READ THE PREQUEL OF THIS STORY HERE : https://tellmeyourstory.in/a-lucrative-offer/
“Don’t you love your wife?”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t!”
A haze of unease engulfed Rajesh – what does Mona mean? While preparing a befitting reply he sees many other members of the Indian community gathering around his table; everyone’s finger pointed at him. He begins sweating. He gets too nervous to counter them.
In the middle of the September night, Rajesh wakes up sweating to discover himself in the clay-white bed in his London apartment. He stretches his hand to touch Riya, habitually, to ignore the horror of the nightmare. Not getting the much needed touch brings him back to a sub-stratum of reality. He recalls Riya would never select white as the colour of their bed; white is the colour of death to her. She prefers rainbow in bed. He recalls his moments of desire with her on the multi-coloured bed sheets in their Bangalore home. He shivers, feels as if he is sinking in the soft whiteness of the bed – did he reach here after death?
The sound of the clock ticking on the side table helps him to wake up in his current reality. He recalls own habit of keeping an alarm clock beside the bed even in the era of smart phones, his arrival in London two months back, Mona’s waiting for him at airport and subsequent real-world experiences in the new city – London.
London is not completely unknown to him. He had visited the London establishment of his previous company several times. But the experience of flying with Air-France economy-class ticket and the Business class of British Airways is different. However he didn’t expect Monalisa Mhatre to receive him at 7.30 in the morning. Parking area for terminal 5 is little far and that too is expensive. He could not stop asking, “Was it really necessary to pay 12 pounds for this pick up?”
“What makes you so apprehensive?”
“Not apprehensive, but every investment should have a reason.” – He tried to sound logical, though he knew Mona was right.
Mona didn’t have an intension to enter into a debate; said, “Needed to give you some quick input before your joining – and I thought meeting you at airport would be better. Anyway I can drop you on your way to hotel if you want to hire a taxi.”
“No – I am here not to waste pounds.” He smiled regaining the confidence of a corporate executive which he began losing at the sight of Mona and her 2nd generation Porsche Cayenne.
He received the necessary brief before he reached – supporting a core engineering strategic team needed much more than his knowledge of CDM software. Especially in a new environment one needs more input on the environment itself than the technological know-how. Collaborating with human resource requires skilled driver in the moving vehicle of collaborative software system.
His hotel in Dorset Rise was three minutes walk from his Fleet Street office. Reaching hotel took 1 hour – almost same time the metro takes. His premonition about Mona’s romantic mood proved to be baseless – she showed no sign of softness for him in that one hour. As she left dropping him at the visitor’s car park quickly waving her hand, Rajesh felt relieved; at the same time pensive – do women gain power by forgetting own emotion?
He met Mona in Bangalore after a decade-long gap. He knew her as admirer colleague once – imagining her to be in a higher role was difficult. Yet in Bangalore, he didn’t get her completely. They spoke for about fifteen minutes – his assignment was already planned, he had to only understand the scope of job and communicate his approval. Seeing her in Airport astounded him. The once ordinary-looking bookish girl looks confident now. Her look is still not comparable to Riya’s, yet accomplishment added attractive dimensions in her appearance. Her car is probably a part of her persona today. He sank in thoughts of Mona till he opened the door of his room.
The view of the busy street from his room welcomed him with a pleasant smile. That was when he felt being a part of the city. Little discomfort of not getting South-Indian filter coffee and lavatory without health-faucet didn’t disturb him like it did during his first visit – he came prepared this time. A hot shower embalmed his mind with calmness removing the layer of itching envy Mona’s arrival had created in the morning.
To Be Continued in Part 2…
Rajesh found home in an Essex street flat within couple of weeks.
London didn’t change much in last few years – neither its people though rising number of Asian population became a concern for many conservatives in these years. Polite colleagues in office-environment would never mention that, but one may overhear stories about how the presence of aggressive Asian boys in locality forced a senior citizen couple to install a new security system at home. A person would not face trouble while taking stroll by the river Thames or Trafalgar square – but being only coloured person in an elevator of in a City of London shopping mall can still expose one to some unpleasant moments, even if not humiliation. He did not have much time for socializing, he did not even have an adventurer’s enthusiasm to discover London tube at odd hours as well, however found own behaviour inexplicably fussy once in a while. Since joining new office he stopped looking at people’s faces – found new responsibilities largely occupying to keep himself absorbed in. Instead of going out on weekends, he choose to take rest in his cozy apartment and chatting with wife about his home eight thousand kilometers away.
