(This story is in 3 parts and will be published for three consecutive months)
A massive structure made of glass and concrete stood tall and wide on the busiest commercial center in Bombay. As I alighted from the bus in front of my office Trident Designs and Systems, I was still feeling weak and tired after a long bout of illness.
“Hello, Daisy!” Rhea Joseph greeted me, her friendly grin lighting up her cherubic face, as I joined her to wait for the elevator.
“Good to see you back! Hope you have completely recovered?”
Rhea was our friendly office junior. She was a bit of a scatter brain and far too fond of gossiping, but she was so cheerful and good natured that it covered up her faults and you just couldn’t help but like her.
I smiled back, “I am much better now, thank you Rhea. This illness was the worst one I have ever had.” I told her as we stepped into the elevator. “I have never been away from work for so long. What’s been happening here while I was away?” I inquired as the elevator made its way up to the tenth floor. “Have I missed anything exciting?” I enquired.
“Exciting is not the word? It was sensational,” Rhea replied controlling her eagerness, her round face suddenly took on a solemn expression. “Something has happened but it’s rather awful, really – it’s almost as bad as death.” she added dramatically. She looked over her shoulder, for effect, though there was no one other than us in the elevator took a deep breath and said, “You know Amit Khanna? Well, he’s gone! He got the boot!”
“What?” I screamed. “This is not some kind of a joke Rhea, is it?” I stood there with bated breath waiting for her to burst out in laughter. Amit’s handsome face flashed in front of my eyes.
“Amit, Fired? I don’t believe it! You are joking, aren’t you?” I said aghast.
Rhea shook her head emphatically. “No. I am not.” she replied seriously. “You are lucky Daisy; you did not witness the awful row, and all the shouting and fist flaying that went on between Amit and Mr. Pandey. Do you remember how Mr. Mody brought the roof down when he suspected that someone was passing out company’s research and development information and selling them to our rivals – especially QAC Systems? Could you believe it, it was Amit! He was caught red handed.”
The elevator was inching towards our floor and I felt sick to my stomach. Amit was the traitor? I asked myself. It just didn’t make any sense, it was not possible.
“What….what do you mean he was caught red handed?” I squeaked out.
Rhea had realized how shocked and shaken I was for she looked uncertain, almost embarrassed. “I really don’t know the exact story, but apparently Mr. Mody took on the role of Sherlock Holmes and caught Amit with some drawings and reports in his briefcase, which shouldn’t have been there. Of course he denied the allegations, but…..” she stopped abruptly as the elevator halted and the doors opened. As we stepped out we saw Mr. Mody’s personal secretary Norma Castellino.
“Better not say any more,” Rhea muttered under her breath. “We are not really supposed to talk about it. It’s an order from Mr. Mody.”
I felt like screaming in frustration, and I could feel Norma’s eyes on us and understood why Rhea was being so cautious. We all knew in the office that Norma was spying on all of us on Mr. Mody’s instructions. The slightest of mistake on our part was reported to him immediately.
As we distanced ourselves from Norma, Rhea looked over her shoulder and continued in a whisper. “You know how highly Sherlock thought of Amit and how fond he was of him. Amit was the last person in the office he would have ever suspected.”
Puzzled I asked, “Sherlock?”
Rhea giggled, “Our very own Mr. Mody dumb head. Everyone in the office calls him that now, but not in her hearing though.” She swung her head towards where Norma was standing speaking to one of the staff members.
Rhea came very close to me and whispered in my ear, “Be careful, Norma is not very fond of you, so be careful what you say to anyone.” she said dramatically.
She too didn’t like Norma any more than I did.
pretty, wore branded clothes, and had a superior air about her – she seemed to
think that being Mr. Mody’s personal secretary she was a cut above us all.
I couldn’t help wondering as I walked to my office, what was Norma’s reaction to Amit’s dismissal? There had been a time when the two of them has seemed very friendly and the office rumor mill was abounding with stories of their secret love affair. But shortly afterwards, something went wrong and Norma had given him the brush off.
Fancy anyone being daft enough to dump a guy as appealing as Amit Khanna. I was crazy about him and had secretly loved him for a long time, ever since I had first laid my eyes on him. It’s a different story that he had scarcely even noticed me.
