The Last day
For the first time in my eternity, I thank that I am not a girl. No, I am not gender-biased. Never. These corporate policies would have issued me a pink slip if the omnipresent human resource department would penetrate my thoughts. So, let me submerge this belief in my tiny brain.
Today is her last day. My maniac friend Mandy’s. She will not be around afterwards. I am going to miss her terribly.
Not only because she is a dear friend, but she is an unrivalled gossip monger and a true entertainer. This hysterical job in a multimillion telecom giant does not leave much room for free time indulging in gossips. Never did I get participants as her. I am not a great entertainer either. The only available leisure is spent in self-pitying and nagging. She is my source of energy. The zest that relinquishes away the mundane lethargy of corporate.
Mandy – Mandira is enjoying the last working day, fulfilling her formalities of clearance from multiple departments and wrapping up. She is packing her stuff from the pedestal drawers. She is talking ceaselessly to everyone. Her thrill is apparently overstated. She is usually talkative. But this behaviour is dramatized.
And why not?
Our manager is also collecting his belongings after all. Mr Anil Choubey, head of the prepaid promotional department. He is going as well. Leaving. Forever! Anil’s is a different story but affiliated. He is the one who induced the pathetic thought of ‘I not being a girl is good’.
4 months back
“Good Morning Anil,” Mandy greeted carelessly. Though not a dominating boss, Anil was good at sarcasm. Fairly enough to provoke people like me. Not Mandy.
Anil expected all policies being followed, no bend, come what may. And at times tad loud to scare the subordinates. His persona diverged from coldness.
He raised his eyebrows. “Good Afternoon Mandira, it is already noon, I would not like to assume that you are late today. Are you?” The demeanour towards Mandy had changed in past two-three months.
“No, of course not, just that I did not realize the time while I had my head and heart buried in the estimation of this new project,” Mandy replied the truth, with just an iota of exaggeration. True to her nature.
He asked her for the PPT to be prepared and sent to him by end of the day. He had a big meeting within a week and onus to impress the clients was on his weak shoulders. Mandy nodded and winced in disgust the moment he turned his back. He left addressing a handful of colleagues primarily ladies and young lads but ignoring me. I was never among his favourites. Not even worth his notice. Never mind. Work will speak out loud one day and will defeat adulation.
I and Mandy were sitting on the lunch table along with Chitra. She was a canvas designer. Designing the promotions strategy and designs on boards and charts for the digital team was her job. And what a wonderful job she was doing. She joined us four months back. A gorgeous girl, just perfect for luring numerous clients. Anil was swooning over her charms from the instant she met him in his cabin for the interview. His greedy salivating eyes could not escape Mandy’s keen observation. And she did not stop to enlighten me with her observation too. She was a keen observer. He remarked one day, “I can judge wolves camouflaging as a sheep.” Self-aggrandizer but correct to some extent!
Chitra was complaining about how Anil was pushing her hard to accompany him to an outdoor promotional event. She had been refusing politely, but it was getting difficult to shun him. Mandy cracked a joke, “Kick him in his rear with your five inch sharp heals, take some benefit of the accessories, else what is the point in investing in these expensive shoes, my dear.” We all had a hearty laugh which should be sufficient to drive Anil crazy who was sitting with another high profile manager two tables ahead. Anil was always ahead. In promotions, in flattery. Alas! In thinking and planning. But in crediting himself the brilliant work too. That was the irony.
We started making plans for Chitra’s rescue. I had developed a soft corner for Chitra. I could not rescue myself from her bewitching exquisiteness.
Mandy did not get the long deserved promotion. A few weeks later when the promotions were e-mailed, Mandy’s name was missing. She lost her usual wits. She probably had a heated argument. The complete floor was the alibi of the cacophony.
Mandy slammed the door of Anil’s cabin with clenched fists. She was blabbering curses to policies. I expected her to come and do a post-mortem of the disaster with me. But contradictory to Mandy’s ‘Modus Operandi’, she did not explode in front of me. I texted her, “Chill and calm down, we would revenge Anil!” Whatsapp was not allowed theoretically. Courtesy Anil.
Mandy did not reply for hours. She was not even in her seat. When she did, Mandy just burst my growing bubble of revenge in one seamless blow. She replied, “I am fine. Thanks.” Where did the anger vanish?
