The Day The State Split Asunder-20
The Day The State Split Asunder-2012 mins 46 12 mins 46
No doubt, Friday rocks! The near thought of a Friday approaching can simply ignite good feelings in a typical employee.
Aarti sat at her desk looking dull and woebegone. She usually wishes 'Good Morning' to Adarsh as soon as she steps in. But today she is lost in her own thoughts. The lugubrious expression on her face conveyed how bummed out she was.
"Aarti, The weekend is going to begin in a couple of hours. Why are you looking so dull? Did you forget, today is Friday. The much-awaited day of the week," Adarsh said looking at her doleful face. "Why are you posing like a bankrupted millionaire?"
She exhaled her breath loudly, stroked her forehead, and then with an anguished expression on her face she asked if he needed anything? anything? - she said it like that, twice.
"What happened? Why are you repeating the same thing twice? You look like a dehydrated daisy. I think you're not Aarti…" Adarsh said, trying to cheer her up. "You might be her duplicate..."
"Adarsh!" she sighed. "Today morning my cousin arrived from Mumbai and we hailed a cab near Mahadevapura junction. We had travel bags with us and the moment we got into the cab, the driver turned around and handed us ten hundred rupee notes. He quickly asked us to count the money and asked if we had two five hundred rupee notes. We said we didn't have the change and gave him back the money. He suddenly took off. Just a few hundred meters into the ride he asked us to pay 350 Rs to drop at our destination. We refused and told him to stop. But before we could get off, he began screaming that we owed him a thousand rupees. We already returned him but he refused. He started using abusive words upon us and even threatened to hurt us. I quickly gave him a thousand rupees and got off the cab."
"Poor girl!" Adarsh said, sympathizing with her dolorous tale. "This is what life looks like in metropolitan cities. People living in big cities have big aspirations. Their differences are big and so are the conflicts. That's the truth of living in today's metro cities. People are less patient and have greater ambitions. When their ambitions don't get fulfilled it gives way to frustration and they dare to cross the limits for achieving what they want."
"Now why are you giving me this big lecture? Is there any mistake on my part?"
"No… No…. No… you're taking it wrong. I was only telling you about life in metropolitan cities. Now you forget about it, did you lodge a complaint at the police station?"
"I thought of doing it, but my cousin stopped me. I forgot to note down the number of the cab."
"Wait! When you hire a cab online you will be having the contact details of the driver. Open your mobile."
"We didn't hire it online. He approached us and asked where we wanted to go. He said he will charge less. But that bloody bastard cheated me… Why do things like these happen only to me?" Her tone was burning with anger. "If I see him again I will set his cab on fire..."
"Aarti I know this is difficult to forget but you have to come out of this. Be happy that you are safe at least."
"How can I be happy?" She nearly took a conniption over his statement. "If you were in my position you would've known my pain."
"Relax… See things could have become much worse-"
"Aarti and Adarsh," manager Tarun buzzed in. "Come to the conference room."
"I will be right there, just give us a minute," Adarsh said.
"Come soon..." said Tarun and he left.
"Ah these boring meetings!" said Aarti snapping her fist on the desk. "See another nail on my head… Truly... when it rains it pours."
"Aarti, let's talk about it later. For now, let's go to the meeting..." said Adarsh. "I think our managing director Siddharth is going to come today. Let's go..."
No one ever had anything interesting to discuss in those meetings. It usually just entailed Mr Tarun spewing out brainstorming ideas until Prasad from the testing team fell asleep and banged his head on the table - everyone's cue that another boring meeting was over.
Adarsh and Aarti took their place at the glass conference table and sat down.
"Good afternoon, everyone!" Mr Tarun seemed extremely happy today. "As usual, we have some very important ventures and promotional plans we need to discuss. But, before we get into that, I want to introduce you to someone, who is responsible for establishing this organization. He is none other than the founding member and CEO Siddharth!"