Spring had begun showing its colours in the outskirts of London. During his last visits when his schedules used to be packed with official tasks, he dreamt of coming back again to take a trip to Scottish castles and Irish meadows one day. Despite of gaining the scope, he did not try to follow up his tourism dream this time. Joblessness of several months taught him the value of savings. He joined Butler Longman on three-year long contract. On top of that, payment was not excellent. Now saving every possible penny became his priority. Sacrificing own enjoyment seemed inevitable.
However life is not trouble-free even for the most cautious person.
The more Rajesh was trying to concentrate in work, more he sensed some environment- issue in office. Soon he discovered Mona’s leaning towards recruiting Asians. The London office took the form of a mini Indian subcontinent. He guessed qualified emigrants or their descent’s being available at a cheaper rate a reason behind this. Asians work hard and stay in office beyond working hours if pressurized. He could not conclude whether many resources from one region of the world was the reason that had created an absolute informal environment. However, he smelled something was not quite right in the enterprise; hierarchy appears nothing but an excuse to threat out of favor people. Personal comments flowing in manager’s cabins while discussing employee performances entered in his ears like sewage sludge. His discomfort modified into irritation soon. And the first reason behind it appeared to be Sarah.
Sarah’s skin and look is of an Indian’s. Since many years Rajesh has inculcated a hypothesis that Indian girls prefer travelling abroad in search of grooms if they cannot get married in India due to their skinny looks. He did not have an intension to make friends with a junior Indian engineer of mediocre caliber in the team. But Sarah was too sociable to miss a scope of conversing with him. Rajesh did not want to buy name for being rude in the new office and hence allowed her to share table with him during crowded lunch hour in the cafeteria adjacent to office.
And that gave her enough scope to ask personal questions:
“I assume you are comfortable in London?”
“Why don’t you bring your family here?”
“You know the meaning of intra company transfer visa, am I right?”
“Don’t you like England?”
“I do.” Rajesh was trying hard to guess where the conversation was leading him.
“Then you may apply for permanent one.”
“How come?” – He was more curious than interested in applying for one.
The reply left him awestruck. He didn’t know how to counter the unruly girl. In Indian environment, he couldn’t imagine a junior colleague talk to him like that.
His shocked face amazed Sarah. She left table giggling.
She continued being the reason of annoyance for weeks. She was not exactly a lazy employee, rather an average one not excellently skillful or very apt when it came to pointing out technological requirements of a project; only her capability of flirting made her extraordinary. Rajesh had noticed men in office enjoying her flattering them. He knew very well the words she threw at him were thrown to many colleagues in many occasions. Only if a logical analysis helped the middle-aged grumpy man to ignore her! He could not resist asking Mona about her during one of the lunch-meetings.
“Sarah? You mean Saraswati Salmon? Her mother was of Indian descent I have heard. Father is an Afro-Brit from Bristol. That’s where the name and coloured skin came you know!” Mona chuckled; then said in the serious tone, “But what makes you curious about her? Anything wrong?”
Rajesh had to state there was nothing wrong but the girl’s way of conversation.
“You mean you are not being able to manage a junior techie under you?”
Rajesh smiled, understanding Mona’s intent, did not ask anything else. However the sound of her giggling continued echoing in his ears.
To Be Continued in Part 3…
One day Sarah’s voice occupied his mind for entire 20 minutes of his walk-time till he reached his Essex Street flat. He had applied for European Union’s driving license. His colleague Patrick told him about the rumour about Britain’s exit from European Union – he didn’t bother. He was not much aware of global politics; common sense told him that England’s exit from the Union should not be matter of concern for Indians, even if that practically happens. His worry revolved around getting a used car. He knew it would again prove his mediocrity in comparison with Mona, but being an employee of eighty thousand pound worth and having a family in India he could not afford anything better.
His son Akash asked over phone once, “Which car you will take Papa?”