Later that day, during the lunch break, she did not join us: me and Chitra. She texted, she would take her lunch later. She never discussed her fugitive promotion with us. She was aloof for a few days, not like her real self.
Something was boiling inside her. She was not a secretive person. I waited to know, when would the boiling point rupture.
The last day – again
We are in the office cafeteria, ready to perform the ritual. A send-off cake cutting party for Mandy followed by a farewell card signed by the team for her. Anil is not invited. He can’t be. Nor are we having a send-off ceremony for him. He does not deserve one. We give a farewell to only those who have resigned. Not to the terminated bosses. Sardonic!
Once the ritual gets over with parting notes and good wishes, I get to snatch her to a corner, away from deserting crowd. I could not stop my wicked idea to have a last bit of gossip with her. With a little prologue, Mandy handed me a pen drive.
“This has all those worthy PPTs I created for Mr Pot-belly-barren-head, he was not worth for. You will get lots of ideas from this as this has some unpublished work too, my ideas on promotional plans for prepaid connections. Some of them are already discussed, but I have given a different layer of garnish to the stale junk.” Her love for food often finds a space in her conversation. I will also miss her awesome and drool-worthy lunch recipes.
“There are ideas which will ring brilliantly to the management.” Mandy is always an office smart person. Her only fault is, she was working with a bad manager who was influential. Also, she is not a 9-6 job person. She always supports free will. Non-restrictive work. Creative, of sorts!
I am awed with the consideration of passing on her hard work to me, which could have led her to climb the ladder two steps at a time. Anyways, she is leaving us and BuzzCom in pursuit of creativity.
The mention of PPTs instantly reminds me of the day Mandy and Chitra kicked Anil’s rear. Virtually! They spared Chitra’s high heeled expensive shoes. I smile victoriously at her. She catches the hint and winks at me playfully.
3 months back
The boardroom was bustling with many foreign faces. Mandy started tagging them with names for me. She knew many who’s who of the organization. And the clients too. She was a lot senior to me. Four years, to speak exactly.
These so-called big shots were the key to a new ambitious launchpad idea. The prepaid team was working with a high profile cable network to develop a mutual deal on TV programs transmission over our spectrum using their instruments. This was not a pioneer idea on its own but was yet an untouched territory for BuzzCom.
Ubiquitous Anilwas standing on the makeshift dais. Trying to look sanguine but failing. Fidgeting with his hands, and a stiff neck, he was waiting to start his to-be benchmark presentation. Mandy’s presentation rather. My contribution was nothing more than gathering all stats and compiling facts about the competitors. A quarter share may be…
When everyone settled down, Anilintroduced all the visitors and clients to us. Mandy was introduced as a team member. He did not bother to mention her crucial role in that proposal and prior accomplishments. I was out of the question. He knew, how to outshine others by dimming their sparkles. He introduced Chitra as one of the smartest and valuable employees. Beauty won over.
Vis-à-vis representation, he stumbled restlessly. Many times. Whenever questioned, he managed to answer a few of them. Most of the hiccups were covered by Mandy. Some were smoothened by me. Over the last slide, while he was thanking ceaselessly, all eyes were fixed on him and emitted a doubtful gesture.
“So, the proposal is feasible and innovative. But it seems you haven’t done your homework enough.” Some parts of the PPT looked a bit alien to me too. When one of the top-notch officers questioned him savagely on the figures, his face flushed and Anil stammered with unconvincing answers.
“Let me answer your valuable query on Anil’s behalf…” Mandy rescued him or rather exploited the situation in her favour.
A commanding voice helped Anil understand all the debatable looks, “The slide says, Innovated by Mandira.” D.P. was not just anybody. He headed the northern belt of BuzzCom in our state.
“But this is my brainchild, D.P. Mandira is a team member only.” Anil tried to usurp the situation. No luck this time.
I made a lot of efforts to control my giggle. It was as if, I was restless due to a twitch in my sole inside the shoes but could not scratch it because I was standing in a big gathering. Yet, a stifled chuckle made its way from my hoarse throat.
The egregious fact that there was a watermark depicting ‘Innovated by Mandira’ in the last slide was the biggest surprise element among many unanticipated changes in the slides. Faint enough to be missed from a closer look but fair enough to be noticed from afar. How did it happen absconding Anil’s observant eyes, was not elucidating the matter.
