Thursday, June 7, 2012

Woman and Wine

“Well done, Sam,” Anand congratulated Samarth as the next round of drinks started at the party. Late night parties at the small but efficient Life Insurance company office in Kolkata were a norm. But tonight was a special night for Sam.

It was the first time he had been felicitated, that too by the Zonal head, for achieving 150% of his allotted target for the quarter. One and a half times the target in a private life insurance firm was no joking matter. Sam had finally proved that the company’s decision to transfer him from the small town office of Asansol to Kolkata was the right one. 
Another reason why Sam was happy to come to Kolkata was Aparna.
Aparna Bose was the operations executive at his office. Even when he was posted at Asansol as the branch head, it was Aparna who processed his client’s policy documents. All communication that he did with the Regional Office was via Aparna. Sam still remembered the day when Aparna had called him for the first time, on her first day in the office.

“Good morning sir. This is Aparna Bose calling from the Regional Office,” Aparna had said.
“Good morning, Aparna. I don’t remember speaking to you before. New recruit?” Sam had asked.
“Yes sir. I joined today in Operations. Just thought I should introduce myself to all branch heads first.”
“Well, good. Hope to meet you soon. All the best to you! Do well!”
“Thank you sir.”
“There’s no need to be so formal, Aparna. Call me Sam. Being called Sir makes me feel very old, which I am not, by the way.”
Aparna had given a short laugh and had said goodbye before hanging up. The next day she had called him, to thank him.
“And what have I done to deserve this gratitude from you?” Sam had asked.
“I talked to all other branch heads of the region sir, er.. I mean Sam, but all others had a tone of superiority in their voice. Their response was typical of what a newbie gets in a private firm. You were the only one who made me comfortable.”

Since then they had become good friends, talking often on the phone. They met the first when Sam had to go to regional office for addressing a client complaint. That was when Sam had seen that Aparna was actually as beautiful as her voice was sweet.

At Asansol, Sam surpassed all targets given to him. His rewards came when he was promoted to head a team of sales executives at Kolkata office. Since then he had not looked back. Once at Kolkata he had flourished. His skills with the clients and his work ethic made him a favourite, both with the clients and his bosses.

He also got to hang out with Aparna face to face. She turned out to be a great friend. They would meet even on some weekends for a movie or a cup of coffee. He loved the way she was able to totally zone out her work life once she was not in office. She had this wonderful quality of making everyone around her feel important and loved but at the same time not let anyone intrude into her personal life. She was fiercely protective of her privacy. For instance, she would never let anyone, even Sam-who was now her best friend- near her cell phone.

Within a couple of months of his transfer to Kolkata, Sam realized he had started developing feelings for Aparna. He knew she liked him too, but wasn’t sure if it had turned into love, just like it had with him.
He was going to tell her tonight. Congratulatory greetings from all the staff had come to an end. Dinner had been served. Once it ended, everyone started making their way home. Aparna had asked Sam to drop her home that day, so once the party was over, the two of them drove off in his car.
The moment had arrived. She was sitting beside him looking outside the window,watching the shops close down as the city prepared to tuck in for another night’s sleep. Sam was nervous. He decided to say it one go.
“Aparna, I have started liking you a lot,” Sam blurted it all out, while trying to keep his hands steady at the steering wheel.
He looked sideways at Aparna. He didn’t know if she had understood what he was trying to say, but one look at her told him that she had. She had turned red, and had turned all serious, a far cry from the playful face she was sporting just a few moments ago.

“Well..,” Sam pressed on, hoping for some kind of a response.
“Sam,” Aparna said, “I have never thought of you like that. I think you are my best friend. Nothing more than that. In fact I am engaged to be married”
“Oh,” Sam somehow came up with a word in mouth; Aparna last words had given him a knockout punch. “Don’t you think I should’ve known this already if I am your best friend?”
“Oh, Sam I’m so sorry, but I hadn’t told anyone this. You are the first one I’m sharing this with. Please Sam, I hope you can understand. I still want you as my best friend.”

“Hey, Its ok,” Sam replied, trying to sound calm although he was far from it. Aparna then told him that the marriage had been fixed almost a month ago. The groom-to-be was a doctor practicing in England. Sam didn’t ask much; it was Aparna who was just opening up. Sam wondered whether he should be happy about the fact that she thought him to be close enough to tell all this, or be sad that he was just the guy she selected to pass her time when her fiancĂ© was away in England.

