The following is an extract from I Am Ahmedabad, a collection of short stories
Her colleagues at the call center call her the nightingale of the Company. Because she would often make the callers listen to the Company ringtone till they understood the nuances of the composition.
Not that her boss appreciated the approach much. But then, a few perks do come along with your being one of the best human resource glue of the graveyard shift! Ever since Aditi joined the Company, the resignation average of the night shift has come down from two employees per month to one employee in the last six months. Her boss knows that it was, to a great extent, due to Aditi. Unfortunately for him, so does Aditi.
It is not that Aditi is an irresponsible worker. On the contrary, she’s a smart and efficient worker. It’s just that she doesn’t mind having a little fun once in a while. And like all fun-loving people, she is extremely popular with everyone around.
But being popular is not a new thing for Aditi; the 21 year-old, pleasantly plump and very pretty girl has always been her family’s darling. Never a topper, never anything less than above average, taking life in her stride came naturally to her. Maybe because she’s always led a shielded life – a close-knit social group, a school that had a lot of her family friends and other good kids and a call-center job that she neither exactly needed nor had to work hard for. But then, you can’t blame someone for having a good run in life, can you?
Funnily, while almost every boy that has ever been her friend or has seen her feels that she carries a few kilos extra, almost everyone believes that losing those kilos would take away a bit of her magic. And so, as it happens quite rarely actually, boys and girls alike love her the way she is.
What never hurt Aditi’s cause is the fact that she not only can talk politics and a little – or lets say adequate amount – of sports, she’s quite a rage in the pyjama parties that she often throws up at home for her colleagues. Largely because she is often the most vocal and open about sharing her “little brush here and a little squeeze there”. While she would feel quite excited while sharing her stories of occasional touchy-feely-teasy moments with boys, she has this enviable knack of making other girls talk too.
But then, it helps to have a family that allows its only daughter to not only call over about half-a-dozen girls for a night-over at least once a month but also to share small quantities of vodka amongst the group! Yes, a little Vodka; once every few months, in Ahmedabad. Army canteen zindabad!
So there, a hybrid, happy daughter of a Gujarati businessman and a North Indian doctor mummy in Indian Army – that’s what Aditi is. And nothing of that detail ever made any difference to her. Or to her friends. For, when life is beautiful, you generally close your eyes, see heaven with your heart and feel the breeze on your face.
But life at a call center, especially in the graveyard shift can be a little more real than that.
“Hi, this is Aditi. How may I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Nishant, calling from 10039876. My DSL connection doesn’t seem to be working since yesterday.”
“Just a moment Mr. Nishant, I’ll have a look of your account in our system. Can I put you on hold for a moment, Mr. Nishant?”
“Don’t have much of an option do I?”
(Taken aback initially, Aditi smiles at the response) “Well, Mr. Nishant, hearing a pleasing music would be better for you than hearing the noise of the keyboard while I look into the matter.”
“I’m fine with the keyboard noise Ms. Aditi. And maybe I can talk with you too.”
(“Saala chaalu, flirt; ladki dekhi nahin ki chalu ho gaya”) “I’m sorry Mr. Nishant, as per our company laws, I can’t …”
“I know all your company laws Ms. Aditi …”
“I’m sorry Mr. Nishant but …”
“I also know that they call you the nightingale of your Company … Ms. Aditi”
There’s silence for a moment.
(With intrigue and irritation) “Who’s this?”
“Told you Ms. Aditi, this is Nishant here”
There’s silence again.
“Just a moment, Mr. Nishant”
And Aditi quickly puts the caller on hold, making him here the Company ringtone. And immediately shouts towards her colleagues “Does anyone know any Nishant?”
“Shh”, her colleagues immediately shout back at her. And her boss, who was passing through her end of the cubicles, stops and gives her an angry, cold look. “Meet me after the call”.
But before she could finish saying that, Aditi notices that the caller had put the phone down. The call may have ended, but the matter had not. Aditi searches for the account of the caller on her system.
‘Nishant Vaidya, NishTECH Valley Pvt. Ltd., S G Highway, Ahmedabad’
(“Who is this guy; I don’t know him. [pause] Anyway, time to face the boss’ music”)
“Can I come in, boss?”
Her boss merely gestures here to enter his cabin and sit. Aditi promptly gets seated in front of the boss.
