The disappointment, the composure & the dejection
Manish called when I was in the final stages of kicking off the stupor. I was glad he called, because I had conveniently forgotten him and his visits. After the customary greeting exchanges and matrimony congratulations, he started on what he did best – selling investment plans. While I was not interested in investing any money, I couldn’t really say no to him. He had become more of a friend than an investment planner in the last three years because of his humility and affection. I asked him to come over to my office to discuss.
When I had first heard that Ram was going to be put on the dreaded bench, I realized that it’s probably the end of the road for him in this company. I couldn’t do anything or blame anyone, because given this situation I would have probably done the same thing.
He had always been the quieter kind. Never saying more than what is desired of him and sometimes ever lesser. He would come to work everyday, switch his computer on, do what is required of him, have lunch mostly on his own, turn his computer off and leave for home. He wasn’t noticeable at all and may be that’s what caused his head to be on the chopping block first when a unwarranted situation arose.
Siddhanna would always smile when he saw me exiting the lift. His smile had an unusual charm. I always felt he was trying to say something, but instead chose to smile. May be he wanted to talk about the concoction of colors in the sky he saw the day before, or how his grandson leaped with joy into his arms when he reached home. I always tried to create these images for myself, smile back and give him my laptop card.
In no time, I had gotten used to the vibrant smile. When he went for his heart operation, I started missing him in the mornings, but I knew he would come back soon and bring the smile back with him. I pictured him smiling and went on with work.
Manish arrived fifteen minutes earlier than the decided time. I didn’t know if he had put on weight or lost some. I actually didn’t remember how he looked a year back. Meeting someone only once a year has its own predicament, I thought.
He told me there was a great insurance plan that I can invest in. I was averse to the idea. If one were to classify investments as risky, balanced and safe, purchasing one more insurance plan would have shifted me to the ‘scared’ category. I asked him to show me some ELSS options, which I thought would be the best investment in a slumped stock market. He didn’t have any. He told me he had moved to an insurance company about six months back and only sold insurance plans now.
“In that case, I wouldn’t have anything to invest now.” I said.
“Please sir. I came all the way because you asked me to. I have already committed the amount to my boss. He will make my life miserable and there are no jobs in the market. Just a small amount would do sir.”
“Sorry Manish. I cannot. I really was under the impression that you are still with the investment firm and will be able to give me ELSS options to invest in. I am ready to help but insurance is not a good option for me.”
“Sir please. My boss will kill me. He already abuses me if I don’t meet my target. I have known you for so long. Please help me out”
It was an uncomfortable situation for me. I wanted to help him, but it did not make sense for me to invest either.
“Sorry Manish. I really can’t. If you want I can talk to your boss and explain the situation”.
“It won’t help sir. He wouldn’t understand.”
He rested his hands on his forehead. I could see two emotions on his face – one of fear of what awaits him when he faces his boss and another of disappointment at my failure of not being able to help him out.
He said thanks and left. I came back to my desk, almost feeling guilty.
My team members told me that the cake had arrived. Ram was leaving us that day and someone had come up with the idea of a farewell. It didn’t really seem opportune to cut a cake when someone is leaving involuntarily, but then letting someone go without best wishes isn’t courteous either.
The cake was placed in the center of the room. People gathered around. Ram stood there with the knife, composed as usual. Everyone expected someone to say something. For some strange reason, no one did. Even I didn’t. I wanted to thank him for all the good work he had done and say best wishes for his future. But I didn’t.
Ram cut the cake. I gave him a piece, shook his hand and conveyed best wishes. Everyone followed. I came back to my seat and felt awful that I didn’t even manage to saw a few kind words to him. All the management education and people management trainings felt worthless considering that I wasn’t able to say things when they mattered most to people.
I turned and saw Siddhanna at the glass door. I started feeling worse when I realized it was Siddhanna’s last day in this company. The management had decided to change the security providers and so I wouldn’t be able to see Siddhanna’s smile from Monday.
Another cake arrived. All the security guards were asked to cut the cake. Only Siddhanna came forward and cut it, the smile stationed on his face throughout. He couldn’t eat much because of his heart condition. But he made up for the small bite with a much bigger smile than usual. He gave a small speech thanking everyone for being so good to him and making his stay in the company comfortable and merry. He said he felt dejected that he had to leave, but then that’s how life goes. He asked all of us to not forget him and pay him a visit at his new company if possible. The small piece of cake seemed like an hourglass, with every small nibble bringing Sidhanna’s stay at our company closer to its end.
We exchanged glances. He smiled. I smiled back. We did not have to say anything else to each other. I went back to my seat and started packing up for the day.