He fumbled; tried to hide own anxiety from the eight year old, “I will select a good one beta. First I have to check which one is most comfortable.”
That day they chatted over specifications of different cars available in England for long – it was his longest chat with his son since he came to London.
Office gossips didn’t end with Sarah’s soft laugh at him. He understood many of the Indian colleague’s keenness to know more about his family. They collected the details about his and Riya’s epic love story, their enviable lifestyle in Bangalore and his losing the job. They wanted to know more – how come such a romantic couple decided to split for such a long duration? In order to satisfy them Rajesh shared stories of his once agony as a jobless ex-manager of the reputed software giant, the state which forced him to leave his beautiful wife and kids and comfort of home; but realized that the stories became tool in some hands to illustrate him as a weak Indian boy in early forties, unable to manage own emotional issues. He knew he had rivals; could not accept the fact that personal decision of leaving family at home could be an image-maker of a senior manager in a Europe-based enterprise. One day Suhail Shantanu, one of his colleagues, a migrant from Bangladesh caught him during lunch – “Guess you know about the MM rollout in Abu Dhabi centre?”
“I also know Monalisa wants you to visit Abu Dhabi once.” He could not resist throwing an anticipatory pebble in the bush of undisclosed area Suhail was talking about. It worked.
“Then you don’t know it properly – Both you and I will have to go there once and check feasibility of getting the same done here.”
Surprised Rajesh did not want to express doubt – at the same time felt bothered about Monalisa’s not sharing the information with him. Why did she need to keep him in dark when his role is of sheer importance in the project? Materials management was being done with basic locally procured software which needs to be replaced by a better one. However, company didn’t yet decide whether all their branches would deploy the same one or different cost centers, i.e. country branches would have own choice depending on cost and requirement. Whether SAP or Oracle’s software would be acquired here or some local software would be procured depends partially on his opinion. Not expressing the annoyance he asked, “Do you know the schedule?”
“Sometime next month.” Suhail shrugged; threw a question so abrupt that Rajesh couldn’t believe own ears, “If you don’t mind – why don’t you call your family to join you?”
“My wife is a manager of a global software company in India – an engineer of same category as mine.”
“Then she can look for some short term opportunity here as well. My wife was a professor in Bakharganj College before we shifted here. She left her job to come with me. I too came on contract in the beginning, and now our stay is extended.”
By then Rajesh new his giving explanation would not help much to change their understanding of relationships; still tried once again, “My children are studying there, both our parents are in India and – we have properties.”
“Then your children can stay with grandparents there. Don’t we have properties in Bangladesh?…” he went on describing number of rooms in his ancestral house, gardens and ponds yielding good revenue while impassive-faced Rajesh kept on watching him, nodding occasionally. Probably not getting reply from him made Suhail end with a vital question, “How would you stay without wife for three years, man? You are in early forties, right? I can’t sleep without wife – don’t tell me you are an Indian yogi.” He winked before leaving the chair – shattering Rajesh from inside with the supposition.
To Be Continued in Part 4…
Long joblessness appeared such a soaring pain in their chocolate box life that none of the couple thought of anything else but the lucrative side of the offer that came from almost out of the blue. He did not have time to ponder over personal matters before his quick transit. Broken-hearted Riya had to organize herself as well as children quickly to keep pace with him – it was she who inspired her husband to talk to Mona. She had no option to retreat. Reaching the comfort of London flat, Rajesh had already began missing Riya – not only her charming company, but also her gorgeous body. It was her charm that forced him to stay in the same city for years. Once out of the city for such a long period, his body began reacting along with his mind. He thought of taking up drinking to ward off his towering loneliness. Fear of own clumsy voice’s getting caught by Riya prohibited him. He could not escape in sleep in heavy drunken state. He had already gone through several sleepless nights remembering the taste of Riya’s mouth, flavour of her toothpaste, smell of her cleavage. Suhail’s comment set his ears into flames.
He decided to go for an evening walk along the riverfront after office. Idea of spending 50 pounds for taxi and pub visit pricked him once –he removed the thorn by force.
