Avinash?” Sharma madam asked him, stretching each word from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

“I... I...” Avinash tried to force the words out of his mouth but they had jumped into the pit of his stomach.

“I forgot to bring it to office,” he mustered courage and darted a direct reply.

“You forgot to get the file? Are you an employee or a five-year-old kid who can’t remember to carry his homework script to school?”

“I have updated the file. I swear,” Avinash protested naively.

“Where is it then?”

“I forgot it on the bedside table, darling,” Avinash answered with a droopy face.

Sharma madam shook her head in detestation and said, “You have crossed all the limits of being careless Avi.”

As soon as Sharma madam addressed him as Avi, Avinash wiped the tiny drops of sweat sparkling on his forehead, vigorously exhaled the air trapped between his lungs and windpipe and looked at Sharma madam through his small but twinkling eyes. He thought he could smile, as the excruciating, ‘So-Unprofessional-of-You’ session with his boss was over. Streaks of slackness had just begun to surface in his disposition when Sharma madam sharply retorted “At least close Vimal Shah’s case. I can’t give you any more extension on that.” Avinash treated her to a coy smile and replied, “You made an excellent coffee today.” She was not pleased by his flirtatious remark and pointed towards the door, explicitly suggesting that he had overstayed his welcome. “Hitler,” Avinash muttered under his breath as he shut the door behind him. He went back to his workstation and rummaged the huge stack of files to locate Shah’s records.

Mr. Avinash Sharma was the husband of Sonali Sharma and they were married to each other for two years now. Six years back, Sonali had joined the company as a team leader. Both of them had the same designation and worked together in the A2 cluster. Soon on account of having common interests, they had become good friends. Gradually, Avinash was captivated by her charm and had confided his fondness for her, in his colleagues. In no time, the new Romeo had become the centre of attraction of the team. After his confession, Avinash’s team mates used to go to the canteen not only to sip freshly brewed tea or munch samosas but also to hear his eloquent speeches on love. Like a typical lover, Avinash had memorized the verses of all the eminent love poets, ranging from Ghalib to Sahir Ludhianvi. “Hazaro khwahishe aisi k har khwahish par dam nikle. Bohot nikle mere armaan, lekin fir bhi kam nikle.” (Thousand such desires, each worth giving up one’s life for. Many of them I have realized yet I long for more.) Avinash had barely finished his recitation of Ghalib when a string of “Bravo” from every direction had made him feel like a celebrity.

“Why don’t you tell her about your feelings, brother?” Mukesh had said stuffing a big chunk of bread pakora in his mouth.

“Exactly. It can’t go on like this forever,” Mr. Gurdeep had warned him, taking an unwarranted bite from Mukesh’s bread pakora.

“Don’t be scared. Propose her for marriage,” Parmila auntie’s suggestion was followed by everyone’s approval.

The other day Avinash had reached office with a small bouquet of red roses and a greeting card. He had revealed his ardent love for her in the card and had placed it on Sonali’s table along with the flowers. When Sonali had arrived and reached her table, her bewilderment was truly a sight to behold. Till the time she read the card, Avinash’s heart had palpitated with terror. She had got up from her seat with a jolt, walked to him and had said, “I am a terrible cook. Can you bear with that?” both had laughed heartily and got married in August.

Things trailed on the usual course for the next six months but then came the cursed moment which Avinash abhors till today. Impressed by Sonali’s performance, the CEO of the company promoted her to the post of a manger. Thus, apart from being Avinash’s newly-wedded wife, she also became his freshly- appointed boss.

Since that day, poor Avinash was living a life of double marginalization. It is a universally vouched truth that every man is scared of only two people in his life, his wife and his boss but this plump man was so unfortunate to have got a two-in-one deal. After much ado, Avinash finally found the file and started examining Shah’s previous bank deposits and investments. He had just started working when Mr. Banarjee who had come out of Sharma madam’s office, informed Avinash in his quintessential Bengali tone, “Madam has called you inside.” Avinash furrowed his brows and reluctantly reached her cabin after half an hour.

“Who has prepared this document on company’s policies?” Sharma madam inquired, dipping tea bag in a cup of hot water.

“I have,” Avinash tried to suppress a yawn.

“There are ambiguities in so many clauses Avinash. Is there any work you can do without making silly mistakes?” She folded her hands in exasperation.

“First you overburden me with work and then reprimand me for doing it inefficiently. You cook horrendous food. Have I ever complained?” Sharma madam’s comment had antagonized Avinash.

“This is office. Keep your personal matters out of it,” she said emphatically.

Avinash was very annoyed but his professional commitment made him sit and discuss the discrepancies in the clauses with her. After the deliberation was over, he got up from the chair and prepared to leave. Sonali suddenly asked him, “Have you paid the electricity bill? Today is the last day.” Avinash stuck out his tongue at her and repeated, “This is office. Keep your personal matters out of it.” Sonali started giggling at his childish behaviour and he left her cabin in displeasure.

Avinash came back to his desk and opened his laptop to make the corrections that his wife cum boss had recommended. It would have been much better had he married Preeti, the rustic daughter of his mother’s friend in Jaunpur. Unlike Sonali, she would have held him in high esteem and also cooked more palatable food, he thought. However as Preeti’s gap-toothed face and inartistically kohl-smeared eyes crossed Avinash’s mind, he thanked God for his narrow escape. “This is it. She can’t go on ordering me like that all the time.” Avinash whispered to himself but the gigantic fact of Sonali being his boss benumbed him. His considering the option of consulting an astrologer to rectify the fault in his stars was briefly punctuated by a beep sound on his laptop. Avinash checked. It was an email from the HR department, informing the employees about the last date of filling the evaluation form. The next month was March; the golden month, when through a meagre increment in the salary, the employees are deceived into believing that their hard work is valuable to the company. A state of confused and noisy disturbance ensued as more and more people read the email. It was 5 p.m. and the working hours of the office were over. Avinash’s colleagues gathered around his desk to gossip about the email.

