2: A horrible day

>> Thursday, April 30, 2009

As the sun rose, casting an orange tinge across the horizon, Ishika looked at it from her perch atop one of the rocks at the end of Marine Drive. She liked to come here whenever she had a cobweb of thoughts to sort out. The unending battle of the waves against the rocks seemed to calm her down. The sprays of water tried to unsuccessfully reach her. As the waves would go back for another try, she would recede away from her own thoughts and analyze them.

The sun's rays illuminated her petite frame. She knew she was not what you would call conventionally beautiful. Her dark complexion, frizzy hair and the thick-rimmed glasses permanently perched atop her pudgy nose kept her away from the limelight. But they could not hide her from Rahul. Maybe that's the reason she loved him even more. How she wished he was here right now! He had a knack of saying things that hit exactly the right notes in her. They did speak last night, but there are limitations to the duration of a US call. Especially between a struggling student living abroad and a recently laid-off employee.

The last two days had been horrible. She had gone in to work on Friday, happy like everybody else that the weekend was here. Add to it that the salary would be credited the next day and she would have the feeling of a rich software engineer - atleast till her credit card bills came in! She was in an especially chirpy mood. Then she saw the meeting request in her mailbox. The manager, the business HR and her. It was weird. Her appraisal had gotten over last month itself. She put it out of her mind, as her phone rang.

It was Neha. "Could you please tell Rakesh that I am not coming in today? Tell him I am not feeling well."

"Are you really not feeling well?" Ishika asked with concern. Neha had told her last night she would be with Sid. They had a romantic candle-lit dinner planned. And the way these dinners had gone earlier, Ishika did not expect Neha to come home for the night.

"Na re Ish!" Neha always called her Ish whenever she needed a favour. "I am with Sid... We have decided to take the day off. You know how it is... Please handle Rakesh for me. Otherwise he will eat my head. Please..." Ishika didn't like to lie. Perhaps Neha was the only person whom she would lie for. They had gotten really close since becoming roomies after joining Infitech. Neha, the new babe in town. Ishika more like 'Babe, pig in the city!' Neha, stunningly beautiful, vivacious, out-spoken. Ishika, introvert, intense, level headed. They were poles apart, but they had formed a strong bond.

After some more pleading, Ishika agreed. 'As usual!' she smiled.

As she went up to Rakesh's cabin for her scheduled meeting, she thought about Sid. Neha had met Sid on orkut. And they had hit it off. When Neha had first introduced Sid to her, he seemed decent enough. But somewhere, Ishika felt something weird about this guy. She couldn't put a finger on it. He seemed too good to be true. She had never heard Neha and Sid fight over the last three months. Well, not everybody fights, but something about him made her uneasy...

While going into the cabin, she was a little surprised to see a security guard standing outside. Inside, both Rakesh and Shilpa, the HR, had grim looks on their faces. They asked her to sit down. And then Rakesh dropped the bomb. She was being laid off. He gave her the normal talk about project ramp downs, how this does not reflect on her abilities, etc. Once he was done, he looked at Shilpa. As if carefully choreographed, Shilpa started off. He had hit the sledgehammer, she was applying the balm. Ishika felt angry. That's the reason there was a security guard outside, she thought. What did they think, she would take out her claws and maul the two imbeciles?

She was asked to resign on the spot. Shilpa acted all apologetic, even patronizing. Ishika gave her a look of pure disdain. The security guard then escorted Ishika to her desk. She couldn't even write a goodbye mail to her dear friends. She just picked up her purse and walked out.

The cab dropped Ishika off at her flat. It was weird coming home at this hour. She almost mechanically opened the door. Went inside. Switched on the fan. Sat down on her bed. All alone. And then it really hit her.

One whole year. Her whole life revolved around Infitech. Her batchmates, her team, and ofcourse Neha. With the exception of Rahul, her whole social life was Infitech. And she was no longer a part of it. Just like that. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

When she woke up, the sun had already gone down. She looked at her cell. 5 missed calls. Neha. She messaged her. 'I am fine. Don't worry. Just want to be alone for a while.' She splashed water on her face. Got dressed. And walked out. The phone beeped. Neha again. 'Ok. Take care sweetheart. Am out with the company gang. The usual place. Drop in if you want to.'

Ishika didn't. She needed some time to think. She knew she was strong. This was a temporary setback. She knew life had better things in store for her. Maybe, she needed this time off. To regroup. Re-energize. To make a new beginning. This was a good thing. She could finally go back to her writing. She could teach again. Oh, no longer the dread of the boring Mondays! No longer desperately looking forward to Fridays. She suddenly cheered up. Felt light. Felt like having her favourite kulfi.

With a spring in her step she entered the restaurant at Colaba. She looked around for an empty table. And then she spotted Sid. Neha? But she was supposed to be with the gang. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she saw more clearly. And all her cheerfulness, her new found strength, suddenly drained out of her. It was not Neha who was cosying up with Sid, giving him a peck on the cheeks. It was someone else.

Her anger returned.

She saw Sid notice her. She saw the look of surprise in his face. She saw him look around to see if Neha was there. And then, in the most non-chalant manner ever possible, he shrugged. In that one instant, all her fears about him came true. The thing that had been eating her away came to the fore. She knew it. She knew that the 'decent loving boyfriend' act was a charade. How stupid could she be? She should have warned Neha from the beginning!

What was she going to tell her? That I saw the love of your life with another woman in his arms? How was she going to face Neha?

The last two days had really been horrible. The two most important things in her life, her job and Neha, were both in disarray. Neha was a complete mess. She had gone to meet Sid. When she came back, she was a changed person. It was as if somebody had come and yanked out her soul...

As the sun started shining bright, Ishika realized she had been sitting there for a long time. The street hawkers had set up shop. The wannabe lovebirds had started milling around. The uncles and aunties had finished off their morning jogs and were flirting around with each other in front of the fruit juice stall.

As she called for a cab to take her back to her problems, Marine Drive was slowly waking up to just another typical Sunday in its bustling life...


Yamini 6:40 PM  

Well...this is a mirror!!
i am awestruck!
great piece nonetheless...
Looking forward to the next post :P

Caught Offside! 8:39 PM  

Hehe, I am sorry about that. I didnt mean it to be such, but it just turned out that ways... I guess some people influence you more than others :)

ksashtekar 8:41 PM  

Hey .. this is really really nice ...

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

oh man!!....its really horrible....getting laid off is really horible....

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