He took a taxi leaving office at eight; didn’t miss his ritual of informing Riya own whereabouts that he began even before his marriage, and then tried to absorb himself in enjoying the stunning view of the city under the bright lights illuminating the night sky. However success in pleasing himself remained elusive. The crowded May evening near the gorgeous tower bridge made him more melancholic than cheerful. His eyes were caught by the couples holding hands, families carrying kids on shoulders or in baby bags. Avoiding the cheerful crowd he took a stroll along the riverside – felt the tall lampposts showering their gracious light on him, smelt the water, saw the twinkling ripples drawn on the rivers by the evening breeze – everything was so colourful probably to imply the emptiness in his life – how did he not realise the outcome of leaving Riya and kids behind for three long years? He knew he could call Riya – that would disturb her sleep but not help him to get the touch of her skin, smell her hair. He began reflecting on own state of being depleted instead of the scenic beauty. An unusual fatigue engulfed him – he stepped inside a pub, sat there for over an hour, had beer at his heart’s content and returned home long before he planned.
Rajesh never considered himself to be thinker – never desired to be one. This was probably first time in his life he stood at the window, noticed the pigeon excreta below the window pane, the serpentine road below carrying the mark of human eagerness of reaching a destination. He tried to wonder whether he had already reached his destination. He could not confront himself any longer – went to bed.
And the nightmare of being accused of disloyalty to wife wakes him up in the middle of the night.
To Be Continued in Part 5…
“Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities.”
Rajesh made a habit of chanting the lines everyday while entering office. He knows the importance of being successful to be happy. Long months of non-employment taught him how happiness evaporates once a man’s success-story is breached. He knows the necessity of achieving continuous success to be continuously happy and also keep his picturesque family in India happy. Albeit a sense of inadequacy and inferiority grasps him at the sight of Mona. Mona the meek one who engrossed herself in management studies once, not being able to win his heart, is now his superior. Moreover her behaviour shows no weakness so that he could find a trace of her former soft corner about him. She appears supportive – and her supportive gesture causes loss of his confidence. He had attended many workshops in his previous company on self-realization and self-actualization but sight of Mona invariably brings the image of her milky white Porsche Cayenne in his mind. He feels miserable not being able to overcome the malady of feeling inferior – even chanting Belief mantra fails.
He is responsible for determining requirement of software implementations in the company from strategic business point of view. Now the responsibility of handling external customers in previous company looks as if it was easier. His junior colleagues do not refuse to support him, still his days end with bitterness – of not being able to remain a hero to Monalisa and of being the centre of gossip-mongers. He understands the same supportive colleagues found stories behind his not being able to drag Riya to London.
He tries to rejuvenate himself talking to Riya after office hours.
In the first few weeks Riya tried her best to provide psychological support to her homesick husband. But how long a senior manager of a conglomerate sitting in a London office should sound gloomy? Homesickness should cure within a certain period of time like viral fever does. Her patience for treating the sick one began fading away with passing time. “Your complaints are getting boring, Raj.”
“You are lucky that you don’t have to face issues I do.”
“You don’t want to know troubles I face here – how I spend with two kids here, how Dona (one of their pet Labradors) fell sick last week, how did I take care of your mother when she came here for surgery last month!”
Rajesh knows all those stories – Riya herself narrated those over phone. He also called his mother couple of times during her stay in hospital. He was grateful to Riya, yet his expectation from her was not very low. Doesn’t she know he called his mother every alternative day after she went back home, to relieve her from carrying all the pressure alone? How couldn’t she sympathize with her poor husband suffering in a foreign land? He feels weaker; screams louder to cover up the weakness, “I am the one who is earning, staying here alone to support you. Don’t boast of your management skills so much!”
Riya understands her husband’s temperament. She on the other hand feels helpless not being able to direct him. Without an option to meet his colleagues she cannot do much. The situation is undoubtedly disappointing. How much one can advise over phone? She advises him to ignore gossips. He tries to explain to her why ignoring is difficult – and the same turns a routine. In fact their telephonic conversation’s ending with argument becomes so regular that Rajesh shifts to chatting from calling to avoid vocal fight – even chat sessions could not be better.
To Be Continued in Part 6….
