After the nightmarish three days Rajani was on her next trip – waiting and counting days until her next period. Bhagwanji please don’t make me go through that again. She pleaded over and over again. Thankfully office was busier than ever before to allow her to brood too much.
Mr Bansal had taken to coming to office. Apparently the business wasn’t running too well and he was on the warpath. Lunches though still lavish were brief and hurried, with little scope to laugh and unwind. And most of it usually went discussing Pakhi her unfortunate incident.
Rajani in particular was morbidly fascinated and obsessed with her. “Any news of her?” she would ask every other day, hoping she was fine. But how could she be fine? She had lost her baby. No. She had been forced to murder her own baby. How could she live with that?
Rajani had recurrent dreams of a stretcher being led down a white sterile corridor with a view of the roof. It wasn’t Pakhi. She was on the stretcher. The doctor was looming large over her. Masked and beady eyed. No that wasn’t the doctor – it was Mummyji. No! She would wake up sweating and panting while Harsha snored on.
Yet Rajani’s heart broke for Pakhi. Poor poor Pakhi. And she thought she had troubles. She had a lot to be grateful for. She should learn to count her blessings, she told herself over and over again.
Oh if only she could get some news of Pakhi, she would feel better. But, nobody had any news except the formal leave application dropped by her husband. She and Avantika even tried to call her up several times but her phone was continuously switched off. And that appeared to be the end of the Pakhi chapter. Until she re-joined work, that is if she did.
“Will she get leave for three weeks?” Rajani asked.
Avantika shrugged. “Technically she should. But then I very much doubt it. They are not the kinds to pay someone to sit at home.”
“But aren’t they legally bound to pay?”
“Who’s going to complain to the law?” Avantika looked at her. “Would you?”
Rajani paled. “You mean I won’t get maternity leave? I mean, if I get pregnant?”
“You’d be lucky to get back your job.” Avantika said.
“Stop chattering you two,” Tanya interrupted them, “get back to work. Boss Lady is coming and there’s bound to be some drama or the other. Double check your work,” she cautioned Rajani, giving her new nightmares. But better ones.
Besides it was entertaining to watch the sparks fly between the top brass especially considering they were a couple. Once they had a bust up right in the middle of the office floor.
“Your project – New Mom – isn’t working out Nika,” Anil said as he met his wife on his way out.
“What do you mean it’s not working out,” she flared up, “it’s hardly been a couple of months…”
“Perhaps but if you insist upon using color plates and thick glossy paper, the cost is prohibitive and we cannot afford…”
“Cannot! Cannot afford?” Her eyes bulged as her voice rattled Rajani’s bones, “Did I say anything when you ran your…?”
“I have a meeting,” Bansal took the easy way out while his wife fumed and chewed up the hapless accounts department for daring to point fingers at her precious baby.
And that was a cause for double celebration – the accounts department was their collective bugbear and any tongue-lashing they got was not enough to compensate for their penny pinching tight-fisted power games. And it was satisfying to know that even the Boss Lady was not exempt.
Avantika in particular was thrilled. Noyonika was in her element as she decimated the entire accounts department with her scathing and bitter denouncement of their evil underhanded tactics. Avantika eavesdropped shamelessly and typed furiously to keep pace and avoid missing a single word. What passion what command, what fluidity what lucidity, worthy of being recorded for posterity!
Avantika was so inspired that she swiftly developed a neat little story around Noyonika’s rant directed towards the protagonist’s denouncement of her cheating boyfriend. Feeling flush with pride and satisfaction, she went so far as to show it to Aditi whose lips twitched. Before Avantika could protest, she had passed it on to Noyonika who was now discussing the next issue with Tanya, apparently calm and composed.
Avantika rolled her eyes at Rajani and made slashing motions at her throat. “Goodbye this is the end.” She texted Rajani.
Rajani could only look at her in mute distress and sympathy.
Until Noyonika burst out laughing, “This is great.” She smiled at Avantika who went red with pleasure.
“It’s all yours Ma’am,” she mumbled, “I’m sorry…”
“No need to say sorry. I’m glad my anger wasn’t wasted,” her expression darkened, “they aren’t going to change…anyway,” she handed the sheet to Tanya, “let it go as a short story in one of the issues.” She paused. “Make sure your boss gets a copy.” Her eyes glinted.
“Yes Ma’am.” Tanya said expressionlessly.
Noyonika sailed out with her head held high giving a pat to an overwhelmed Avantika.
Aditi looked at Avantika. “You do know it will be published in her name?” There was a defensive apologetic note in her voice.
“Yes, of course.” Avanitika nodded.
“You have a flair for writing. Perhaps it is time for you to start writing for yourself.”
Avantika flushed with pleasure. “I would love to.” She admitted. “But I need the money from this job…”
“Who said you’d have to give up your job?”
Avantika stared. “But where’s the time?”
“Time is never an issue. It’s passion. If you really want to, you’d make time.”
Aditi shrugged. “You could start with sleeping less.”
Avantika laughed along with the others. And that was that.
But Rajani picked up the topic again later as they walked to the Metro station. “I loved your vitriolic piece. You really should write.”
“It was all inspired by the Boss Lady’ rant.” Avantika disclaimed. “Besides I had a massive tiff with my boyfriend.” She grinned. “It had to come out somewhere.”
“But still you clearly have it in you. Maybe you should seriously consider what Aditi Ma’am said.”
“And give up on my sleep?” Avantika was scandalized.
“Not give up budhoo. Just sleep a little less and write.”
“I don’t have a laptop. If I did, I would.” Avantika said.
“Excuses, excuses,” Rajani shook her head. “Write it longhand and type it out in office. No one would ever know!”
Avantika looked at her struck. “Now there’s an idea!” she was excited. “I do have a lot of ideas jostling but I didn’t know what to do with them.”
“Excellent!” Rajani too was excited. “I’ll be the first to purchase your book.”
“Purchase? I’ll gift it to you,” Avantika said gratefully. “In fact I’ll dedicate to you…”
“Not me, Aditi Ma’am. She’s the one who…”
“No actually it was the Boss Lady so perhaps I should dedicate it to her!”
“No!” Rajani gagged.
“Exactly! I would rather not write a book!” They giggled. “But seriously, on second thoughts, nothing is more important than my sleep.”
“I think the more you sleep, the sleepier you feel. I get up at five and I sleep better and wake up fresher.”
Avantika stared. “Why do you get up at five? To cook?”
Rajani giggled. “To avoid cooking!”
“I don’t get it.”
“Well I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, but the Boss Lady needed some proofreading done for a friend. Aditi Ma’am asked me. I agreed….”
“I don’t believe this Rajani,” Avantika was impressed. “Work at home and go back to again work?”
“This work is so much easier and better than having to sit and listen to them gossip and drink away the night.” Rajani confessed.
“Your in-laws don’t object?” Rajani shook her head. “Your husband?” Rajani shrugged. “So long as it brings money and I’m around at their beck and call they don’t care.”
Avantika looked at her sympathetically. “You do have it tough.”
Rajani swallowed. “Not as much as Pakhi. Hope she comes tomorrow.”
“Hope so too.” Echoed Avantika.
“It does no good to run. And it does no good to hide. But I know what it’s like. Your brain shuts down, and you follow your instincts. Or, at least, you think you do. But you know what you’re really doing? When you flee through the night, or crawl into your little bolt-hole? You know what’s really guiding you? Controlling you? Pushing you on? Genre conventions.” ― Mike Carey,