“Hi, Did you go out with Kabir last week?,” Sandhya asked me one day when she came to my bay on the third floor of the office.
Well, she was not the first person to ask me this question. I don’t know how, but everyone in the office suddenly knew me and that I went out with Kabir. Eyes followed me where ever I went. Whispered conversations. It creeped me out. I was wise enough not to ask from where they heard this exciting news. But such gossips often do not have an origin. It just spreads like a fresh fragrance or a very bad stinking odour, depending on the nature of the news, everywhere.
But what really got me was the element of surprise in their voice. Like they couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to go out with him. He was a friendly person, then why was there a hidden warning in their voice, I could not understand.
Sandhya was a safe source. I could trust her to tell me the truth. “Oh please not you too Sandy! Everyone has been asking me the same for past two-three days? I don’t understand why… Havent anyone in this office gone out with a colleague?”
She did not laugh or answer. Ohh the situation looked indeed grim and bleak and sour. What could possibly be wrong?! Geez man. “Okay. Jokes apart. I know I am missing something big here. Tell me, what is wrong? or What is wrong with Kabir?”
“You really don’t know, do you?”
“When did you join here?”
What a random question.” In May.”
“Hmm.. That’s possibly why you don’t know.”
Now this was getting on my nerves. ” Know what? Will you please get on with it?”
“Well, Kabir joined here two months before you did. He is a relative of one of our directors. Kabir was fired from his previous office. On account of sexual assault.”
The phrase that earth fell away from under the feet, it is true. It really happens. That was exactly what I felt then. I was shocked. That would be an understatement. I was SHOCKED. Upside down, inside out, through and through shocked. The calm friendly easy-going sensitive and charming Kabir cannot be that. No way.
“It is true. There was a police case and interrogation and arrest too. But the case was settled outside court. They say he was given a job here under the written agreement that he will conduct himself decently or he will be terminated on the spot.”
“Why do you think he works in the night shift? There are hardly any female employees in the night shift. Company policy.”
I just crumpled in my seat. Of all the people I could have met, I walked right into the arms of danger. Maybe I was too early to judge him. I wanted so badly not to believe her. Then again I remembered the piercing eyes of Hero the other day when we went out. No wonder.
I didn’t have anything to tell her. Not even to myself. My mind was filled with Kabir’s face and Hero’s piercing eyes.
“Just be careful. He will not dare to do anything here. Maybe he even turned a new leaf. Still, be safe. Dont…,” she hesitated to find a more suitable word, “Just be safe. That’s all.”
I walked to the washroom, away from the prying eyes of the people in the office. I stood there, pulling at my hair, primping in front of the mirror. Was it a gossip or true story? How much of it is true? How was I to face Kabir now? Should I ask him? What will I ask? Was I afraid of him now? Should I avoid him? If I avoid him, he will now know that I know. Then he will ask what I know. Now I don’t know what to do.