Everyone stood and clapped as Siddharth walked into the room. He looked shorter than Adarsh but taller than Aarti and was blessed with charming, confident, and elegant with a clean-shaven face, well-proportioned muscular limbs, and his hair slicked back with a hair-gel looking super trendy and stylish. He looked amazing in his navy blue suit.
Siddharth surveyed the room and smiled looking at Aarti before dimming the lights. The first PowerPoint slide came up which displayed the company's logo.
"Good afternoon Ladies and gentlemen. It's an honour to be at this meeting today. With over one thousand employees it's hard to know everyone, but this year I want to make myself more transparent, more available because I like transparency," his eyes froze at Aarti again.
Aarti covered the neckline with her Chunni at his sudden glance.
"Why is he staring at me? And why is he making it damn obvious?" Aarti thought.
He began staring at her frequently while speaking. It appeared as if he was fantasizing about her. She was looking at her watch every five seconds, hoping the meeting would come to an end soon.
"I can't say how much I value this company," Siddharth continued. "As you know, we are going through a restructuring phase. We are going to be shaking a few things up over the coming weeks by hiring new talent. Don't worry no one is going to lose their jobs. We are about to sign four major clients and we want to make sure our technical team is as strong as it can be. Do we have Adarsh and Aarti over here..."
"Yes sir..." Adarsh and Aarti said together.
"Thank you! You guys are doing a good job… Tarun is updating me about your progress daily, It's time for our Q and A session..." after saying that he walked around and took a seat directly across Aarti next to Adarsh.
Later on in the question and answer session, everyone was doing their best to grab the CEO's attention. Members actively participated in sharing their opinions instead of scrolling away on their phones. Aarti and Adarsh contributed whenever they have been called.
When Aarti was speaking Siddharth tilted his head to the side and narrowed his eyes at her. Occasionally, he would redirect his focus to the projector screen, but his piercing eyes always found its way back to her.
The meeting came to an end an hour later, without Prasad's headbanging as a gavel and everyone made a move for the door. Adarsh was near the door and he quickly stepped out and dispersed back to his cubicle.
Aarti was about to step outside of the room when Siddharth grabbed her hand, causing a sudden shock of 440 Volts electricity to ripple through her. He immediately released her hand as Tarun and two other members were present in the room.
"Madam Aarti! I am sorry… Your idea was fantastic, would you try explaining it to me in detail if you don't mind..." He was being courteous, even welcoming, but there was an edge to his manner that made her feel uncomfortable.
"Sure, Sir..." She moved to the other side of the room.
He waited for the last person to leave the room and shut the door before walking over to her.
"How long have you been working over here, Miss Aarti?" He placed subtle emphasis on the word 'Miss' and smiled.
"About four months..." said Aarti.
"I wish I could've seen you early..." He rubbed his chin. "How is this office? Did you like it?"
"Your job, this company. Me and others..."
"Sir, do you want me to be honest?"
"That would be nice."
"I love working over here."
"Good to know." He laughed. "Would you like to come out for lunch along with me?"
"What the hell are you asking?" she thought.
"I am sorry!" he said as if he listened to her inner voice. "For today, it may not be possible. I have a client to meet. Maybe let's plan some other day. We can call off for now..."
He left the room, leaving her goggle-eyed. She didn't say anything to him and couldn't say anything.
"He asked me to stay to discuss the idea, but it seems like he is interested in something else. Men will be men if they see a girl they start showcasing their oscar award-winning performance..." she thought while stepping out of the room and sat on the chair at her desk.
"Aarti! I was looking for you," Adarsh said. "Where did you go after the meeting?"
"Arey!" her voice was aloud.
The associates around looked at her.
"I am sorry… there's nothing serious, you guys can carry on with your work," she waited for them to look away from her and glared at Adarsh. "This Siddharth stopped me. He asked me whether I would like to come along with him for lunch."
Adarsh narrowed his eyes. "Do you know? He is already married and has a son. He is more aged than you."
"You're talking as if I am getting ready to marry him. I felt like thrashing him for having asked like that. But since he is our boss I couldn't do anything, except to remain quiet. I suspect he isn't the marrying type, he looks like a playboy."
