Whose life is it anyway?

The work-life divide- the fine line that separates office related activities with those other than, is fast becoming as visible as the Australian teams' manners during the ICC awards ceremony. This has ensured that work often intrudes when you have specifically set aside time to do something that even remotely reeks of giving you satisfaction at a personal level. (At this point the author was interrupted by a call for a meeting and he subsequently was only able to complete this article months later)

"So how has work been?" asked Dr. Sushma, scanning through a few reports on the table. Ram Shankar had long planned this appointment, ever since he had discovered that his old class mate had set up a clinic in the locality. Sushma was the kind of woman, who as Chai-La would have said while simultaneously floating down into the residual tea leaves in the cup, 'compels a man to think about settling down.'

She had been, even at that relatively early stage in the evolution process, unequivocally dubbed 'wife material' by all those favored by the X chromosome. There was something about her that soothed the nerves, uplifted the spirit, cleared the mind and brought in smiles by the dozen. She had always been successful, but also had the rare gift of being popular at the same time. Thus the beeline of Ram's classmates who had conjured up imaginary ailments just for 'medical dates', was long and as the school master would have resoundingly bellowed, in a manner designed to shatter the eardrums, 'shameful'.

Ram himself had made an appointment, over a fortnight ago, for that Sunday afternoon, just before she broke off for lunch. The strategy was to charm her into a lunch date post the 'check up'. Prior experience of concocting stories, for keeping ravenous clients at bay and off the more tender parts of his anatomy, had Ram fancying his chances in all such situations.

'Work is just fine, though lately I have been feeling some shooting pain in my heart, that seems to strike without warning," answered Ram.

"That's strange, this shouldn't be happening at your age. When did it first occur?" Sushma looked up and paused as she held Ram's gaze.

"Just about five minutes ago, when I entered your room," quipped back Ram, trying to bring about some softness in his eyes as he made his pitch.

There was an elongated pause that followed; much like what would have been heard after all the fuss of the Big Bang was over.

Then Sushma smiled. And Ram Shankar felt something stir in the innermost depths of his being that refused to be put into language translation.

"I never thought you had a sense of humor in school Ram, by the way is something wrong with your eye?" asked Sushma, her own eyes sparkling with a life that was captivating.

"To be frank I never had much sense then," began Ram, abandoning the attempt to make his eyes speak, as Sushma broke into giggles. "But now that sense seems to be shining on me, would it be the right time to ask you out for lunch" Ram Shankar was sure that she could hear his heart beat as he braved forth those words.

"Sure, as a Doctor I need to always encourage good sense when it makes an appearance, however late," replied Sushma, Ram's morale was just going to crash through the roof when he noticed a rather disturbing noise emanating from his pocket, quite like the deranged ranting of Adolf Hitler asking for Monday morning job status reports.

"Oh that's just my boss Vikas," said Ram as he stared back defiantly for a while at the phone, "and the ring tone fits like a glove," he weakly ventured, knowing that answering the phone would definitely be a wake up call.

"Well, work is work" smiled back Sushma.

Ram cursed himself for not having switched off his cell phone. But having defined diligence as one of his core values, he found himself answering.

"Hi Vikas…"

"Chief, drop everything you are doing right now, there is a crisis"

"Today? Now?"

"Mr Bose wants a leaflet for his Monday 9am meeting and he must have it."

At that point Ram could think of a million other things that Vikas and Mr. Bose could have 'had'.

"What is it about? Can I brief the creative over the phone and then proceed to office once they have cracked something?"

"No, you are the only guy who knows all the details; you might have to write the copy yourself. Anyways who will you get on a Sunday?" chirped back Vikas in a manner that made Ram consider homicidal measures.

"Then can I head back to office in an about an hour and start the job then," queried Ram.

"No, Mr. Bose wants to be absolutely sure. He wants to go through a minimum of three iterations and he is expecting the first one in 45 minutes."

"Three iterations... my" began Ram and then noticing that Sushma was watching him. "My task is not that easy you know" he quickly corrected the impending unprintable volley and stepped out of the doctor's cabin gesturing in a manner that meant either the reception was weak or that he had eaten one too many chilies.

"Hey I was in the middle of something, Can I do this later?"

"Have I told you about the rules that our company has governing the social life of an account executive?"

"No" answered a surprised Ram.

"There are none," boomed Vikas as he exploded into laughter, "as an underling you are expected to abandon all personal ventures for the cause of the organization and your confirmation. Only as you rise in the company are you entitled to any control of your life at all. I have earned that chief and hence I am here, sipping a beer at home, while you will be getting back to office sooner than yesterday. What's more I can even afford to forget jobs and bring them up only on Sundays." Ram detected a distinct sinister chuckle as he felt Vikas pause for another sip. "Good luck and don't bother me with any problems, you should be good enough to handle them." Vikas signed off leaving Ram clutching his phone in a vice like grip in an attempt to control the storm that was brewing within. He stood silent like a dazed man in the corridor. But his world inside was screaming. Composing himself a bit he popped back in.

"I'm sorry," he began, "urgent work beckons."

Dr Sushma looked him in the eye, "Believe me I understand," she smiled back kindly. Then Ram saw they were no longer alone in the room.

"Hey since you aren't taking her anywhere, I suppose you might have no objection that she does lunch with me?" the suave voice of Cyrus, 'the dude from school' interjected emphasizing ever so slightly on 'aren't taking her anywhere'. Ram could have thought of a million objections but societal norms in such regards are rather callous.

"Sure go ahead." He managed keeping as straight a face as was possible. "Some other time perhaps" he asked Sushma as he bid them goodbye.

"Some other time," she replied with a smile that offered some hope, though he wasn't sure whether it was just his servicing optimism kicking in.

"The life of an AE is well… not to be," the hushed oriental tone, the express delivery of the tea-cup and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen tea boy) had disappeared into the works of Shakespeare on the office mantelpiece. Ram noted with some concern that he had vanished into 'Romeo and Juliet.'



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