A rainy Conference

It was about 11 am, the weather outside was something else. The clouds were coming together and sticking up a dark blanket blocking the last possible ray of sunlight. The Hill resort atop India’s most famous monsoon hill station was shining in its element. The clouds had descended on it. The white haveli in the black background was just like a shining pearl in the abyss. The clouds had swelled up and the heavenly dance could happen any moment, the wind was picking up speed.

The Conference hall was full. It was the venue of the National meet of one of India’s largest dotcom companies. The atmosphere inside was a clear contrast from the weather outside. The windows were covered with curtains and the conference hall disconnected the people inside from the last sensory perception of Nature’s dance that was about to begin. 

On the mike was Vikram Singh the 35 year old head of the famous Indian online shopping company “ShopIndia”. A pioneer in the online shopping space, “ShopIndia”was facing some real tough competition from two major online Giants, One from US, the world’s largest Online market place and another from China, Asia’s largest market place. Shop India was holding up till now, however in the last few quarters some major sellers had veered off. The Competition had deep pockets and the Investors in ShopIndia were worried. Some tough decisions were to be taken. Some segments had a really tough time, Vikram these days was known to be really temperamental. A bad review with him could mean the end of someone’s career.The tension in the air was palpable, an absolute far cry from the weather outside where the dance had begun, the drops had turned into bucket loads, the heavens were pouring down. Vikram began speaking, he laid out the vision to a crowd that was listening in rapt attention, efficiency was the goal, the company would be ruthless to bottom performers, some people at the back were looking down. 

Suddenly the door of the conference room was flung open and two kids barged in… They started running around in circles, it was like a stone thrown at placid  water, there were ripples every where. The entire conference room burst into laughter. The hotel boy was called, he went looking for their parents. Vikram could only  manage a wry smile. The kids were not listening. They went and opened the door outside . the water came in and they just jumped and played in the rain with absolute disregard for etiquette & conformity. After about 5 minutes the parents arrived, they could just about manage a sorry. The younger of the two kids while being pulled back said, “Mama kitne boring log hai ye Sab. Aisi baarish me pata Nahi kya kar rahe hai?? Koi aaya hi nahi khelne.. “The mother could could only give an embarrassed look.

The entire conference room burst out laughing. The setting had changed. The door outside was flung open, the floor was dirty. The sound of thunder filled the room. The mood in the room had become more lively, as the smell of monsoon mud entered the room there was a lightness in the air. Everybody was far more relaxed. 

As everybody tried to settle in, Vikram asked, What is it that you guys want to do right now? “Off with the Blazer n Tie” came a voice from the back. “Tathastu” he said. The formality was off. “Now what?” “Let’s play in the rain” who said that? Before people could look back, Vikram said “Tathastu,let’s play football.” There it was every body in their leather shoes jumped out, quickly two teams were made and the lawn of the hotel lawn had become a football ground. People fell on their backs, clothes were torn. After 90 minutes there was a winning team. The whole hotel looked at the spectacle where corporate professionals broke into the most keenly contested mud football match ever seen. The entire hotel applauded the winning team. As the game was over, Vikram signalled everyone to the conference hall. They begged him to allow them to change. Vikram didn’t budge, he said pls come as you are.

“What did we learn today?” Vikram asked.

Many hands went up. 

Rahul stood up and said “Vikram the kids taught me that it is important to play your game irrespective of what others do” 
“They taught us to enjoy our game deeply and rest will be taken care off” said Sunita, the head of Customer service.

“They taught us to get drenched in the rain when it demanded and not be coy” said Mr. gupta.

“OK so are we ready to play our game?”Vikram thundered, 

“Yes”  “Yes”  “Yes” came the reply.

The kids were still playing outside oblivious to the effect they had on one of India’s largest companies.

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The Actress and the Bai

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“Chup chap apna kaam karo, mujhe kisiki nasihat Nahi chahiye… ”

That stung, Ruksana bi was stunned into silence

It was only her 3rd day in the posh Yari road flat of the 20 year old Vedika Singh who in a period of 6 months had become an overnight sensation. Her serial Mere Apne where she depicted the journey of young girl with dreams to an abusive marriage had struck a chord.

