The Call - contd
by Aditi Talapatra
Back to Page 1 of the story
The chaiwala, readying his spread on the mounted platform, hot milk boiling, earthen and plastic cups arranged vertically, two long platforms placed in front of his table on either side. The platforms raised by bricks for his customers to sit and talk. It adorned the footpath ornately. She came inside.
It was a modest house built in the early 20th century by her great grandfather. The paint on the outside was a faded green, moss covered the lentil above the window, and the French windows below held by the strong iron grills bore into the thick eighteen inch walls. Small sticks and hay lay bare along the cornice; the pigeons had not spared any holes.
The three storied-house had never remained vacant. Although, it was safe to leave the house and go for a holiday, the Cowdries never managed one holiday to say the least. Every month ,they would have visitors, visitors that came across the border, visitors that were probably distantly related .
Swathed in a stiffly ironed blue polka white cotton saree and a white tote bag, she quietly slipped into her inch heel Comforts. The scorching sun, the humidity was unbearable and in a blink she waved at the speeding taxi, “Dalhousie” she boarded. Her already drenched handkerchief felt sticky in her hand, she tucked it under the side zip of her bag…..her stare directly on the road. She didn’t want to pay a rupee more, had it not been the end of the month she would have cared less. Why do they keep meetings so early she thought, her nails tap-tapping on the lap top?
The roads were strewn with garbage on both sides and the light breeze now had a cooling effect on her, but it was accompanied by the stench. Mahatma, thank God, never lived long to see the road named after him, dirty and filthy. Perhaps it was another mazdoor strike she thought as the taxi sped towards her office.
“Pachaas”, the taxi driver said in all stiffness and asked, “Didi, ten rupees more”.
“What? No way”, she scornfully handed a fifty rupee note as she alighted and went past the security beep.
“Good morning Madam”, promptly she wished the security man, “Good morning!” handing the bag and the laptop for a quick check.
The long stretch of path led her directly into the air-conditioned comfort of her office. With her index she pressed on the electronic four and quickly released it. Her manicured fingers attracted her gaze as she adoringly looked at herself in the reflection of the glazed steel inside the elevator. She had tied her hair in a chignon, looking very neat and proper. Today she was early to office, very early fearing another street procession may mark her as a late entrant in the procedural meetings.
“Good Morning” and she would address each one of her bosses, in an accent they loved to hear, the Bose, the Sengupta’s,the Sanyal and the Bhattacharya.
“This summer has been scorching and sitting in an air-conditioned room, how immensely cool we feel, though
our kirana man has made the day for us with his sweat and pain.”
She would go on “the sales figure for soaps has been three-fold, probably because the heat is forcing everyone to bathe more than once Sir”.
“The summer figures as we see here have been pegged at 26%, our new launch of the shower gel has attracted the attention of the customers and there has been a major shift from bars to gels. In this context I would like to mention that our detergent for clothes had a slight set back of two percent but we still managed to be at the forefront.
“Why was that?” quipped Sengupta
It’s not the competitors Sir, it’s the weather to be blamed, and the winter we experienced lasted longer”
“So?” interrupted Sengupta again, he never liked her, had this innate sense that women were not good enough!!
“People could do with less washing, less soap and less water”, she smiled, irritated within having to explain this simple logic to a man of Sengupta’s stature, “as a result”, she continued “we had a dip in sales as you can see from the chart”.
“Again our increase with the introduction of gel has helped to retain and balance our revenue; I have included them in the dossier given to each of you. We have subdivided the eastern zone into eight,each zone has notified their sales, the pressure is most in the north-east, again the same reasons holding good Sir”, to avoid another question.
With all seriousness she would depict the figures and analyse the charts.
With the advantage of her pleasing looks and an intelligent mind she always held sway in the meetings. Her confidence, her speech and commitment had an overwhelming effect on the occupants of the rectangular mahogany table. As it ended like all the previous ones she came out of the room followed by the members. Being the youngest she had an open mind about the facts and a surety about figures.
“I am proud of you”, that’s what he always said as she left the room, but she knew these words from her superior lasted as long as the profit margins remained high.
Returning to her seat, she scanned her table; it was a mess, she had to clear it immediately, but the emergency of re-opening her mail and reading it for the umpteenth time seemed to betray her patience. With a swift maneuver she cleaned the table, setting up the files in a neat pile, rearranging them in a tone of priority, the pen-holder she fancied was kept in close range as she loved toying with them.
Reclining on her seat Nina turned towards her Gmail once again,her polished and velvety fingers on the mouse turned pale with dejection, she oft repeated, "why me”?
Another year had passed by, Arun never called, not even to ask her about her mother, who suffered a stroke. She closed the Windows and returned to her neat stack once again drowning in them. Just then, she felt the vibration of her mobile, and turned the flap in awe. ***