Dhanteras & Diwali: “In Search of My Friend”

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Wishing you all a very happy Dhanteras and Diwali!
Sharing an excerpt from one of the stories of my book, ‘Existences’ to go with my nostalgic mood tonight…especially that I’m back to live in Calcutta now after leaving in 2006, just a couple of years after this story dates back to…
The story is titled: ‘In Search of My Friend’.

It was pointless arguing with someone as strong willed as Mrs
Viswanathan. We slowly resumed walking to the exhibition.
The arrival of the festive season of Durga Puja, Diwali and
Dhanteras – meant an incredible rise in work pressure at the store.

110 Shuvashree Chowdhury
In spite of a centralised indenting system, additional stocks had
to be indented for locally, keeping regional tastes and the local
market in mind. Then there was the festival-specific display,
visual merchandising, counter re-allocations and accounting of
incoming stocks and additional staffing to be looked into. With
all the planning and multi-tasking required, I barely could say
“Hello!” to Mrs Viswanathan. I now found it impossible to make
time for her when she visited. So, I stayed in my office on learning
of her arrival. The staff ignored her completely. The showroom was
now buzzing with customers they had to attend to, with a view to
meeting the enhanced festive season targets. Mrs Viswanathan now
insisted on chatting with the security staff, gardener, attendants,
who also pretended not to notice or hear her.
At times she would telephone me, on her return home.
“I was not able to meet you today,” she would start and then
add excitedly, “I had brought this saree I wanted to show you,” or “I
wanted to tell you about that great exhibition I went to yesterday. I
wish you could have come along.”
“I’m sorry to have missed you too, Mrs Viswanathan,” I would
reply politely. “I was caught up in a meeting when you came.”
She would, to my chagrin, visit the store the next day or the day
after, hoping to meet me again. At the peak of the festive season,
I stopped taking her calls. It had been my fault, I realised, for not
discouraging her overtures earlier. After a few unanswered calls
from her, Mrs Viswanathan stopped coming to the store. Then
abruptly there was no call from her. I had too many things to
worry about simultaneously. Yet, a sense of guilt, for snubbing her
out the way I did, would pervade my conscious from time to time
and linger.
We surpassed our festive season targets. After that, the
workload reduced along with customer walk-in. It would remain
low till the next high season of Christmas and New Year. It was
now that I missed Mrs Viswanathan. I could not help thinking of
her contribution to the positive changes, our target achievement
and the high sales-incentives we earned. Her sincerity had been
unmistakable, whatever her motivation.
“Has any of you seen Mrs Viswanathan?” I asked at a morning
meeting. “It’s been a long time that she visited us.”

Existences 111
“No, we haven’t. Thank God!” was the spontaneous response.
“Please … please don’t call her, Ma’am,” the staff pleaded in
unison.
“Perhaps she has a son for whom she is considering you a
prospective bride,” someone joked, while another added, “She
asked us if you were married and we said ‘no’.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she’s looking for a bride,” I grinned, though my
heart felt heavy.
“Can you imagine a mother-in-law like her?” one staff mocked,
“A nightmare, I tell you,” another staff rejoined.
There was roaring laughter, but I remained silent. My joining in
the hilarity would mean a breach of loyalty to my friend.
Mrs Viswanathan’s absence was a relief to everyone at the
store. But for me, she had become an integral part of us since my
joining. Her not visiting again, not even calling me, meant we
had hurt her deeply, I concluded. So I called her on her mobile
phone. There was no response. I dialled several times, but still,
there was no response. She must be really upset, not to take my
calls or call back later if busy, in spite of my several attempts to
connect with her, I thought. I decided on visiting her at home.

PS: My photo here is current…till early 2006…I had long, almost waist length hair 🙂

 

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Existences cover

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