For all the stories in this series visit Diaries of a confused graduate
Finally, my life was looking up. After months of jobless despair, loneliness and near depression, there was light at the end of the tunnel. It was my first day at Extentia, and seated at the reception I looked outside pensively. On one side, rose the imposing facade of the CST railway terminus, and at the other end of my panoramic view was Mumbai`s grandest ornament – the Queen`s necklace .That December morning, the skies were clear, with a slight nip in the air, and I nervously checked my watch yet again. The stars of good fortune had shone down on me. A few more weeks of unemployment, and I would have had no choice but to pack my bags and head back to my native town.
Just then, the door to the HR cabin jerked open and a smart, busty girl in her mid twenties walked towards me.
“Hi! This is Shivani. We have spoken over phone before”, she said with a smile
I gathered my bearings and offered my best handshake. Wow, I thought to myself. A good pay package, a joining bonus , an office at Nariman Point and add to that, a busty HR. This was the dream. I was like a homeless destitute two weeks back looking for crumbs to feed on, and here I was being served a full meal with dessert.
Over the next one hour, Shivani explained the firm`s policies in excruciating detail. I sat stiff, barely stirring, looking straight at her face, and not daring to lower my eyes.
“Put yourself at ease. You know, you have joined at the perfect time. Not only do you get a joining bonus, but also our usual year end bonus. You owe me treat.”, she said grinning.
“So, that was a briefing on the company`s policies. Any questions “, she asked. I nodded a no.
“Let me introduce you to your team lead ” she said while leading me out of her cabin.
As I walked through the lobby, I got my first look at the workplace. The decor was bright and colorful, and the people seemed genial.
Predominantly male, I noted. But I did spot a few chicks who having put on just the right amount of winter weight, seemed to be at the pinnacle of their youthful beauty. Before I realized it, we had reached my team lead`s cabin.
“Hi! Meet Akash – who will be your team lead and manager”, introduced Shivani.
“Akash is an IITian, who was previously based out of our US office”, she continued.
Impressive, I thought. What a contrast to Basu.
As Shivani walked away, I saw Akash`s eyes flick and linger. He recovered swiftly, but it was too late. Being a veteran myself, I knew all about that. My new team lead had just checked out Shivani`s ass as she walked out. And he knew that I knew. I gave him a half smile, telling him telepathically that I was totally cool with this. No words were exchanged, but the ice had broken and a perfect rapport had been established.
“So, lets talk about you…”, began Akash.
Over the next couple of weeks, I slowly settled down. Being December, work was light. Those days “CSR” or, Corporate Social Responsibility was a fad in the IT industry. Extentia too did a fair share of CSR. The firm had a special programme , ‘Udaan’, to help under-privileged children.
“As you all know, we take CSR very seriously, here”, said Shivani.
It was Christmas Eve and the entire office had gathered at the cafeteria for a special announcement. Behind Shivani , was a poster of a young school girl running with a kite against the backdrop of a blue sky, with a punchline – Udaan: A ticket to freedom
“Let us brighten the lives of those less fortunate than us. We are planning to visit an old age home today evening and spend some time with the people there. So, who is up for it ?”
A whole load of hands shot up. Half of them , I suspect were for more for Shivani than the old age home visit.
The residents of the old age home were delighted to see us. It was a welcome change from their routine lives, spent in the lonely memories of days gone by and with little to look forward to in the future. These happy moments were the things they lived for. For next four hours, we brought the place to life. We decorated the home and set up an X`mas tree in the common verandah. We lit small lamps in every nook and corner. We distributed blankets, hearing aids and served them a special meal. Post dinner, we proceeded to entertain the inmates with whatever we could. Some of us could sing well, one played the guitar, and one of my colleagues was an excellent mimic and stand up comedian. In a fitting finale, Shivani madam herself decided to get into the act. She showed a few salsa steps, and the old farts came back from the dead. Forces were unleashed, gates were opened. Ok, I guess those were more of my own feelings.
It was 10 pm, when we left the old age home. I found myself walking down a dark, narrow lane to get the nearest rail station from where I would catch a local to Andheri.
“O saab”, boomed a voice in the darkness
I whirled around to see a poor man with matted hair and torn clothes, looking at me pleadingly. I remembered my teacher once again – give them food, not money.
“Would you like to eat something ?” , I asked.
“Nahi saab. I had a sumptuous dinner” he said, burping to emphasize his point.
I extended a ten ruppee towards him. He appeared hesitant.
“What happened ?”, I asked
“Could please buy me a ticket ?”
“What ticket ?”
He pointed to my right, quite amazed that I had missed such an important landmark.
Then I saw it – crammed into the lane, almost invisible, stood proudly a theater for adult movies.
The poster announced a movie “Ek raat ki chandni” with an appetising image of a couple wrapped in a blanket, daring us to imagine our wildest fantasies. I awoke to the situation I found myself in : a beggar had just asked me to buy him a ticket for a porn movie.
It was then that I had one of those special conversations with my deeper, spiritual self.
“What the hell”, I said
“No big deal. Just buy him the ticket”, said my inner voice.
“Are you kidding me.. buying a porn ticket for a beggar ?”
I turned to the beggar and said
“Hey, I can give you food, clothes…”
“No, the ticket will be just fine.” he said impatiently
My inner voice piled on the pressure.
“That`s his ticket to freedom. Go ahead and buy him one. Let him celebrate Xmas with an Xmovie.”
Eloquently put. Ticket to freedom. Wasn`t that what the day was all about.
I stepped up to the dimly lit ticket counter, and bought a ticket. The beggar accepted it gleefully. I rushed out without waiting to hear his kind words of gratitude at my act of charity