India. The land of old school ideas going in sync with new age technology; a country where pretentions run wild and free; where basic truth is hushed up due to its perceived crassness and lies are accepted because they fit the social norm. In such a place, lived two such pretentious people. If they had not lied, their life would have surely fallen apart. The question was how long would they be able to keep it together? She was a simple girl, led a simple life. And the only thing she knew for sure and which she had realized earlier in life was that she enjoyed hanging out with boys. She had always enjoyed their presence, loved how the way their mind worked, and generally had more fun with them. Looking out at the rain splashing on the window, she smiled, thinking about those good old days when she hung out with ‘the boys’ when they were teenagers. She remembered the obnoxious behavior, the inappropriate gestures, and the use of foul language in an exceedingly unabashed manner. She never knew how much she would miss it, till she actually did. Somewhere, somehow, she had grown fond of all her crooks. Yes, she had liked her education years and she had liked boys. She really could not say the same for men. ………………. Somewhere far away, he got out of the shower and toweled his well-toned body. Putting on his only Armani suit, he vowed to have his wardrobe of them before long. Tying up his shoe laces, he thought about this important meeting, it meant a promotion and soon, very soon he would be off to settle in the United States where he could finally be himself. He got out of the small flat he had rented and took his new Santro to work. As he walked in, he could see the appreciative female glances, he could feel their eyes on him. Damn them, he thought. He was not interested. He had important things to do. He went inside his boss’s office and told her that he was ready whenever she was. She gave him a cocky smile, and told him that he was looking good today.He gave her a smile to acknowledge the compliment and politely asked her how her husband was doing. ………………… The clipped tone of high heels failed to bring back Sameera to reality. Neither did the “ahem” do the trick. Only the tap on her shoulder could break her reverie. She hated her for that..nah..she hated her for a lot more. “Good morning, Mrs. Malhotra.” The reply was something between a grunt and a snort. It woud just have to do for the day. Not that she expected anything less than the dragon-lady, breathing stale fire which she covered up with a unaiding mint.Malhotra continued in a bored, dead way, “I wish to see the project by afternoon” Afternoon!!!!! “But you had wanted it on Thursday. That’s two days away” “Well, now I want it by this afternoon. And get me a coffee.” And with that she walked away… those high heels of hers clippting away. Sameera boiled. “Coffee?! I am not going to get her any damned coffee!” Sighing, she got out of her cubicle and wondered how she had gotten into this mess. The wondering did not last long. She knew exactly how: by being a stubborn ass! Her father had wanted to marry her off for quite some time now to an NRI from Canada with big beard and a big appetite. But she wanted more from life than a husband and kids. She wanted to experience life. And she was sure that someday… someday her life would begin. So, she had fought her father at every step and won. After a while, she had thought, that he would just give up, but he hadn’t. Well she was his daughter, and if he was bull headed, so was she. And so they had had a deal. In one of their many arguments, he had told her that she would not be able to last in any job for over 6 months, and she had countered that idea by promising him that she could last a year easily in any given work environment. And now here she was, in one of the many branches of her father’s renowned advertising company. Everyone knew that she was grossly under qualified for the job, and unluckily for her, hers was not the job scenario where the people liked to suck up to the boss’s daughter. As she reached the coffee machine, Aniruddh greeted her cheerfully. “Hey! Did Monsterhotra catch up with you yet?” Sameera nodded while fixing the cup of coffee. “She did. I had to hand over the project by Thursday, which now I have to do today” “Damn”. “Damn is damn right” She made her way back to the cubicle and contemplated having the coffee herself. Deciding against it, she had the peon deliver it to Monsterhotra and sat down to get her creative mind to some serious work. ………………….. The meeting had gone well, by any standard. Till the time his boss did not insist of some other special favors, he would get the promotion. He got himself a cup of black tea and looked out of the window. He saw a cloudy sky. He liked rain It seemed to wash troubles away.He gave a wry smile. Some troubles were not meant to be washed away. “That was quite a presentation, Mr. Pathak. Very…. stimulating” He gave her a wry smile and his tone was stiff. “Thank you ma’am.” But his boss was so stimulated that she refused to take the hint from the tone of his voice.
She inched closer and leaned in. “I like what I see. .. and I see a lot of potential.”, she said in a low voice. And they think men harass women… sheesh!! He knew this territory and knew how to handle the situation and steer it in his favor. “I am glad ma’am, that you think I have potential. It is very flattering. It proves that you think i will be able to handle the campaign.”
Before she could interrupt, he carried on, ‘It would obviously mean that we work in very close quarters as well” The idea seemed to appeal to her. “You are in.” And with that she strutted away. Life became beautiful!! ……………………. The ad project was ready in an hour. Sameera was proud of herself. She knocked at Malhotra’s office. “Yes?” “The project is ready” She looked up from her desk; her eyebrows rose in speculation and she said, “I don’t appreciate shoddy work. But since you are the boss’s daughter, who am I to judge you?” She lay back on her executive chair, it from side to side, the end of the pen in her mouth studying her…thinking… judging. “Tell you what; I don’t need to see your work. I am sure it’s inadequate, and knowing your expertise, one really cannot expect much, can they?” Sameera gave a shrug. “Bring it by tomorrow. The new creative head is going to be here. Run your ….um…childish, at best…ideas by him and if we are lucky, he will chuck you from this office and we will be rid of one major liability” Sameera was in the meantime thinking of the various ways she could torture the dragon lady…she could stick that pen down Monsterhotra’s throat to begin with… Sameera said nothing. She left, teeth grinding. She knew there was a lot of truth in Hotra’s words. ‘Tomorrow is doomsday.’ she thought. ‘ Good excuse to binge on Pizza.’ Then tomorrow came. The creative director was a puny man, with a funny mustache, a little longer than Hitler’s, but only just. And since Sameera knew she was undoubtedly going to get fired, she was calm. Nothing worse could happen. She presented her ideas. Outlined the target audience and how and why the campaign would allure potential customers if her idea was put into use. It was only near the end of her pitch that she saw Malhotra purse her lips. Okay, so this was the worst possible ad idea ever, Sameera thought. She took two steps back from the table and waited for the doom. If she got fired, she would lose the deal she’d made with her father and she would have to marry a burly resident Canadian with a high appetite and a low IQ, who wanted nothing more from her than food, sex and kids to spoil. It was at that point that her calm went for a six and she started to panic. She hated being here. But she had to stay. There was no other alternative. None. Marriage to that oaf was unacceptable. The puny director got up to speak. He could have not bothered, Sameera thought. Those legs did not give him any advantage, anyway. “You don’t intent to carry on working here, do you?” Sameera felt her world crashing. “Do you?” What could she say? “Uh… um… No sir… I mean I like it here… but …” The puny guy cut her short. “Good. You are far too talented to be wasting here. I require someone with an unconditioned mind like yours at our New York office. I expect you would not disappoint us and agree to move there.” Did he just say that?? “Huh?” was all that Sameera could manage. “I could not catch your name before. Probably because we were not introduced properly”, he said looking pointedly at Malhotra. Malhotra looked like an overcooked full tomato… Ready to blow up. He continued, “I am Balwant Singh and you are?” Balwant Singh? He sure did not look like a Balwant singh. He held out a hand for her to shake. “Sameera… Kaushik” “As in kin of this enterprise owner” She was still dazed. “Yes ….sir…um…I am his daughter” “And it shows. So, do you take the offer? Will you move to New York?” As it sank in that it was up to her entirely, Sameera smiled. She could finally get away from all the mess. As she said yes, the grin on her face getting wider, a neon sign flashed inside her brain. It said: Life’s become beautiful. … to be continued…