“I don’t think they will give any more hike than 5%,” Pradhan shrugged his shoulders in apprehension.

“We aren’t eligible for a promotion; at least they should give us a decent appraisal,” Swati added.

“Being the senior members of the team, only Mr. Banerjee and Avinash are eligible for promotion this time,” Jagpreet fueled everyone’s curiosity.

Avinash who was indolently reclining in his chair, totally unaffected by their conversation got up with a start. Hadn’t he heard the word promotion? As he got the solution to all his woes, a scintillating smile illuminated the contours of his face. A hundred disparate thoughts began to whirl on the threshold of his brain. If he got promoted, he would become a manager, just like Sonali and get an office adjacent to hers. Avinash’s heart twitched at the possibility. He thought, unlike Sonali, he would be a cooperative manger and never threaten his juniors with deadlines and Sonali will just be Sonali and no more Sharma madam to him. Avinash had let his imagination run wild when Raju patted his left arm and said, “Why are you looking so vacant, my friend?” Avinash was jolted back to senses. “Ah! Nothing. You guys carry on. I am leaving.” Avinash’s reply was imbued with an unprecedented confidence. Avinash hurriedly reached the parking and scurried towards the white Accent car in which Sonali was waiting for him.

“What took you so long, Avinash?” she asked as the driver turned the keys to start the vehicle.

Avinash had to struggle hard in order to hide his excitement from Sonali. He wanted to give a dramatic flip to his head and proudly announce that he would soon be on the same post as her but he calmed down his enthusiasm and feigned an apathetic voice “I was making the final entries in Shah’s data.”

“I am sorry, if you thought I was coarse with you Avi,” Sonali apologized, affectionately looking at Avinash but he ignored her as his sole focus was on 25th March.

Avinash’s persona seemed to have undergone a complete transformation from the next day. His neglectful attitude in handling file work was replaced with meticulous attention. Avinash started spending more time than required on each case to eradicate even the slightest chance of error. Sometimes he even skipped lunch to complete his target. It was not that he had genuinely become organized or responsible towards work. He simply did it to get promoted. He was fed up of being subservient of his wife/boss. “Mishra’s file has been rectified! What are you saying?” Sonali exclaimed in disbelief as Avinash handed Srinivas Mishra’s file to her. “Very good Avinash,” she said, praising him. Avinash wasn’t too keen on the acclamation and left her cabin by saying, “Please excuse me. I have some more work to finish.”  Sonali was both happy and astounded to see Avinash’s dedication towards work but of course she did not know the real motivation behind it. Avinash’s teammates were equally surprised to see him relentlessly toiling instead of playing the game of ‘Candy Crush’ in his phone after every half an hour. Apart from working strenuously, Avinash followed every superstition like watering a Peepal tree, feeding grass to a cow and fasting every Tuesday to direct the promotion towards him. One day the CEO happened to be in the company during the lunch break, Avinash was busy adding some figures on the calculator. This was another day when he had prioritized work over lunch. “I am impressed with your working even in the lunch break, young man.”  The grim-looking, bald man said patting his shoulder. “If you are impressed then guarantee me a promotion.” Avinash wanted to say but he adhered to a polite, “Thank you, sir.” Finally the much awaited day arrived.

Mr. Dubey distributed small envelopes on everybody’s seat. Avinash greedily eyed the little envelope which had his name written on it and almost snatched it from Dubey’s hand. He hastily opened the envelope, extracted the letter and began to read.

Dear Mr. Avinash Sharma

We are happy to inform you that the Advisory Board has recommended your name for promotion to the post of Manager for the B5 cluster. We also intend to give you an increment of 15% in your salary. Congratulations.

Best Regards

Surendra Butalia

Avinash let a scream of joy escape his mouth. Everyone came to his seat to know the reason and congratulated him. After Avinash finished shaking hands with everyone, he got up in style, inflated his chest with male-ego, tucked the letter under his right armpit and swayed towards Sonali’s cabin. He couldn’t wait to see the colour of her face change in shock. He had also prepared a full-fledged speech to hearten her, just in case she inclined towards dejection or jealousy. He barged into her office without knocking at the door. “Avinash, you should have knocked at the door before entering.” Sonali was mildly offended by his lack of propriety.  Avinash placed the letter on the table in front of her, without uttering a single word. Sonali read the letter, “Oh my God! Congratulations Avi.”  Her happiness knew no bounds. Avinash was perplexed at her unexpected reaction but he composed himself and said, “Please don’t feel bad about it. Let’s go out for lunch. My treat.”  Sonali failed to comprehend how can a wife, whose husband had got a promotion feel bad but she did not pay a serious heed to the thought.

“No we can’t out for lunch,” she said with a suggestive smile. “Why?” Avinash thought that the time to deliver his inspirational speech had come. He was about to console her when she took out a similar letter from her bag and showed it to him. He read it and was stupefied. The letter informed Sonali about her promotion to the post of Senior manager, implying all the managers would work under her guidance. “How can we go before you congratulate me?” she laughed. Avinash’s face flushed. He looked at his wife who had managed to accomplish a little more than him, once again. “Congratulations Sonali. I mean Sharma madam.” Avinash’s despondency did not escape Sonali’s notice. She got up, pulled his cheeks to cheer him up and said, “We are one unit, my love. Aren’t we?” 

 


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