About a month later
Sam had since tried to move on. He had cut down on his conversations with Aparna, trying to focus on his job. She had noticed it too, and had tried to ask him why this change had occurred. But Sam just dodged the question. He was upset that he had just been a guy to take her around without any knowledge that she was just keeping herself occupied till her wedding. Of course, he never told her this. In fact he was surprised, that Aparna was the one now who was now trying her best to get close to him. She would ask him if he was free to go out for a coffee, or a movie. He turned down all these advances, surprised at the sudden change in her behavior, and wondering what the poor guy in England would feel about all this. Obviously, Aparna didn’t seem to care.

With time, she started complaining to Sam. “You don’t pay attention to me anymore like you used to” was her normal complaint. ‘Yes I don’t, you stupid girl, because there is someone else you have chosen to do that! How many guys do you want around you?’ was what normally Sam would think of saying, but never did.

This formal friendship continued for some weeks. Aparna kept at her complaints, trying to get a proper reply out of Sam, but Sam kept his distance, speaking with her only if it was needed. He was going on a one week leave soon. His friends had arranged a trip to Goa and it was the perfect way for Sam to put this in the past.

Goa was a welcome break. The sun, the sands and the booze helped Sam forget about his job and Aparna for 7 whole days. On the penultimate night however, he made the mistake of drinking a little too much. His friends lifted him up and dropped him on his bed as he was too drunk to walk. Just before he passed out, he had a crazy idea. It was something he would repent when he would wake up the next day. Taking hold of his cellphone, he sent a message to Aparna. It said: Aparna, I fucking love you!

The day he joined his office after the trip, he was surprised to find that no one was talking to him. No one wished him as he entered, Aparna totally ignored him, no one came into his cabin regarding any matter, official or otherwise. Even during lunch, when he was normally joined by the Debashish, the Zonal sales head and his colleagues, he was alone.

In the afternoon, things hadn’t improved. Sam then called his subordinate, Akash into his office. Akash entered, looking apprehensive and checking at the door if he was seen by anybody coming into Sam’s room.
“I want you tell me exactly what is going on here,” Sam asked as soon as he came in.
“Look, I don’t want to get into trouble Sam”, Akash started but Sam interrupted him. “That’s an order.”
Akash fell silent. He began. “A couple of days ago Boss came in looking all worked up and angry. As soon as he came in, he asked everybody to assemble in the conference room. He didn’t even enter his cabin. In there, he told us that Samarth has done something terrible and no one will speak to him once he comes back, else he will throw that person out.”
“Did Aparna say something?” Sam asked.
“Aparna?? She was on leave that day. She called in sick.”
Akash left. Sam hadn’t thought that Aparna would be so upset that she would call his boss to complain.

When he couldn’t take it anymore, he went into Debashish’s cabin, where he found him sitting with others sharing a light joke.
“Debashish, can I talk to you for a second?” Sam asked as the room turned silentt. Debashish came out into the lobby with him, and Sam asked what was going on.
“How could you, Sam?” Deb said in suppressed anger. “How could send such a message to Aparna?” Sam realized what he was talking about. “I didn’t expect this from you. I was aghast when I saw the message on her cellphone. It was me who instructed everyone to completely ignore you today. Thank God that you are a performer, or I would have thrown you out of this office!!”

Sam waited till Deb had finished. He hadn’t been prepared for this. He hadn’t expected Aparna to complain to his boss about it. But he was ready to face the consequences. He had started hating Aparna and in general girls like her, who would use guys as time-pass options till the time they got married.
“Ok, Deb I admit I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have sent her that message. But do you even want to know my end of the story?”
“I don’t see any kind of justification you can give for this Sam,” Deb retorted.
“I know that and I am not justifying my act. But just remember this Deb that you can’t clap with one hand.”
Deb’s expression turned into a curious one. “You mean to say Aparna had something to do with this too? What is it, tell me?”
“No,” Sam replied. “I won’t tell you now. Now that you have said that you would have fired me, I will quit this job myself. And the day I quit, I will tell you why I sent that message.”
He left Deb and went back to his cabin, leaving his boss with the prospect of losing his best employee.

Sam went back to his cabin and called one of his friends. He hadn’t told anyone that he already had a job offer in hand. Rival insurance companies had also noticed Sam’s meteoric rise. He had been happy until now at his current job, so he had not found it necessary to shift. But today he did. He asked his friend to convey to his company that he was ready to accept their offer.
As he kept his phone down, he had a thought. He looked up from his desk across to the desk where Aparna was sitting. She got up with a couple of files she had processed and went into Deb’s cabin. She still hadn’t spoken to him today. It was as she came back to her desk that he realized what was going on.