The journey from Bombay Central station an year back with Rs.25000 in her bag and the no of one friend who happened to be a production assistant in the industry was no less ordinary. Vedika’s dreams couldn’t be contained in the small house in a nondescript village of Kapurthala. Education was not her calling. Rebellion was in her blood, complying would mean marriage. She took the leap, boarded the train and in an year here she was living her dream.

While it all seemed like a dream from a distance, things were not as simple as they seemed. Yes there was money in the bank, a posh house on rent at Yari road, a swanky car, but her family had practically disowned her. Mom used to pickup the call and listen, that’s what she had in the name of family at the moment.

Things changed at a personal level as well. Her boyfriend Sidharth had moved in with her in her flat. Sidharth was her co-star in the serial and their relationship was talk of the town.They hooked up at the set, She had no friends in Mumbai and she was spending about 16 hours at the set with him. This relationship was only a natural progression. Almost the same age and similar backgrounds both of them hit it off. Off late the relationship had become very violent. The neighbours could here screams, things breaking from their flat.

It was Rukshana bi’s 3rd day in the house. She was going about her chores, picking up bottles and glasses. She saw Vedika had a cut on her elbow and a mark on her cheek, “Kya hua baby? Kuch problem hai kya?” That’s when she was shut up. Rukhsana bi put her head down and went about her business. She had worked in many such homes and knew what to do. Vedika sat on the couch and started crying.

At home, her daughter was hooked on to Mere Apne and asked her, “Ammi ye Vedika kitni khoobsurat hai na, dekho bechari ke  armaan kuchal diye uske gharwalo ne.. Mujhe milaaoge kya vedika se??? Mai uski bahut badi fan hu…” Rukhsana bi didn’t utter a word. She went and fed Iqbal. Iqbal had been paralysed for about 10 years now. And depended on Rukhsana for everything except breathing. Everytime she fed him, Iqbal’s eyes would turn moist, and then would stay fixed at the fan.

This ritual continued for many days… Here was Rukhsana who was witness to two daily soaps, one reel and one real played out by the same characters. In one serial Vedika and Sidharth were trying to find love among all d hostility in Sidharth’s house. There was an innocence in their story which connected the masses. At home in the real story here were two people who fed off each other’s abuse, as if each fed of the other’s weakness venting out their deepest insecurities and misplaced this emotion as love. All Rukhsana bi could do was to put her head down and clear the glasses.

Today was Iqbal’s birthday and Rukhsana bi had made his favourite sevai and fed him, the moment she fed him, she paused for the now usual single eye drop, instead she saw a hint of a smile on his face. It took 10 years for this to happen and Rukhsana bi couldn’t control her tears. As the tears dried, she felt very light. She started laughing uncontrollably, Iqbal’s eyes were responding. There was a shayari in the air, a shayari composed by the eyes. The 50 year old Rukhsana bi had a spring in her step. She gave a peck on Iqbal’s cheek and left for work.

Rukhsana bi just hugged Vedika as she opened the door. “Kya hua Rukhsana bi?” Vedika asked. To which she replied “Aaj meri zindagi muqammal ho gayi baby, aaj Iqbal ki saalgirah hai aur aaj Allah ne mujhe mera aajtak ka sabse pyaara tohfa diya. Aaj Iqbal hasse…” Saying this Rukhsana bi started crying uncontrollably, then started laughing.

Vedika:  “Bass sirf itna…?”
Rukhsana: “Ha baby”

There was silence in the room.

After a pause Vedika asked “Rukhsana bi pyaar Kya hai ?”  To which Rukhsana replied “Pata Nahi baby, Shayad woh Jo tumhe muqammal banata hai” 

“Kya hua baby? chup kyu ho gayi?” Rukhsana bi asked in a harried tone.

Vedika stood there silent..