I was only the production manager’s personal assistant – whereas he was being groomed for a top position in the company and he had been Mr. Mody’s blue eyed boy.
I sighed as I thought about Rhea’s revelation. I still found it hard to believe that Amit had been stealing high level secret information and selling them to our competitors. He just wasn’t the type to do something as underhand and sneaky as what he was accused of. He had such an open honest face with trusting deep brown eyes.
He couldn’t be a thief – he just couldn’t be! I had to find out if Rhea was exaggerating the whole issue, so the first opportunity I got, I asked Sunil who shared my office what he thought about the way Amit had been sacked.
“It’s true alright – he didn’t have a thing to say in his defense,” Sunil told me bluntly.
“He couldn’t explain how those drawings and photocopies of some sensitive documents happen to be in his briefcase. And mind you, a CD with some vital information was also found.” Shaking his head he continued, “The documents were top secret that only the very senior people knew about. So the question was how did he have the copies? Of course, Amit denied all knowledge of it and that he had ever sold information to QAC Systems or any of the other competitors.”
Sunil paused looking at me deep in thought. “But apart from the photocopies and the CD, there was loads of evidence against him. He had just bought a new Bolero, and to cap it all, he had booked a month long holiday to Europe. When questioned by Mr. Mody, he said he had been saving up for years, but…..” his voice trailed off and shrugging his shoulders Sunil turned back to his work.
“What’s wrong with that?” I demanded. “Amit was getting a hefty pay check, more in a month than what you and I could make in a year, so why couldn’t he have saved for his holiday and buy an expensive car?”
Sunil turned and looked at me, a grin on his face. “You always had a soft spot for Amit, haven’t you? He asked and ignoring the redness spreading on my face, continued, “I liked him too - he seemed a real nice guy. But you can’t ignore the facts Daisy! If he wasn’t ripping of the firm what was he doing with the documents and drawings which would have shot up QAC Systems market value ten folds, and what were they doing in his briefcase? He challenged me for an answer. I couldn’t think of any sensible answer to that.
“He was lucky if you ask me.” Sunil added. “Mr. Mody only fired him – he could have called the cops and had him arrested.” he pointed out. “It was a breach of trust you know, it’s a crime. He could have ended up in prison.”
I had to agree, “I know that, but it doesn’t sound as though Mr. Mody gave him much of a chance to defend himself,” I muttered unhappily, staring at the blank screen of my monitor and “It wasn’t fair sacking him on the spot. There ought to have been an enquiry first.”
“What’s wrong with you Daisy? What more proof do you want?” Sunil showed his irritation openly; “Mr. Mody was too upset to….” he stopped abruptly as Norma came into the office carrying a thick folder. She must have heard a part of our conversation because she glanced sharply from me to Sunil and snapped: “gossiping are we? Men are as bad as some women I know.” she said sarcastically. “Anyone would think you don’t have enough work to do. The sooner everyone forgets about Amit Khanna the better it would for them,” she said looking at me directly. “There are some ridiculous rumours going around about that disgraceful business and I happen to know that Mr. Mody intends to squash them fast and hard.” she announced with an edge of threat and walked into Mr. Murthy’s office.
We did not discuss Amit after that, but later, when Norma had swept past us on her way out without a glance in our direction Sunil looked at me grinning and commented, “Well, she is obviously not breaking her heart over Amit’s disgrace! What a cat she is.”
“A dangerous and sharp clawed cat,” I remarked in anger. “Have you seen the way she dresses? She must be spending a fortune on the clothes she wears to office Sunil? That’s a super outfit she is wearing today – I love that colour and it’s definitely one of Ramani’s designer collection, I could make it out from the cut and the straight lines of the garment.”
“Spare me the details please, Daisy. I have no interest in what you ladies wear. But, yes, I have also noticed, Miss snooty, her dress sense is rather exclusive and expensive. I wonder how she can afford it.” Sunil remarked, but continued “Daisy, how about having lunch with me today. Let’s try out the new place two blocks away.”
Surprised at his invitation and taken off guard, I hesitated for a while, “Not today, Sunil. Thanks for asking. I’ll take a rain check on your invitation some other day perhaps.” I replied with a smile, steering away from the conversation which was going on a different strain altogether.