When I looked at Mandy, she shrugged at me and elbowed Chitra. Ladies! They were unapologetically revengeful.
Next day, Mandy received her promotion letter. I was also appreciated a lot and was nominated for ‘Pat on back’ award worth a half month’s salary. It was a pleasant surprise after a dry spell of no awards or appreciation for two years from when Anil joined our department as the head.
After lots of probing and bribing, the ladies revealed the secret over a fussy fancy lunch celebration at a hip hop restaurant near-by.
“Chitra provoked Anil three days back and took him out for coffee yesterday. When he left his cabin unattended for almost half an hour, it was a time enough for me to replace the PPT on his laptop.” Mandy was excited about being Sherlock Holmes.
“But this was risky. And how did you access his laptop?” I started sweating in the plush Air conditioned dining hall. There was no wrinkle on the faces of these fearless ladies. “It could have cost you lots of interrogation and your job even.”
“It was worth the risk,” Chitra added in her honey coated husky voice, batting her lashes and curling her lips to a pout. She could lure anyone with her gestures. And Anil was of low character, he could never resist her charms.
“I had the help of an IT team member. A girl who too was a victim of his desirous offers like Chitra. She helped crack open his laptop. I hinted his boss also. He was looking to catch him with proof after multiple complaints. He was our plan B.” Ladies laughed their hearts out.
“I kept him busy for the whole time after our delusional coffee date by chatting on phone and communicator. He had to miss the final assuring look on the PPT.” Chitra added, I felt jealous.
But the now-welcoming office was a respite.
2 months back
“Are you out of your mind? How can you even think of resignation?” I screamed at her from the bottom of my throat. The waiters in the coffee shop raised their eyebrows. The staff behind the counters must be tagging me as a chauvinist.
A few customers sitting around turned their heads and threw a disgusted look at me.
She smirked. She must be weaving something inside her. Mandy was not among those to keep things under wraps. Spill it out Mandy dear! She dug her head into her orange tote bag. I bet, a lady’s bag could be a mystery. Full of oddities and carrying tons of useless stuff.
She brought out a tablet in a snap. That was quick. The screen flickered on her touch and came alive. Mandy swiped a few screens, tapped here and there and moved the tablet towards me. There was a stunning pic of food platter. My eyes savoured it. I felt a pang of hunger.
We were in a coffee shop which used to serve wonderful sandwiches and cheese pops. Mandy ordered them for both of us gauging my starving eyes, she knew me well. Food was indispensably a liking for my life.
“I used to write a food blog which died with time and responsibilities three years back. I have revived it once again. Since the last six months, I am posting more recipe and I am getting an enthusiastic response. But, the fiasco that happened two months back, I planned to give a different turn to my career.”
“Clarify and enlighten me please Ms Mandira. What are you trying to convey, is bouncing beyond my mediocre mind?” My inquisitiveness was at the pinnacle at that moment.
“It does not fall into the category of the rudimentary blogs. Since my blog is just not a food journal or another bunch of recipes thrown along, but each recipe has a narrative weaved around it, that stroke is different. A history of a spice, an incident knitted around a recipe or similar interesting fiction supporting the recipe, the blog has a high hit rate.”
“I approached a few publishers and one of them recognized the potential. It targets two sets of readers: story lovers and people interested in cookery books. The book will be out in approximately five to six more weeks.”
I was astonished. Ambivalence gripped me. I felt amazed instantly and doubtful afterwards. Mandy might be chasing an illusion. “Why did you decide for the book suddenly?”
“You remember the day, I had a heated argument with Anil, the promotion letters disaster, that was the decisive point.”
“Resolve the ambiguity. Make yourself more comprehensible.” My voice got shaky barely hiding my vexation.
That day in his cabin, Anil cursed me in his venomous tone, “You are looking for the best of both the worlds which is your problem. I suggest you keep working your usual stuff in this organization to keep the cash flow for your life. But take good care of your family and home like you are doing. You are not destined to give more than current efforts. So be it, just enjoy what you are doing and getting. Good luck Mandy.”
I was gawking at her, how was she calm after that. This was enough to agitate a hard-working and bright employee.
