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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cityblog User Blog: Short Story

Is Everything Fair in Love and War?

On a gloomy day in August I think six to seven years back, we sat in the conference room of my office, to decide future with our company of an Employee whom I would refer to by the name of Napoleon . This name has a background. Background goes back to battle of Waterloo fought by Napoleon and British/Prussian forces under Wellington.

War Story goes like this:
Both Napoleon and Wellington knew that the wild card of the battle is Blucher’s Prussian Army. Napoleon knew that he will have troubles defeating both the British and the Prussians. Wellington knew as well, that if the Prussian Army does not come to rescue them, they will be defeated.
But Napoleon was faced with a dilemma and forced to make a tough decision. Two days before Waterloo, Napoleon won another battle. But his cavalry and infantry were tired, and the night before the battle, there was rain. Napoleon was faced with a decision to wade his army through mud and tire them during the early stage of the battle, or wait another day for the ground to try out. Waiting one more day meant risking Prussian reinforcement for the British Army.
In hindsight, his decision to wait was what cost him the battle, and the War eventually. After Waterloo, Napoleon never managed to regroup, as the defeat signaled the end of his era.

Coming Back to August day in our conference room. Napoleon was employed in our Admin department who was entrusted to create, supervise and submit time sheets to clients. There were many mistakes after first month of training and there were escalation from clients. We made him work under experienced admin guys but showed no sign of improvement after 3 months. We ask him what needs to be done to improve. But he said he does not have idea and would step down on his own if we want. We consent and there was end of association with Napoleon and my company. His wry smile all the while really made me intrigued and be perplexed as how some people can lose control over one’s life and take it so lightly.

Year passed by. I had an opportunity to buy new house. Shifting house is really a challenge. Lots of things to plan: Interiors, electrical wiring, electronic good purchase and setup, mattresses, sofas, TV sat connection, lighting, landscaping, power backup, security, and most important Internet connectivity. Now as they say there are four basic needs. Food , clothes, shelter and wifi. I had coordinated with a broadband company. The sales guy was supposed to meet me on Saturday. My wife and daughter had a day out with my wife’s friend. So was enjoying solitude with music, reading etc. Them the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find Napolean. He introduced himself as sales guy from broadband. I filled the forms, gave him the cheque and my house was promised to be wired by Monday.

I offered him tea. He consented. Over the cup of tea, I initialed a conversation just like “Chai pe charcha”.

My first question was : “Are you settled in this job and are you enjoying it?”
 Napoleon: “ No, I hate chasing clients and dance on their whims and fancy. After your company this is my third job in an year”
Me: “ so what do you want to do in future”
Napoleon: “No Idea”

There is a silence. Then I ask him
Me: “How was it in the past?”

Napoleon: “Its a big story which I don’t tell it to anyone. But now that you have asked and I feel comfortable with your tone. I feel you want to help me but its too late to correct things.”

I offered him another cup of tea with some snacks

Napoleon: “It all started at home. I was younger of two siblings born in typical conservative background. My father worked in bank and mother was a teacher. My elder Brother was studios and he was one of the top students in his class. Till very late in high school study was my last priority at school. I was out and out theatre personality. But it created problem at home. There were comparisons, taunts , advises and finally insults. One day it went off limts when they asked one of the family friends whom I used to hate, to guide me. Now things went beyond four of us. That day I decided to show my mettle. I studied hard. I was helped by few good friends and some excellent teachers. I used to figure in top students in school and in my first public exam in Xth, I topped in school. No one believed at home but they had to live with my success. There was lot of social publicity and I was marked for many bigger things in life. Meanwhile my brother had downwards curve in XII and had to enter private engineering college at some financial strain to family.

But then my life changed in XI th an year where people take things easy. I joined a prestigious private class in the city. And there I met her. I wont name her but lets call her Ms X. I was walking down the lobby outside class and there she comes dressed in lemon colored Kurta with Jeans. She did not have conventional looks but had personality, presence and confident air about her. She asked me to guide her with classroom number for a particular subject. I volunteered. We sat on the same bench which was allowed in the class. In school and colleges we had separate bench rows for boys and girls. We shared our names and contact details. She was good in sciences where as I was maths expert. We complimented. Along with couple of my male friends and her female friend, we formed a study group. It worked for all. Outside study we used to spend weekend at some food place, tourist places, events , movie/drama theaters in the city. Life was beautiful. And then came that day during vacations between XIth and XIIth. We accidentally bumped in Mumbai at the Dadar-Pune bus (popularly known as Asiad those days) terminal. I had to visit my aunt in Mumbai for family function. My brother had engineering submissions so he stayed in Pune while rest went to Mumbai. My parents had to further vist another relative in Thane . I had to be back for my classes. She came to visit some family friend in Mumbai. We bought adjacent tickets in the bus. That was the most romantic journey of my life. We shared our past, motivations. Plans for future. She wanted to enter IIMs and work at top companies. Her family was also conservative with father working as  senior engineer in a large auto unit and mother was in accounts department of a private company. She had no siblings. I shared my background , my home issues, plans to join engineering and work on innovating. I felt that journey should not end. Finally we got down opp to Engineering college. It was 7pm. I offered to go to a joint for some snacks and tea. She agreed. At the restaurant, I took my chance and told her that she had special status in my life. The summit point was she said even she had similar feelings for me. We parted that evening but we continued to meet, study hard for XII. Finally we ended XII exam. I also appeared for IIT entrance. Results were out both of us had good marks in Physics, Chemistry and Maths, giving us a chance at govt engineering colleges. Also I secured a rank (not in top 1500) compelling me to select some very odd speciality stream. But then came her decision to join top science college for BSC giving her time for MBA exams. I cracked up. I had to go to govt college but that one decision to join her in same course was surprise to all. Everyone tried to persuade me to join engineering. Some people laughed. Some were genuinely concerned. Even Ms X advised me to not to emulate her path. My family went berserk. But love is blind, deaf and dumb.

