Rajesh and Riya, the happy couple, was neighbours envy since ages. Married since 15 years, both of them were successfully managing their professional life along with their emotional family affairs and demanding social responsibilities. None in their neighbourhood or office could recall any of them blaming the spouse for any uncomfortable situation in life – a normal practice among married couples in this township turned tier two city.
This city has been growing since twenty or twenty five years, after software sector started being considered as “industry” and Indian and foreign investors found this industry a profitable area to invest in. Attracted to its locational advantage, they rushed to this tiny township to become big employers. And the city gradually turned home for many employed couples from all parts of the country, like our Rajesh and Riya. All of them wanted to lead a picture-perfect life, though not many were successful. Rajesh and Riya – both workaholic software engineers turned management personnel achieved the targets. They were leading a nice life with their two kids, two dogs, one apartment in a prestigious high-rise and two cars.
Unfortunately, target-achievement in this booming industry does not lead to an everlasting bliss. After many years of continuous growth, the industry started seeing a decline in profit-margin. Rajesh and Riya faced a hitch. Rajesh lost his job as a mid-level manager in a Global Indian software enterprise. The HR department simply called a group of managers working for Aerospace projects to inform that the company did not need them any longer. Most of the laid-off managers were not interested in fighting against the company’s decision as they had already found some or the other opportunity elsewhere. Rajesh did not anticipate the upcoming blizzard in his profession after loyally servicing the company for so many years. Of course, the neighbours did not get any hint of it. But the shadow of gloom started spreading its wings over the family. Within a couple of months, their weekend trips had reduced, the refrigerator looked less full, and children started missing ice-creams after dinner.
Rajesh and Riya were spending sleepless hours. Both were changing sides in the bed. None of them found a word to start a conversation; even touching each other seemed impossible in that stressful ambiance.
Riya broke silence, “Do you remember Mona?”
How could Rajesh forget Mona? He was Mona’s heartthrob once. He and Mona joined the global software company on the same day. Not only Rajesh, probably everyone in their team was aware of Mona’s soft corner for him. Rajesh did not bother much – he already found his darling in Riya, a fair and beautiful girl who felt like a perfect company for him. Mona was concentrating in learning and further studies. She tried to drag Rajesh towards the same direction, but Rajesh found her boring and her intensions outrageous. Mona left the company to pursue MBA with an Ivy League business school after a couple of years and Rajesh tied the knot with Riya to begin his happy journey of life. Yes he took pleasure in Mona’s attraction towards him once; which man does not feel proud of being a point of attraction for women? But that was it! What was Riya’s reason of remembering her after so many years, in the middle of the night? Her question puzzled Rajesh.
He just said, “Hmm.”
Riya continued, “You know she is the Senior VP of Butler Longman now?”
Yes, Rajesh had heard that the previous year. Every professional in this sector tries to keep information of their colleague’s whereabouts, and he was happy to know that Monalisa Dave, his sincere ex-colleague could fulfil her ambition. But how did Mona’s being a SVP matter to Rajesh? He was never that ambitious, neither did he ever want to see himself as a competitor of Monalisa Dave. He sounded indifferent, “Well, yes, then?”
Riya threw her vital question. “Why don’t you talk to her once?”
Rajesh was not ready for this kind of a proposition. Yes, he enjoyed being a heartthrob of women, he was conscious about his looks as well. But pursuing a female ex-colleague, who once was attracted to him, for a job was not an idea he could easily accept. He protested, “No, I can’t.”
“But she had a soft corner for you and I think she still has it!” Riya was not a person to bring the topic to a halt so easily. She went on, “Why do you think you cannot? See, being a women I know very well how much she fell for you. And if I am not wrong, she will be ready to help you even today.”
Her verbose made Rajesh impatient. “Ufff! It’s not possible for me Riya. I can’t think of exploiting a female colleague’s infatuation. I am not that sort!” He sounded angry.
Riya knew that he was “not that sort!” She had complete faith on her husband. She was very sure that no other lady but her would ever catch attention of her husband. And this confidence led her to push him a little more. “I know how you take it, but what’s the harm in checking with her once? See, she is married now – you will not be in trouble. Please consider the situation we are in. Six months are over and you didn’t get any call from any company even after attending so many interviews. You know we can’t go like this forever.”
Rajesh could not suppress his irritation any longer. None else knew better than him what joblessness meant to a man. He was also aware of Riya’s eagerness to see him happy again. But the ethical issue in exploring the possibility frustrated him. He exploded, “Would you please stop? What do you think of me – a buffoon chasing women all the time? Yes I lost my job, that doesn’t mean I was always jobless!” He did not know how to express himself further. He jumped out of bed, rushed towards the drawing room closing the door behind with a bang.
Riya understood that her words had worked. She knew her period of anxiety was coming to an end. She fell asleep.
Fortunately, the next day was a Saturday. Riya had enough time to talk to Rajesh after breakfast. “Please give it a thought. We were all colleagues once, right? Can’t a male ex-colleague simply ask a female SVP if there is opportunity open in her company? What’s harm in trying to meet her once? If Mona has nothing in hand – I know her – she will tell you upfront. But if she has something, you may get a good offer – why can’t we explore once?” Probably that ‘we’ appealed to Rajesh. He knew ‘we’ included not only Riya but also the kids, the dogs, and even two pairs of parents in their respective suburb homes. A jobless man cannot stand strong surrounded by this ‘we’.
Finally he surrendered. “Well, I will try.”
Riya felt relieved. The phrase “will try” from the loyal Rajesh could even fetch the moon on earth.
Next Friday, Riya, little tensed, returned home early. Rajesh had an appointment with Mona in the afternoon. But his phone was switched off since noon. Riya did not get any update from him. Riya found the main door closed from inside. She rang the bell. Rajesh opened the door. Suddenly Riya felt an adoring emotion for this calm and handsome man. He had been her husband for fifteen years, presented her the best moments of her life, and made her a proudly successful woman. She could not resist herself from asking, “What happened?”
The husband was calm as ever, “As expected.”
Riya sounded little impatient, “What was expected?”
“I have been gifted a job.” Rajesh informed.
Riya was overtly happy. “Instantly? What is the role?”
“Senior Manager of their consulting division. I will have to appear for a formal interview of course. But she has arranged everything after getting my call last week. She is well aware of industry situation.” Rajesh said with an indifference.
Cheerful Riya embraced him, “Wow, I told you! When are you supposed to join?”
Rajesh freed himself slowly without showing any emotion; then replied in a deep voice, “Early next month; but in London. They need a senior manager in their London office. Even Mona stays mostly in London these days. I have to run around to complete formalities now.”
Riya stood frozen, looking at her husband with dumbfounded eyes. The loyalty of her husband, that she was so proud of, had started working once again…this time perhaps for his “employer”!