“What was that Aditi?”
“There is a difference between a cafetaria and the work cubicle, right?”
“The caller was trying to get personal with me”
“Don’t we go through a training to tackle those kind of callers?”
“No, we don’t.”
(Startled) “Excuse me?”
“Well, sir, he was not getting abusive or anything. He just said that he knows that everyone calls me a nightingale here”
(Pauses a little, thinks) “Must be an old friend of yours”
“I’ve never had a friend called Nishant Vaidya.”
“Why is that surprising? Am I supposed to have a friend by that name?”
(laughs) “No, I mean. Are you sure the person’s name was Nishant Vaidya?’
“Did you check his details on the system?”
“Yes I did. He’s with some firm called NishTECH Valley Pvt. Ltd.”
“He himself called you?”
(With a surprised look and tone) “Yes. Why?”
“So, he had called for a genuine problem or he just wanted to talk with you?”
“The system does not show anything. (Irritated) But what is this about? Do you know him?”
(Pauses, guages Aditi’s mood) “Ah well, sort of. I mean he’s a fellow IT guy.”
There is a discomforting silence in the room. Aditi keeps looking at her boss with an expression that spoke of her smelling something fishy.
The boss finds it difficult to hold any longer and gives up:
“Well, Nishant Vaidya is a NRI …well, not actually an NRI …he is someone who’s in the US for the last 8 years and is now coming back to Ahmedabad.”
Aditi finds things getting increasingly curious, while her boss, for no apparent reason, gets increasingly nervous. And as Aditi merely keeps looking at him, the boss is forced to speak again:
“Well, he’s coming back to Ahmedabad for good. And he wants to grow through the route of acquisition of an IT or ITES Company. For the purpose …(pauses) he’s had two talks with our management too.”
There is now complete silence, as both keep looking at each other, thinking their own, different thoughts. Aditi gradually gets the import of her immediate boss’ last statement, as her face starts getting a little agitated.
“Our Company is getting sold?”
(Thinks for a moment) “Well, let’s say some other management might takeover this Company.”
“Oh come on sir. At 3 in the morning, you don’t want to give me political correctness, do you?”
“I’m just doing my job.”
“No, you are not.”
The boss looks startled.
“If you were doing your job, you would have told us earlier that we might lose our jobs soon.”
“Hey, who talked of anyone losing jobs here!”
“Doesn’t that happen all the time in the case of change of ownership?”
“Oh, so those rumours were all correct! Oh my God! Kavita and Piyush were talking about this, like two months ago. Oh my God, has it been happening for that long?”
“You trust Kavita and Piyush? I’m amazed.”
“Well, why not? They are my colleagues.”
“Oh I see. So what was it when a certain Team Leader called Aditi had claimed that all that those two want to do is to get into each other’s pants!”
(Gets just a bit defensive) “So? That doesn’t make them unreliable.”
The boss can’t help but break into a sarcastic half smile:
“Aditi, we’re wasting our time here. I think you should go back to your workstation.”
Aditi, never a person who could leave a matter without seeing it’s logical conclusion gets irritated; and speaks just a bit loudly. Not much, and yet, a bit too loudly for a boss:
“And do what, wait to be kicked out of the job?”
(With a stern, piercing look) “Ms Aditi, let’s not forget the hierarchy of this office.”
(Almost immediately, sensing her mistake) “I’m sorry sir. But sir, why haven’t we been told about this?”
“Simply because it is Nishant Vaidya who has come up with the proposal – out of the blue, just last week. No one of our management had even given any thought to such a scenario before that …”
(Pauses, as both continue their look on each other)
“And I’m only your boss. I’m not the Company’s boss. I’m not involved in a $1 Million deals …even at 38”
(”Oops! His raw nerve, again”) “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t mean to reach here. But I just believe that management not telling their employees about a possible sale of their Company is just not done. I think I’ll have to rethink about this job.”
The boss, almost immediately, breaks into a wry smile.
“You’re so predictable, Aditi. And so lovely. Please don’t change.”
“Where did that come from sir?”
(Smiles) “Never mind. Go to your desk. You’re still working for this Company. Till 6 in the morning anyway, right?”
Aditi reaches back to her desk. And the moment she sits down, the phone rings …
To be continued …