It is not a good feeling, I concur, being a loser- a word recently added to my lexicon, a word that I considered fit only for the short-sighted youth. No, I am not some lone old humbug disparaging the generation-X, Y or Z. I’m just another one of the thousand twenty-two year olds trying to make it big, somewhere.
But contrary to their verve, a terminal exhaustion has set in me. The very fact that there are many such twenty-twos to experience, to breathe through, makes me glum.
“Did you get the job di?” I heard an enthusiastic voice inquiring. It was my frisky little cousin, Ria.
“Yeah. I did.”
“ Then why do you sound so dead? Party time yar!”
It is one thing sounding dead, I thought.
“Yes, darling. Weekend.”
“Yay! Can I invite my friends over? Just three-four? Please?”
“Thank you! See you later, di. Sam is waiting.” and she leapt away.
I watched her, so blithe, exhilarated, extracting heavenly joy from the littlest thing, not having the liability of a younger sibling, the responsibility of running a house, or proving something.
As she disappeared through the door of my balcony, I realized that I had been sweating. The weather wasn’t humid. In fact, it was rather dry. As dry as my eyes. I felt as if I had been caught. And before I could stop, there was a colossal lump in my throat. Finally, tears surged down.
He was also like me, I now learnt. The burden of three sisters and the yoke of an alcohol-addict father. His mother, an asthma patient.
7.30am – We sat in the same waiting hall. He was the third candidate to enter. It was the first day of the interview at KOC & Co. All thirteen of us felt tremendously lucky to be even seated in that room. But we were well-aware of the fact that only two of us would be hired.
A click on the door-knob, and he was out. The confidence in him had not been annihilated. He maintained his perfect composure. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy him at that moment. His smile was slight, but more than enough.
After five hours and twenty minutes, I was called in. The Board comprised of seven members. Seated in the center was the DG.
“You’re Miss Aisha Sharma?” he asked.
“Aa..Oh…y..ya..yes, I am.”
“Hah! Not sure eh?” he sneered.
“Of course, sir.”
He looked at me with his two brown beads, frozen for a while. I shifted nervously. Then the rest of his troop took over and began their act. The act of establishing their supremacy, afflicting the interviewee, and deriving strange sadistic pleasure out of it. I exited the room, flushing, near to tears.
I skipped lunch, and instead, sat in one of the lawns of KOC & Co.; not wanting to leave the premises of my dreamland, clutching the grass, digging my nails into the sacred soil.
I have to make it here! Somehow! Anyhow!
I saw the DG reaching for his Corolla, and rushed up to him. It was my only chance left.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Hm?..Ooo…Aren’t you Miss Aisha?” he winked.
“Yes, sir.” I said, attempting to sound confident this time.
Confident about my own name, at least. Great!
“Ah! Much better. A wee bit late though.”
“Sorry, sir. You made me nervous. I was..”
“It’s my job, dear. Now hop in.”
He directed me towards his car.
“To where, sir?”
“I’ve been watching you for the past two hours sitting there. Don’t you have the habit of taking lunch?”
I reached late that night. I had put across my proposal and sworn almost a hundred times never to let him down if he hired me. He hadn’t shown the slightest signs of reluctance. I was assured that I would be The One.
The next day we all re-emerged from our respective dwellings. I saw him, standing with the same coolness as yesterday. We were seated in the office when the Assistant to DG addressed us. The time had come.
We held our breaths as he announced the two names.
“The two people are − Palaki Pathak, and…”
I uncrossed my legs.
I couldn’t believe it. I saw him stand up with an air of haughtiness.
So HE is Vinay Gupta. Crap! And who the hell is this Palaki Pathak! Palaki Pathak? What kind of a name is Palaki Pathak?!
My eyes turned towards a ravishing lady, blushing in a red suit.
Fuck the bloody bastard!!
“Ahem! Excuse me, everybody.” the Assistant said. “There has been a huge mistake” he continued.
“Sincere apologies to Mister Vinay Gupta, but somebody seems to have tampered with the list. The seat actually goes to Miss Aisha Sharma. Error is regretted.”
His jaw crashed, and for the first time I saw his eyes flutter. The slight smile transferred into my lips, and grew into a grin. I couldn’t contain my happiness. The efforts had paid off. I was indeed The One.
I could feel the DG’s gaze fixed upon me, but I went into my new office, avoiding it.
So, there, now I have it, I thought. But at the cost of my chastity. I wouldn’t have regretted it. I had given my all for a Purpose. The Purpose was greater to me, than anything. I wouldn’t have regretted any of it if the newspaper hadn’t read this –
Twenty-three year old hangs himself.
Ironically, even in the passport-sized photograph, he looks as calm as ever. And I still envy him. Because, even in death he is better off than me.