“Hello? Mamma?” Rajani answered her phone. “So early in the morning? All well?” Rajani was concerned.
“Yes. Kirti asked me to pass on a message from Shikha. She’s delivered a baby boy.”
“Oh wow! That is wonderful news. I am so happy!” Rajani jumped up for joy. “Are they all well? Is she back from the hospital? Can I speak with her?”
“I don’t know all that. Maybe you can message her or something?”
“What’s wrong Mamma?”
“When will you give me a grandchild…?”
“Oh please Mamma! I am getting late. Bye.” Rajani disconnected the phone and brushed away the twinge of sorrow and was that jealousy? No! She was happy, she truly was. Shikha’s dream had come true and good that she hadnt had a baby yet. It wouldn’t do for the bride to be older than the groom would it? She giggled to herself. Oh if only she could see the baby, hold him, cuddle him – her arms ached with the emptiness.
Soon, she promised herself, soon. Right Bhagwanji? Oh she was late! She dashed off a quick message to Shikha and rushed to the office. Why did people have Monday blues? She had weekend blues. Always some drama or the other, especially with Rekha back to landing up at home and hanging on till much after dinner.
May as well have breakfast as well, Rajani often thought resentfully. Yet just because she had a job, a corner to call her own, Rajani could deal with the unchanged scene at home.
Yet, now that she had a job, there was a subtle change in the equation. Rekha was no longer so condescending or rude; in fact she was at times placatory even fawning. Clearly her CTC defined her status, Rajani thought as she hastened her pace. Damn. She would be late today.
“Good morning!” She sang out cheerily. But instead of the usual buzz of chatter and clatter there was an oppressive silence. What’s wrong? She wondered. Had somebody died?
“Meeting in the board room.” Neha the receptionist hissed. “Hurry.” Dread clutched Rajani as she squeezed herself into the jam-packed room.
“The company is not doing well,” the CEO said baldly, “and we are shutting down.”
A collective gasp rippled across the room. Rajani felt faint. No! This couldn’t be happening! Not now. Just when she was beginning to breathe. Her heart stopped. The house rent! How would she manage that now?
A babel rose.
The CEO raised his hand. “We have no option. But the good news is that we have arranged tie up with a pharmaceutical company. They have agreed to hire the staff, provided,” he paused, “you fit into their requirements and are willing to be flexible.”
Another clamor arose.
The CEO raised his hands. “I’m afraid that is all I know and have to offer. When the company people arrive you can address your concerns and queries directly to them.” He walked out of the room.
Rajani sat alone trying to absorb the shock of the raging storm within. Not fair! Not fair! She wanted to scream, shout and smash everything in sight as all her dreams and hopes lay shattered in a pile of rubble dust and ash.
After an agonizing wait, the company people landed up and place their offer. “I am Bikram Khare, VP Health Pharma Ltd. We need Medical Representatives and have positions for 20 candidates. Training will be provided; a written test would have to be given. And the job entails travel. Only those who agree to this and clear the test will be hired. Remunerations will be commensurate with your performance.”
“Sir… Sir… Sir!”
“Those who are willing to undergo the 15-day intensive training workshop from next week should submit their resumes to Vijyesh and the others may vacate their workstation and sort out their dues with the previous management by the end of the week. We are not responsible for anything related to them.”
Medical Representative! And she wanted to be a doctor. How could fate be so cruel? But she needed the job more than anything else.
Rajani raised a timid hand. “Sir, I don’t know anything about medicines…”
Mr Khare smiled at her kindly. “At least you know a medical representative needs to know about medicines.”
Rajani was too stressed to smile. “I did have biology in class 12…”
“That’s great. But what we are looking for are ambitious eager young men and women who love challenges, who are willing to go that extra mile, are hungry to make their mark in this company, earn that extra incentive. If you have these qualities, don’t worry about the rest – we’ll train you.”
Rajani sat down. Did she have these qualities? She didn’t know. But she needed the job.
“But as I said, this job involves a lot of travel, so better check with your families if that is okay with them. About 15-20 days in a month you will be out of Delhi.”
That suited her fine! If she got the job. Rajani hastily crossed her fingers. A thought struck her. If she were traveling, would Harsha stay alone at their flat? What about his meals and stuff? Wouldn’t it be better for him to stay with his parents? But the new apartment? The purchases?
It was very a tricky, messy and complicated situation both at home and at the office.
Rajani returned home that evening still unsure about how to deal with the crisis. To tell or not to tell was her biggest dilemma at the moment.
“Naresh uncle talked to me about the apartment.” Harsha said.
Rajani was on her guard. “Mummyji gave me the phone number.”
“Why are you insisting on making us the laughing stock in the community?”
“I didn’t do anything. Mummyji had promised to talk to him and she said she had but things weren’t moving so I just…”
“You should have handled it diplomatically. Now he was asking if there was any trouble….”
“What’s the need to beat about the bush? If we move out, it is going to be public. What’s the point in denying it…?”
“Do you have any idea what the problems are?” Harsha lost his temper. “The apartment that he is talking about is in a terrible run down condition. Plus there is some problem with the wiring and the electricity goes off frequently. Rectifying that itself is a huge task and the landlord is out of country and not ready to take a decision on it. So until the matter is sorted electricity would remain an issue. Would you like to shift to such a place?”
“It’s not like there’s no electricity is it? It is winters…”
Harsha clapped a hand to his face. “And you want to do PhD? With this level intelligence? What about the refrigerator? Hot water? Cooking, charging our phone? Will you come back home for each of these things? Might as well stay here.”
“But…but we have to shift by next weekend,” Rajani panicked, “I have a fifteen day intensive training workshop,” she wouldn’t, she couldn’t tell them that she might be out of a job. “There is some restructuring at the office, they are changing my work profile, and I have to travel…”
“You’ll be traveling and I will be staying in some god-forsaken apartment alone?” Harsha snapped. “No thank you.”
“But Papa has already purchased the appliances…”
“I will take care of that.” Sunaina appeared as the fairy godmother and took matters into her own hands. “You don’t worry. You focus on your work. Good jobs are difficult to get these days.”
The gate grated and shut with a harsh clang.
Despair overcame her as her dream of independence once again slip out of her hand.
But the fact was without a job how could she afford an apartment?
But then, even if she did have a job could she, should she move out into a separate apartment? How would she manage work travel and home? Neither MIL nor Harsha were going to cooperate – Harsha by omission and MIL by commission.
Despite the monetary loss, it was probably for the best if she gave up her dream of separating out. Besides, they planned to be parents soon, who would look after the baby? Mummyji may as well be of some use.
Not having a job was no longer an option. The fact of the matter was that it didn’t matter where she stayed so long as she had a job. Her work was her only savior, her succor, and her sanctuary where she could breathe and just be.
Click here for the next chapter: On the Run