“That’s how the Light gets in…”: short story.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

I had wished my ex colleague and friend Sandip, on his birthday via two of our old working photos and a small writeup, on a Facebook post tagged to his timeline.

“A very happy birthday Sandip!
Congratulations and all the best on your new assignment in Dubai.
Vividly and fondly remember all the early experiences, till you became a hot shot apt manager of so many airports serially…though I never ceased to be exasperated with your constant pranks and to curse you royally for a long time…
And Peter Hooper, beside you…well only he could beat you to crazy pranks!
One I can never forget, is your lighting a matchstick to burn my hair when it caught in the car’s fan…early morning on the way to work at 5am. Also, telling new APM Lobo I take everyone who visits Calcutta on city tours 🙄😈…till Shane intervened and saved me!
By the way, bumped into Shuddho a few weeks back…he actually pulled his cap down to dodge me…but I got him…reminded me of the QC days when most dodged me this way!😄”

While I wrote this after Facebook’s birthday reminder, along with the photo suggestions (shared below); several experiences came to mind and as a writer I obviously thrive on them. But this time the thoughts drifted into the writing of my book ‘Existences’ which is actually my first and favourite – in which I lined up so many of such work life experiences.
When I was looking out for a publisher, after the one reputed one who I quit my job and wrote it on their beckoning backed out at the last minute, citing the excuse of – it did not fit their lists, I approached all the reputed publishers in India. Thankfully most replied, unlike the silence, that debut writers’ manuscripts are usually met with – which encouraged me to keep waiting for my train to authorhood to arrive; as with the discussions I had with so many editors I’d gained confidence on my own work rather than the contrary and give up.
One of the many comments I received from the very young editor of one of the top publishing houses was: “I read your collection of stories over my vacation. I really loved some of them. However, on the whole the collection to me felt uneven as all the stories are not equally strong…”
I found this usage of “not equally strong”…the most weak of all the comments I’d ever received with rejection notes. I did some research on the editor and realised he was barely about 23-25years, was a year or so old in the company, and this was obviously his first formal assignment after an English literature degree. He was like several youth I’d trained in a series of companies, and had little exposure to the working world to understand the dynamics – so how was he going to begin to understand the gravitas of my stories? I could not ask him to send my manuscript to a senior editor, as I had sent it to the senior most – who as per their protocol had courteously replied and sent it to the junior most one to screen.
So anyways, I understood the dynamics of the publishing industry well enough by now, to know I was on my own on this writing venture and as they insisted short story collections don’t sell – as apparently it doesn’t have one USP (unique selling proposition) like a novel.
This also made me realise that I would essentially have to ‘dumb-down’ my stories to make it commercially viable. Yet I didn’t want to change any of my stories as they were more than profound – even if a tad bold. So I wrote another lot of very short 11 stories to use as fillers between each of my original 15 stories to convey my ideas of the attitudes I’d inculcated and coached – at my 8/9 jobs with top corporates that I finally ended with – as a senior executive search consultant (head hunter).
To sum up the learnings from my decade of interactions with the formal publishing industry, let me now explain my previous post for the understanding of those who thought I shared the previous experiences to highlight my colleague’s lack of intelligence or misogyny or even show him down.
It was not that at all and as with all stories I narrate, even casually, I had a meaningful purpose. As even jokes and ragging are meant to teach you valuable life and work lessons. You just have to have the exposure, depth and maturity that comes from experiences – to understand such teachings. As a corporate coach I would tell a story only to depict a positive outcome. Even the negative experiences I depict for a positive outcome.
By lighting a matchstick to my hair in my previous post, after it caught in the moving car’s fan, even though he was not going to set fire on me, Sandip had demonstrated that at this job I could not let my femininity and callousness come in the way of discipline, to get to the job on time if I wanted to do well. Also driving home the point that I could have died from the fan and my hair strangling me, so I had to keep it well tied up. That there was no place for such laxity let alone any difference between a man or a woman with long hair. So though I called it a prank, it was an invaluable lesson he taught me – no callousness allowed in this airport job. I had to be serious about what I was doing.
Then when he suggested to the new airport manager that I take everyone who came to Calcutta around to see the city, I was in charge of 24hours reservations and ticketing, and also the VIP/CIP handling cell at the Calcutta airport, which had a separate 5 member team. Who else was supposed to know the city better than me! Just that I had to break out of the – I’m a coy and reserved woman who cannot do this or that… if I wanted to go far in my career.
Then, I was the only woman who went with Sandip to the morgue and then the crematorium when our dear colleague Anita Bhatia in uniform in the picture with us died in a car crash on her way to work one morning. When suggested by the GM, Sandip did not cringe from taking me along with him, just as if I were another man.
Now with all these experiences of equality I have encountered at work places, with obviously a few errant characters who are drenched in misogyny, am I expected to write books on the defamation of women! In fact all the interactions I’ve had with several editors of reputed publishing houses also taught me valuable lessons for my writing – I have learned to drive home my point with more clarity for all kinds of readers.
Feminism, in the absence of its indeterminant borderless actuality – is the supreme attempt to understand the divide – even if it’s through the mesh of prejudices.
If you attempt to look through the mesh of differences, feminism can exist.

PS: sharing my personal journey to becoming a writer here again…for those who might consider a writing career without weighting the situation – https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2013/01/19/the-making-of-a-book-part-1/

Sandip Chowdhury, sitting lowest…

#lifecoach #feminism #shortstories #workingwoman #emotionalresilience #airports #airlinestaff #womensempowerment #moralstrength #positivity #inspirationalstories #authorlife

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