Sam normally left office at 7. But today he stayed back. He watched everyone as they left for their respective homes. Deb was still in his cabin. Once he made sure everyone had left, he stood up and headed for Deb’s room. On the way he passed by Aparna’s desk. He saw what he needed to see.

He knocked on Deb’s door. There was noise of frantic shuffling inside and few seconds later, Deb opened the door. He had bolted it from the inside.
“You!!”, Deb said in an irritated tone. “What do you want? Didn’t I make my point clear in the afternoon when I said that I’ll speak with you only on official matters now??”
“I know that, sir”, Sam replied, stressing on the last word, which made Deb take notice. “I’m only here to ask you one question.”
“What is it?”
“Well I was just wondering”, Sam said. “In the afternoon, you said that you were ‘aghast’ when you saw my message on her cellphone. Aparna used to be my best friend before all this happened. And she never let me have a look at her phone. So how did you see my message on her cellphone in the middle of the night?? And I say that because I know that you couldn’t have seen it the next day because Aparna was on leave. And you ordered the others not to talk to me the moment you arrived the next day.”
The colour had left Deb’s face. He blurted out, “I never said I saw the message. Aparna..she.. she called me.”
“No sir,” Sam said calmly. “I clearly remember you saying that you saw it.”
“So what?”, Deb said. “What do you want to prove?? What is this all about?”
“Just one more thing and you will know what this is all about”, Sam said and took out his phone. He dialed a number and showed it to Deb. The display on the phone said: Calling Aparna. Almost immediately, a phone rang inside Deb’s washroom.
While coming in, Sam had seen Aparna’s bag at her table. He knew she hadn’t left.
 “So I guess you are the doctor from England she is engaged to”, Sam said as Deb had completely gone white. “Or did she use that line to trap you in too??”
Sam took out a white envelope from his pocket. It contained his resignation letter. He handed it to Deb and walked towards the door, leaving a stunned, stuttering Deb to deal with Aparna.
As he reached the door, he dialed another number and showed it to Deb. The display said: Calling Debashish Home

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


“She broke up with me...”, Jatin said, in a painful voice.

“I broke up with him. But God it was horrible...”, Shipra said, in a frustrated tone.

Mukul and Jyotika, their best friends were sitting with Jatin and Shipra at their respective homes, trying to find a way to pacify their best friends, although for different reasons. Jatin was heartbroken, the love of his life had just shattered his heart into tiny little pieces. Shipra, on the other hand, was frustrated, angry and shocked by the events of the day.

“Cool down bro”, Mukul said. “She was never your type anyway. You’ll get someone better. I had always warned you about her. Time to move on yaar. Cheer up!”

“I really thought she was the one, you know. Am I such a loser? And to think, I even told my parents about her!” Jatin groaned.

“YOU TOLD YOUR PARENTS??” Mukul exclaimed out loud.

“HE TOLD HIS PARENTS?!?” Jyotika exclaimed out loud as Shipra told her the same news.
“He is such an idiot! We had an understanding that we won’t involve our parents till we were committed”, Shipra shrieked in anger.

“So is that why you broke up with him?” Jyotika asked.

“No. It was just that I couldn’t bear him anymore. I mean, one needs her boyfriend to be romantic, but not over the top! I was tired of getting 10 messages a day on my phone about love. I was tired of conversations which were only romantic in nature and nothing else!”

“I tried to be as caring as possible. I used to send her nice messages. I was never rude while talking to her. I don’t know why she decided to end it...”, Jatin wept. “That too on a day when I proposed..”

“YOU WHAT?!?” Mukul jumped. “You proposed to her?”

“Yeah. And I had planned it so well. I decided on the most romantic of locations to ask her the question. That was when I told my parents too. They really liked her anyways. They had known her family for a long time. So they were really happy for me. But everything went so so wrong..”

“So you broke up on a day when he was proposing to you?” Jyotika asked Shipra.

“I didn’t know he was going to propose!! He had asked me to meet him yesterday and I went. I had already made up my mind to tell him. And wasn’t it better that I told him? It would have been so much worse if I had said yes and then broken up later”, Shipra tried to justify herself.

“But why did you wait till he popped the question?”, Jyotika asked. “You should have said it as soon as you saw him. It would have saved you the situation that followed.”