“So I showed the potential with my proposal. I bagged the promotion too. This was the hardest slap I could give him. But I realized, whatever potential I had, I was more inclined towards writing and recipes. Riding on the same wave is not possible forever. Its life is short. You need to have a new wave every few whiles. And writing my food encounters gives me a new spirit all the time. This would keep me away from the poisonous politics and stress of corporate which in my view is heinous for the personal life.”
I could not deny what she said. They said it so correct – ‘Do what you love and love what you do’. She followed this saying. She was an avid reader and an excellent writer. She was a chef and innovator of recipes. She was not chasing the illusion but filling colours in a transparent image.
2 weeks back
Mandy had a sample copy in her hand titled – ‘Aroma of food encounters’. Just two more weeks. She would be a published writer then. A dream for many, truth for Mandira now.
Her face had a new radiance of success. Or maybe confidence. No. It was content. Yes, content. Her eyes were bright but calm. Her usual gossips were influenced by better jokes now.
Everyone in the small team of six was praising her and wishing her luck. We all started bonding well after the PPT saga and came to know, Anil spared no one from his bossiness.
In the middle of this happy time, I received a WhatsApp message – ‘Anil is fired’. I instantly felt a surge of energy. Many other phones beeped. How, when, why? Everyone started discussing this. Heads turned in unison to my left. Anil’s cabin was not lit since morning.
“Let us go for a cup of tea to the roadside vendor,” Mandy chuckled, “and do the postmortem there.”
Anyways, it was a little early for lunch but the perfect time for tea. We ordered tea and coffee for all of us to the friendly vendor.
I looked at Mandy with suspicious looks. A cunning smile danced on her face. Her eyes glinted in mischief. There, her PPT game did not end months back. I started guessing. But why was I kept aloof in this plan?
Entered Chitra from the far end, “Got the news guys? Want to know the truth? All of you have suffered at the hands of ‘Pot-belly-barren-head’. Isn’t it?”
All nodded and agreed simultaneously.
“Well, when I was trapping Anil during the bogus coffee date before the epic presentation day, I recorded all his desirous advice and the proposal to accompany his outdoor visits. He was not suspicious for a single second. It looked dramatic to me. Shoulders flinched and my eyes twitched with hesitant. But this was the only available path at that moment.” Chitra revealed.
“This was kept confidential among me, Chitra, his boss and the IT girl as this was a sensitive decision. His boss demanded so.” Mandy said and looked at me. Did she read my mind moments earlier? She knew I would not complain.
“But his termination had been delayed for more than three months, wasn’t that long?” Someone was furious.
“The analysis of the recording was done for authenticity by management and statements were collected from many. You might all have filled an anonymous survey also for your up-line managers a few weeks ago. HR received a pathetic survey result for him via the survey. There was no stopping after that.” Chitra floored me with the way she explained to us. She was a good combination of beauty and brain if not perfect.
Everyone was cheerful and an enthusiastic chap even started planning for two weeks long leave. He could not go for a vacation for quite a long time. We retreated to the lovely office to enjoy the assured commotion.
The cabin was still dark.
A new foundation
Someone snaps beautiful sleek fingers in front of my dreamy eyes. I drift back to reality from my reminiscences of the last 3 months. Chitra smiles at me and offers for the last lunch with Mandy in the same nearby restaurant where they revealed the truth of the PPT catastrophe.
Mandy is going for a book promotion event in the libraries and major bookstores for one full week from tomorrow. She is going to have not just a busy life like ours but an interesting too.
While leaving for another memorable lunch, we turn back and glance at the cabin.
The cabin is dimly lit today. Inside is the silence of the morgue. Boss must be dealing with his pack up. Who knows if a legal action is also on its way? Now that he has been terminated on the grounds of harassment and lobbying against work ethics, he has only one path to choose. Self-pity! His employment would be ceased in any telecom or similar organization by the Cyber Police. Served him well.
While having a scrumptious lunch, I asked Mandy is she is planning to write anything new soon.
‘Riding on the same wave is not possible forever. Its life is short. You need to have a new wave every few whiles.’
Quoting this again, Mandy chuckled and said, “After 3 months, I am planning to write about the adventure of a trio against their tyrant boss.”
We all had a roaring laugh.