We continued in science college preparing for MBA entrance tests. She cracked CAT and was invited for GD and Interview by two IIMs. I failed. She joined IIM A while I had left with very few career options like masters etc or to do IT courses. Whole world went dark. All friends relatives, neighbors, society looked at me as a case study of a career wasted.

Then for two years, I did nothing. I decided to revolt against society. I spend lot of time trekking at forts, reading at library, swimming. Also joined small drama group. I used to write letters and call ms X. She most of the time was busy or unreachable. I went to her home during her break but I felt loss of chemistry in our conversation. I was further into darkness and emptiness. Meanwhile my brother got scholarship from US university and went to US.

Ms X got a job in top MNC and was to be posted in Singapore. I went to congratulate her when she told about her romantic interest in someone at IIM. There I was totally broken. I had revenge in mind and decided to make a point that by  doing MBA no one does business. So I decided to be entrepreneur and made a plan to start a computer dealership. There was investment and I convinced my father to mortgage our house to raise soft loan from his employer bank. I setup office and invited friends and relatives for inauguration. I tried hard but then hit dot com bust and directly  affecting sales. Managing cash flow : salaries, rent, other expenses. So had to borrow few US Dollars from brother at one point which my parents were not aware of. Eventually then came a day when I had to pull the plug on my first venture. I thought whole was ridiculing me. I ws behaving like a zombie for few days. One morning I travelled by local train to Lonavala having decided to jump off any cliff to end my agony> Which better place than sahyadri mountains to die. But a scene at railway platform where a small kid maybe 11-12 year old  looking after two siblings maybe 6 and 3 yrs. Did not see any elders around him but he begged, got money, purchased food and shared it with his siblings. If that guy can fight I had no reason to give up. I decided to apply for jobs but it was tough during recession. My parents and brother were frustrated by my choices and flow of flow. Everyday there were lectures and fights. I revolted and decided not to take any efforts and just spent days lying down in bed or watching TV or going for walks.
I joined a small drama group and environmental NGO which kept me busy. My parents with their pensions and some help from US, were managing household comfortably though not exorbitantly. My life was wasting. One day my father warned that if I don’t contribute financially then I have to find my separate way. And I was for my own benefit. My father managed to convince his friend who owned a food shop where I joined as his assistant. I was bored with first few months and quit to face another wrath from parents. Then I worked as installer of water purifier, administrative assistant to a lawyer, Customer services at mobile company before joining admin department of your office. After our company I had vagabond career with two companies and then landing up with this broadband sales job. Life has been strange for me. From being selected at IIT and having admission at govt engineering, I managed to work on streets, houses, societies, offices travelling in crowded public transport. I could not afford even a two wheeler of my own. That make myself laugh at my own destiny. Life has taught me many things. But the question is why me. Being in love was my main crime. Hmmm… Sorry for taking your time with my story which has a past, non-decrepit present and uncertain future “

I felt sorry for him and wished him the best. I offered him to approach me for any help I can manage.

Life went on, hectic as usual with daughter getting older and busier. Wife’s job got more busy with more responsibilities. Friends, travel, entertainment and functions kept us busy in non working hours. It was such a family function Five years later to that Sunday, I met Napoleon accidentally. It was a marriage ceremony. He introduced me to his wife . I was bit of a surprise though a happy one. Life seemed to have turned around for him long way meanwhile. He sensed my feeling correctly. During marriage ceremony and buffet he suggested we take up some corner chairs.  

He started “ Love had taken everything away from me but has given me back most of my life. I met my wife (thankfully he named her and not coded her Mrs Y) during a health related event organized by NGO he had joined duding his zombie days. His wife was yoga exponent and was very outgoing and dynamic. She used to train yoga at few big gyms in city and provided classes. She is also qualified as Dietitian. We both started liking each other and enjoy company of each other. Magical days were back. But there was always a yellow signal to avoid encore. But practical nature of my wife with her simple ambitions made our relationship grounded. Finally I met her parents who were progressive. My wife also had late marriage thanks to her career pursuits. Both families agreed. My wife and her family accepted me despite what I was then. They felt our love will correct and improve everything around us. We got married two years back. Immediately we started house based business to provide healthy snacks/tiffin to offices/hostels/individuals/families. We put in lots of efforts to maintain quality , taste and hygiene of food. We sourced ingredients from best vendors in market yard. We also had each food item analyzed from health point of view and printed on the packages. We used a reasonably priced yet very talented packaging guy. We hired staff to deliver. Our kitchen grew as did the order and sales. We took a place for kitchen. We then advertised them in local papers. We used social media as well as FM radio for publicity. We are doing good. We now have a car and have booked a 2 BHK at good locality. Life has been never so beautiful. Each new day brings in hope and positiveness. I am happy”

I felt good for him. Life is a leveller. Love had taken away  and given it back . But does this happens to all. And I am not talking about only Love. Life is unfair to many and lucky to many. Who decides this? Is it lottery or some past life good deeds or simply random. I don’t have answers. In case of Napoleon in War story, life showed him heights to slide to his downfall . In case of Napoleon in Love story, life made him struggle and ended up on high. So is everything fair in Love and War?

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