Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Tough Decision

Madan sat staring at the two reports lying on his table - he hadn't intended placing them like that, but subconsciously he had placed them on either side, as if weighing them. One was not a surprise, but delightful still.

Nikesh, his marketing manager - marketing, had pulled off the impossible - what was impossible for others but nothing to him. He had single-handedly signed up four major clients for the products they manufactured. It was a coup, four coups in fact, of sorts. But that was expected of Nikesh - he was a brilliant communicator, a great marketing guy who had risen up the hierarchy very fast and a great charmer who could charm the poison off a snake.

The revenues as a result of bagging these contracts would take the company to the next level. The down the line sales people would be challenged and motivated to achieve more. The production would go up and it was a win-win for all.

Madan had known Nikesh for long, and he knew his Sr. MM was brilliant. He had been planning how to reward this high achiever when the other report - or rather, the note - had been brought in.

In one moment, he felt as if the rug under him had been pulled. Since then, he had been unable to focus on anything, shuffling and unshuffling the two reports. Placing one on top of the other and then pushing them both away.

The success story tasted bitter. For along with it came an accusation that he could not ignore. One of the marketing executives who had helped Nikesh in signing up one of the clients accused Nikesh of not just taking all the credit, but also of gender discrimination and sexual exploitation.

She had clipped together the interactions with the senior management in the client company to prove that she was already pursuing that deal. For the other two, it was only her word against his.

Madan's head reeled. Unable to decide on a course of action, he quietly left for the day and avoided taking any calls. Finally, at night, he called Nikesh - to congratulate him on the sales and then gradually bring up the matter of the complaint.

"Shit!" Nikesh blurted. Madan's heart sank. He was left in no doubt of Nikesh's guilt. Nikesh was pleading, blaming the drinks, the high of achieving the deal closure, the ambiance and all other irrelevant reasons for his unforgivable behaviour.

Suddenly Nikesh stopped speaking. "Madan... I am sorry yaar. I even apologised to that girl and told her not to bring it up to you. I promised to make good..."

"Please, will you stop it?" Madan snapped.

There was a brief silence before Nikesh said, "By the way, remember the multinational you wanted to tap for the niche product we are developing?"

Madan's interest was piqued. "Yes?"

"I am in touch with the Indian head. His boss from the HO is coming next month and he promised to get me a meeting. Of course, that was before..."

Madan sighed. "We will talk about it tomorrow."

As he ended the call, he started seeing dollars and how Nikesh would be able to pull this one too. In less than six months, his company would be a global company.

Next morning, there was only one report on his table. The other one had been shredded and the writer promoted to head her own sales office in a city of her choice.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The hero

"Your dad looks so handsome!" whispered Niharika in her friend Sangeeta's ears. The two giggled.

Sangeeta felt justifiable pride. Even young men paled in front of her middle-aged father. He was tall, trim, smart, his salt and pepper hair kept short. But what made him most attractive was the confidence he oozed. People hung on his words, seeking his views on economic trends; they watched him for fashion trends; they imitated his high-profile lifestyle.

Niharika grinned and said, "I know where I am going to apply for work," and rushed towards her friend's father. "Uncle!"

Sangeeta shook her head, laughing. The two had just completed MBA in finance from a reputed institution. Even she did not think of seeking her father's help for a job - but then, she also had to prove her mettle to him, that she could keep her head over water without his help. Niharika had no such compulsions.

"Is Niharika good?" her father asked her at dinner.

"You mean in her subjects? Yes, she is a rank holder."

"That does not mean much," Shekhar said dismissively. "Anyway, she asked me for a job and I have asked her to apply. I will ask the HR to test her before committing anything."

Sangeeta's heart swelled. Yes, she expected no less; definitely no sentimental nonsense about Niharika being his daughter's friend. She nodded noncommittally. And so, when her friend was selected, she was even more thrilled, glad that her friend had proved herself worthy of it. Now her father need never be ashamed of recommending Niharika for a job.

As a management trainee, Niharika seemed to shine. But she seemed too busy for Sangeeta, who was still hanging around, waiting for an opportunity. And then, she met her friend in a restaurant one evening, her face belying her quick growth at work, from trainee to assistant manager in a matter of months.

"Congrats! I called you, but you never returned my call!" she said accusingly. Niharika smiled but seemed uncomfortable. She got up abruptly and said, "You are meeting someone here? How sad I can't stop to chat! I am in a rush," she excused herself. Sangeeta found it strange, and even felt resentful. After all, Niharika's busy-ness was thanks to her dad!

She sat in a corner and was surprised to see her father walk in through the doors, his eyes scanning the restaurant. He didn't notice her and stared intently at the mobile. Sangeeta called out to him.

He turned, with something akin to shock, but quickly recovered. He walked up to her and after the briefest of conversations, excused himself and left. Sangeeta shrugged. Maybe she was poor company.

She asked her dad that evening how Niharika was. "Your friend?" he asked, sipping whiskey and soda. "How should I know?"

She laughed. "Isn't she still working in your company? Don't act so hoity-toity, dad!" she rebuked him affectionately.

His eyes twinkled. "My managers keep the young girls hidden from me."

But Niharika had a different story to tell. She called Sangeeta the early next morning, asking to meet urgently. She wanted to meet in her house. No one else was there.

Sangeeta was stunned to find her friend in tears. "I am sorry!" Niharika sobbed.

"It's okay... Is it about last evening?" Sangeeta asked.

"About last evening, about all the evenings."

"Hey, no issues! I know you have been busy at work."

"Not so much at work," Niharika said after a brief pause. "But other things."

"Other things?" Sangeeta asked, surprised.

Niharika avoided looking at her. Sangeeta wished she had avoided telling her too.

Initially, it all seemed like fun - being favoured, getting special treatment, even the light flirtation; then it gave her a sense of power, that she was privileged; and then it scared her, the price she had to pay. All the growth and trust came at a cost that she had missed reading in fine print. Flirting had been with the intention of baiting, not the harmless time pass she had imagined it to be. The most powerful man in the organisation did not dole out favours lightly. And when he did, pay up time followed soon after, relentlessly.

But what killed her was not the betrayal of trust, but the hurt she would cause in revealing it to her friend. She had delayed, agonised over it and even decided to slink out of her friend's life forever, till they happened to meet in the very restaurant where she had a rendezvous with the father. It was a moment of truth - of knowing the truth would come out one day as sleaze.

There was no gently way of pulling the mask off the most admired man, of telling his daughter that he could not be trusted within a mile of a pretty girl but to be direct...

Sangeeta slapped her friend and ran from her house. What a bitch! It was Niharika who had admired her father and probably thrown herself on him shamelessly. And now, when her father must have dissuaded her and put her in place, it was all coming out as venom, maligning a respectable man.

She ran into her mother's arms and sobbed. With great difficulty, fearing hurting her mother, she narrated what Niharika had told her, expecting her mother to pooh-pooh it all. She watched her mother's bright eyes dimming and then the glow dying altogether. Her mother pulled Sangeeta to her bosom and held her tightly. "I wished to protect you from this!" Then, moving her back and looking into Sangeeta's eyes, her mother said, "It will be hard at first, but you will learn to live with it."

Sangeeta stared at her mother in disbelief. She felt something die within her.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...