“I know”, Shipra said, quite animatedly. “I should have done that. It was just that he started talking all romantically again and I just couldn’t find the apt time to say it.”

“So what exactly happened?” Mukul and Jyotika asked their respective friend.

“Well”, Jatin started. “I had told my parents the previous day about her. I had also told them that I was planning to propose to her the next day. Mom was a little perturbed by the load of so much news in a half an hour, but Dad egged me on to do it in the best possible way.
I decided to take her to the outskirts of the city. There is this really beautiful lake about 50 km from here. I thought it would be the perfect spot to ask her the most important question of my life. So we met near the college in the morning. The weather was perfect. It was sunny but not very hot, a typical February morning. She came on time, although she looked a little restless. As always, I gave her a rose to cheer her up.”

“I will never be able to bear the smell of a rose for the rest of my life!” Shipra yelled. “‘My dear, I promise you that I will give you a rose whenever we go out together, I love you so much’”, she mimicked Jatin. “As if I needed another reason to break up with him!”

“And then”, Jatin continued as Mukul listened on,” we drove off to the lake. It took us about an hour and a half to reach there. We had lunch from a road side dhaba. I paid as always, I didn’t even let her touch her purse. We reached the lake where I had already made a reservation for a boat. I had paid the guy a little extra to make sure that the boat was cleaned well.

We set out into the lake. I didn’t want her to get tired, so I rowed the boat myself. After about half an hour, I stopped. We had calm, serene waters all around us. A gentle cool breeze was blowing. It was the perfect setting for a date.

She still seemed a little restless. I asked her if she was ok. She said she was. I started talking about how beautiful the setting was. She just nodded. I told her that we should come down here more often as it was such a romantic spot.”

“I felt like slapping him if he said another thing about romance”, Shipra told Jyotika. “Is having a relationship just about being romantic all the time? I wanted a more mature guy, who would have meaningful discussions with me about our future, not someone who just kept harping on about love!!”

“I wasn’t getting any kind of reaction from her”, Jatin continued, “So I decided to jump straight to the main topic. I took the ring out and hid it in my hand.

‘Shipra dear’, I said. ‘We have been seeing each other for almost an year now. You know almost everything about me. You have been my strongest support over the past few months and I love you very much. And today I am here to ask you if you feel the same way about me. I am here to ask you if you are willing to spend the rest of your life with me. Because I know that I would like to spend my life with you. So, Shipra Jain, will you marry me?’I asked her offering her the ring” 

“What was her reaction” Mukul asked Jatin

“What was your reaction?” Jyotika asked Shipra.

“I was stunned”, Shipra replied. “I was such a shock that the words just fell out. ‘WHAT!! NO!!’ That’s what I said. And what’s more, his words made me jump so suddenly that I lost my balance and fell into the water..”

“I was shocked by the answer”, Jatin said, sobbing. “After such good times together, how could she say that so rudely to my face? I was heartbroken. When I came back into my senses, Shipra was in the water, flapping hard to stay afloat. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back into the boat. She was shivering. So I took off my jacket and gave it to her. She said thanks in a muted tone.”

“I was stuck in there with him. Why did he have to say this on a boat?” Shipra said in a frustrated voice. “ Once I started feeling warm again, I pulled the courage to talk to him about it. But it was just a monologue.  I told him how I was feeling, what the problems were, and why I had said no. But he just sat there, silent. He didn’t look at me at all during all this. At last, once I felt I had justified my decision to him, I requested him that we row back and go home. He quietly grabbed the oars and started rowing back.”

“I couldn’t utter a single word”, Jatin explained to Mukul. “It was as if the ground had slipped beneath my feet. I just wanted to imagine that all this was a bad dream.”

“Hmmm, I understand yaar”, Mukul said.

“It must have been awkward though isn’t it?” Jyotika Said to Shipra. “Poor guy wouldn’t have expected it to end this way.”

Shipra gave a fake laugh. “Even I thought that I had had enough of embarrassments for a day when Jatin’s phone rang..”

“Whose call was it?” Jyotika asked.

“Who was it?” Mukul  asked Jatin

Shipra dug her face into the pillow and said, “It was Jatin’s dad. He said that he, Jatin’s mom, Jatin’s grandma, and Jatin’s sister were all standing near his car, waiting to welcome Shipra into their family..”

“OUCCHHH!!!” Both Mukul and Jyotika cried out in unison.