"Once again you're blowing things out of proportions, I was just telling you. You're a mature woman, you might have dealt with many people like these in your life and you very well know how to deal with them."
"Friday was supposed to be the best day of the week. Morning the cab guy and now Siddharth made it my worst day..." she said, tapping the pen on her forehead.
"Starting could be worse but the ending is completely based on your choice. I know how to end your day on a happy note. If you don't mind, can you give me an hour of your time after the office?"
"An hour?" she exclaimed with her eyes wide open. "I need to go home early as my cousin arrived."
"Please give me only one hour. I promise you will not regret it."
"Sure, but what you are going to do in that one hour."
"It's a top-secret..." he smiled. "Let's not talk about this until evening. If you don't mind can I tell you one thing?"
"Of course you can, why are you asking me like that?"
"Aarti, You're looking so ugly today."
"What!" She picked up her mobile and switched on the front camera. "What is looking toady upon me? Please do tell!"
"You have put everything but forgot to include the most important one."
"I understood, I think this bindi on my forehead, I am sorry I forgot to put it on today."
"Hmm..." he sighed. "It is not bindi, lipstick, or mascara that decorates a woman."
"It is your smile. A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear. It can create wonders and accomplish miracles. When you smile, you look even more beautiful..." he said.
His words made sense. She smiled and said - "If a smile is the most beautiful ornament for women then what is the thing that looks beautiful on men?"
"Honestly, I don't know about it. For now, let's get back to our work," he slowly switched the topic to bring her mind back to the work mood. "There are still a lot of bugs that need to be annihilated."
"I am so sorry for that mess… I should have tested it before moving it to production. I didn't know it would turn out this much buggy."
"Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone learns from them. Some people make the same mistakes over and over again, fail to make any real progress, and can't figure out why," Adarsh said. "I am sorry for saying this, but as a friend, I should point out your mistakes. I understand you don't like doing things twice, but you have to take ownership of your work."
She didn't say anything and was silent for almost half a minute.
"I am sorry, I didn't mean to do that, but it happened," Her tone was placid and calm, but Adarsh saw her hand gripped the armrest of her chair tightly.
Sensing the vexations on her face, he pulled his chair beside her. "Aarti! See you are my only friend in my life. But in the matters of work we need to be honest in dispensing our duties. You have never experienced the temper of Tarun. He castigated me many times in front of the team. I don't want you to be in my position. Tell me one thing, as a friend don't I have the right to think good about you?"
"Why are you talking like that? You've every right to point out my mistakes, I like your honesty," she replied, her tone still morose.
"I know you're already running on a bad day. For today, you relax. I will try fixing those bugs. Try looking at it when you feel like doing. But in the evening don't forget to give me an hour of your time..."
She nodded and said - "Sure, But tell me what you are going to do? See if it is for dinner, then I am not going to come."
"It is not going to be dinner."
"It's a surprise. I will only tell you… sorry, I will show you in the evening..." he pulled his chair back to his desk and got engrossed in his work.
Noon has arrived. Adarsh and Aarti slipped into the in-house cafeteria to have their lunch.
"What did you bring for me today?" Adrash said.
"Aloo Paratha with green chutney," she replied and gave him the lunch box.
Every day she used to speak about some or the other kinds of stuff but today she was completely silent.
"Aarti, this paratha is delicious. You made me remember my mother…"
It worked. A faint smile surfaced on her face, but she didn't speak anything.
"Adarsh, Tarun asked me to meet him after lunch," said Aarti.
"I don't know, but I think he is going to ask me regarding the Wednesday blunders."
"Don't worry, he will not say anything," said Adarsh.
"Umm… I hope so."
"The food is delicious," he said, stuffing his mouth a small piece of paratha. "Why don't you teach me cooking?"
Once again she began her silent treatment and didn't speak anything all the time while having her food.
"I don't understand this girl. No matter how much I try to pull her out of the bad mood, like a proverbial bad penny it keeps returning. It's better I don't disturb her till evening…" Adarsh thought and continued with his lunch.
To be continued...