Vishal, his childhood friend dropped in London for a week on his way home. The successful fellow had become an NRI choosing Florida as his abode years back. Rajesh keeps in touch with him, was attracted by the idea of spending a vacation in the childhood friend’s plush Florida home once – obviously the dream was never realised. None of his companies would provide him that much of time. Holidaying abroad could not be claimed from his company’s account in India. Rajesh’s success was limited to India. To comply with the norm of success, he needed to live abroad for a longer period to claim own space on the same platform with them. This is first time in London he feels thriving. Vishal’s call in the morning yesterday cheered him up. He said, “Why don’t you drop in my flat once? Don’t tell me you are too busy on Sunday.”
“Unfortunately I have to tell you that I’m busy on Sunday!”
“How about Saturday evening?”
“What shall we two boys do in a closed apartment on a Saturday evening?”
“Wait wait I am not that Londoner as yet I think – I will take time to understand your sentence.” He tried to add some pun before defending own invitation, “I don’t have scarcity of good scotch here – that much I can promise.” He was confident of impressing his Florida-resident friend showing his recent acquisition.
Vishal had different plan anyway, “In that case I will miss a ride on your 2nd hand car. Let me check how miser you have been!”
Rajesh had to keep himself happy with a 2010 Mitsubishi Grandis as he didn’t find a better deal for 3500 pounds. His feeling of inferiority encouraged him to publicize the news of his adopting a used car via facebook. He had a hope to get his pain eased constantly being rubbed on the pain-point. He answered Vishal’s sniggery with a loud laughter.
“Am in Marylabone, do come with your garbage cart, I wanna be garbage!”
“No issue but what’s plan?”
“Let’s roam around Cambridge Theatre.” Vishal sealed the deal.
Rajesh thanked own luck for bringing him to London that gave him an opportunity to meet a successful friend abroad.
While driving through A4201 towards Marylbone, he remembers a proverb he had heard long back, “children are the bridge between parents.” He rebukes himself for not remembering the same before. He should have spoken to the children more frequently instead of calling Riya. A spontaneous deep sigh relieved him from the guilt of not informing Riya about his meeting Vishal. Tomorrow morning he would call Akash and Akruti – not Riya.
The big fat Vishal fulfills the significance of his name. Probably staying in USA for years helped him to gain the weight suitable to his name. Thinner Rajesh’s looking at him with starry eyes pleases his friend. Vishal understands the width of his body reveals the width of his happiness to his contractual manager friend.
The day is cloudy. Sitting in the luxurious drawing room, sipping a large peg of an exclusive single malt they indulge themselves into discussing about the owner of the splendid house who is a Italian turned British turned American businessman friend of Vishal – his taste, number of cars, comparatively smaller size of the swimming pool in Vishal’s Florida home, current recession of USA, situation of Detroit post General Motors fall and many other global issues. By the time evening starts sparkling, they come out of the house. As the evening breeze began forecasting the arrival of rainfall probably in the late evening, they felt the urgency of going out. Some of trees in this residential area are in full bloom; the rest are stunning green. Summer is hotter in London these days, but the presence of the greenery becomes the reason some areas remain very pleasant. Vishal’s big hand taps Rajesh’ shoulder, “I don’t think drunk driving would be a good idea – let’s take a cab.” The superior friend calls taxi and that’s the moment Rajash discovered that instead of Cambridge theatre, their destination is Lexington Street. He never dared visiting the infamous Soho lanes; mumbled protesting, “But you can call girls in your place too. Why do you need to go to that area?”
“We – not you.”
Rajesh tries to act smart albeit giving an embarrassed smile. “It’s you, ‘cause I am not into girl-hunting.”
“You have many more options than mere girls.”
“You mean? – Sometimes two words are enough to express a person’s terrorized state. “Don’t worry! I am not taking you to Admiral Duncan, neither driving you to that lesbian club at the corner.”
Vishal laughs loud at his own joke; then adds, “Women in your bed cannot drive you to paradise as they do in their own.”
Rajesh finds no word to suit his confident wink. Vishal is superior to him, not only as a successful professional but also as a man perhaps. He doesn’t dare going to brothels; in fact the thought of those painted bizarre girls instigates nausea in him. He knows he can’t explain his negative feelings before the strikingly self-assured Vishal; occupies himself in watching moving shops at the roadside.
To Be Continued in Part 7….