Kabir couldn’t talk for a few minutes. I was in a daze myself. Everyday people tell me so many stories of manipulation and other underhand dealings and conspiracies, but this was just mean. Plain meanness.
Kabir looked away trying to stem the tears of humiliation and betrayal. I really didn’t know how to console him. And sympathy would only make him feel worse. So I kept quiet, not really trusting myself to speak the right words.
“Had he told me how badly he wanted the promotion, I would have stepped away. I am not really in dire need of money of a career break. I have a rich background. I work because I like it. I could go back to family business anytime. But that would be like admitting to this gross insult and escaping. I can’t live with myself, if I did something like that. I’d rather die.”
“That effing bastard said so many things which I don’t want to repeat in front of you, just suffice to know that it convinced my colleagues and my senior manager to withdraw my name from the appraisal list and initiate a disciplinary action. I was in shock and could not believe what was happening.”
“The next two days went in a blur. The creepy whispers and looks, It was a torture beyond I can explain. He was planning this from quite some time, and I had no idea. Bloody fuck.” Kabir was enraged, his eyes glowing with fury, the nerves on his hands ready to burst, I admit, I was very scared.
“Two days later, a meeting was called with both of us. He played the act of the innocent so well, that any denial from my end sounded too weak and unconvincing. That’s when I snapped. The damage is done and everything is lost. It was bad sight, I hit him in front of all the board members. We fought like thugs in the streets. I almost strangled him.”
“What the hell was he thinking, say sorry and destroy my life, and I would let him get away? That he could enjoy all those without a conscience? That I will back away quietly without defending myself? I became an animal there, ready to kill anybody who dared to come near me.”
We both sighed at the same time.
“Heard there was police and arrests too..”
“Naahh.. that was for demolishing the office property and shouting abuse in all languages I knew and in the most innovative and colourful way. Yeah, I also gave him a fracture on leg. Let him crawl his way to Canada. Bloody fucking bastard.”
“How did you land here?”
“Venkatesh, you know the sales manager? He is a relative. He has 34 year of experience in this corporate whirlwind. He asked me what really happened. He was the only person to ask me so. I don’t know how he got me a job here and I was the one to insist on night shift. Its better, in so many ways.”
He was looking at me with a weird expression, waiting to see what I will say. I was sure it would decide whether he continued to see me as a friend or not.
“Well, too bad you are not gay. I had so many doubts about ‘being a gay.’ Now I don’t have anybody to clear them.”
Shhhh… Blunder. I closed my eyes. Why couldn’t I think and talk. Shit.
Kabir laughed. “You have doubts huh? Of course you have… This is after all you…” He made a motion with his hands, indicating the whole of me. I felt shy. Shheeeeshh.. “I can still be a…what shall I say.. a source? So if you want…I can try to…”
“No. No need. No thanks.”
(Imbelemblemeleeee. Gross. What was I saying…)
He really really laughed and the tense bubble burst. Food had come in between but both of us had not had a bite. Somehow we finished and conversation turned to other normal and banal things. Both of us carefully leaving the sensitive topic there. I told him about my resignation and plans to leave the city. He took a minute to absorb that news and then carried on like nothing mattered.
I reached back room that day totally exhausted to think. I am glad I called him and pestered him to talk. I am glad I helped him, somewhere, to get over the unpleasant incident. He wanted to continue working for another 2 or 3 years and take over his family business. Till then this was his war for self-respect.
There were still many questions in my mind, but were the answers really required? Maybe not. Everyone has issues and problems which others know nothing about. It’s so easy to cry over the bad luck. But it takes so much of will power to face the world alone and prove your part. The tough face on the outside has so many cracks on the inside. Sitting in my cubicle here, watching the staff around me, what were their demons and misfortunes? I wonder… Hope they all have the strength to fight back and smile through the adversities.
I will not forget how Kabir held my hands outside my hostel, and said thank you. It was a very humbling moment, almost sacred for him, I think. No matter how much you tell yourself that you were not wrong, sometimes you need to hear it from a third person. It gives a relief, a healing touch and a resolve to move forward and never give up. I am glad I was all these for Kabir.
Friday is my last day in this office. And it has been an adventure in itself. I haven’t seen the Hero for more than a week now. He is on leave. I hope I can meet him before I leave.