It was a wait that was marked by one feature predominant: Nervousness. Both Kamlesh and Arihant waited for the call for the final round with a show of confidence that neither felt. Kamlesh tried to make it look casual, like a walk in a park where you had nothing to do except whistle bollywood tunes. Arihant was uncharacteristically silent.
“Rehan, do you think we will get it?”
“Yes, Kamli we will.”
“Why are you so silent?”
“I am just thinking of what would happen if we did get the job.”
“Rehan, I think you will make it and I would not.”
“No Kamli, either both get selected or we don’t, together!”
“What are you doing with your eyes closed?”
“What does it look like, Kamli?”
In a distant realm, perhaps a dimension where mortals are not allowed, sat two amused Gurus who looked down at their protégés with smiles on their countenance for what followed surely wouldn’t have come to be without divine intervention...
“Kamli, could you tell your Mahavira to bless us so that we get the job?”
“I will Rehan, in the meantime you tell your Sankardeva to do the same.”
A voice that sounded strangely effeminate though it came from a moustached gentleman in a suit suddenly broke their reverie.
“Kamlesh Chattragotha, kindly come to the board room, Room 10.”
Kamli suddenly realised that it was his turn to meet the managerial team and try as he did, he couldn’t help but be nervous.
After what seemed an eternity for Arihant who was waiting for his friend with conflicting emotions that bordered between hope and nervousness, Kamli walked into the room with a smile which didn’t quite seem jovial, as though it was plastered on an unwilling face.
“What happened, what did they say, Kamli?”
“Well, they asked me to wait...”
“Arihant Choudhury, you are next.”
In the board room, Arihant saw two men and a lady seated complacently on what looked like very high chairs, or it must have been that they were inordinately tall.
“Thank you, sir...May I sit down?”
“Yes, you may.”
As he did sit down, he saw the three of them exchanging looks and nodding in agreement. Arihant hoped that it was a favourable response, a nod of appreciation, if anything.
“Arihant, kindly tell us something about you.”
Arihant was suddenly tongue-tied and he realised that he didn’t have anything to say, biting his lips, he blurted... “I am from the hill station of Shillong in the north-eastern part of our country. I have completed my graduation in commerce and this is my first job interview. My hobbies are reading books and listening to music...”
“Is that all?” Asked the lady who was listening with keen interest.
Immediately, Arihant thought that he had blundered because he had answered in short, shorter than what you would expect in an interview. He looked at the lady and he noticed one thing about her. Her eyes.
Arihant had never seen eyes as beautiful as the lady had. They were kohl lined and had glittering brown pupils which seemed to give off a light of their own. He looked at her even when he was in the chair being interviewed and was more nervous than he had ever been in his life. He noticed a few things. He noticed that she had a slim figure and was clad in business clothes, black which made her seem radiantly fair.
“Arihant do you have a computer at home?”
“No...we don’t have a computer here but we had one at home in Shillong. My mom and I shared that computer.”
“Can you work on Word and Excel?”
The man seated in the middle of the trio looked liked someone Arihant wouldn’t befriend too easily, he had a permanent scowl and gave off the air of someone who was used to giving orders.
“Now Arihant, if a customer or client asked you to help him or her and it goes against the company policy, but you could help, would you?”
Arihant knew that there was a catch in this question and he took a while answering it. “I would escalate the issue and ask my supervisor to handle the issue. I wouldn’t help.”
Later, when he was waiting in the waiting hall with Kamli, he told Kamli, “I should have helped the client, Kamli...I think I should have helped.”
“What client Rehan? We haven’t got the job yet...what are you talking about?”
“I shouldn’t have escalated the call.”
Mr. Moustache walked in then and with a smile came over to Kamli, Arihant and the three other candidates who were waiting together in the hall. He shook hands with all of them;
“You will have to fill up a few forms and congratulations, you have been selected to work in Convergys and we hope that you like our company. You can collect your offer letters in an hour’s time, but first, fill up these forms.”
“Sankardeva and Mahavira, Rehan...!!!”
Without knowledge of the workings of the cosmos as we know it, the two of them had been drawn into a realm where their dreams, their hopes and their desires assumed sudden importance for two gurus who were paired by this strange collusion between a Jain and a Vaishnav Hindu. The universe as we know it seemed to have a purpose that showed its face by bringing together two boys for a greater cause, one still unknown to them.
“It could be our prayer to them Kamli, but I can’t help and wonder if Ahura Mazda had something to do about it and I also wonder if we are moving towards the light now...Remember my dream?”
The two embraced and went to the room where they had to fill out the forms. After diligently filling out all the information required of them and showing the originals of their academic documents, they were free again.
“Let’s have some coffee.”
“Kamli, are you sure because I have seen what coffee does to you.”
“Hell...I am sure!”
The two smiled their secret smiles at having got their first job and that at their first attempt! What seemed tailor made for the movies, had happened to them in real life. They had half an hour to kill so they made their way to the coffee place they had been to before, had a few cups of coffee and went back to collect their offer letters.
They had never imagined that they would ever hold that document in their hands that soon in their stay in Bangalore. They felt unbridled joy that can only be felt when you get your first job and your first offer letter. They had been told that their earnings would be around 15000 rupees a month and there were other incentives that they could try and avail...
“Look here, Kamli, they pay you three thousand extra for 100 percent attendance.”
“Yes and they give cabs to pick up and drop us to Convergys.”
“Our date of joining is the first of next month. That is August.”
“Yes, I just hope that we are in the same process.”
“How do we celebrate?”
“Let’s go to Hul and Meera’s place, what do you say?”
“Shantinagar is near Koramangala, in fact it is in Koramangala.”
“Yes, let’s take an auto now, we are already dressed and we could go there directly.”
“Not with our certificates.”
“Ah! I will take the responsibility of taking care of them, you don’t worry.”
“Alright then, do you have the address...”
“Yes, Shantinagar, lane 6, House no. 9”
They managed to reach Shantinagar in the best of spirits, perhaps with a high given by having gotten jobs that had never been felt by the two.
“Shouldn’t we call home and give them the news?”
“Yes, let me call Ma first. Then you call your dad”
Having informed their parents, they had reached Shantinagar and lane 6. Outside a building that was a part of many buildings which shared walls and had no space between them, they saw House Number 9. They went up to the second floor as they had been instructed by Hul and they rang the bell. After a wait of a few minutes, the door opened;
“O My God!!!”
“Meera, they have come, it’s Arihant and Kamli!”
“Welcome, we had been worried about the two of you and didn’t know if you had managed settling in, in Bangalore.”
“We have.” That was Kamli who liked the exuberance that he saw in the faces of Hul and Meera.
“We have our place now, it’s called M. Narayana Mansion and we have some good news too.”
“The good news can wait, but first come in and make yourselves comfortable.”
They walked in into the one bedroom apartment with a kitchen and an attached bathroom. The rooms were small but the way that they had been done up by Meera, it looked inviting. They sat down on the cushions in the bedroom and Hul and Meera sat opposite them, on a mattress on the floor that doubled as their beds.
“How have you been?”
Arihant felt the high of getting their first jobs still, and wanted to tell Hul and Meera of their stroke of good fortune. But that could wait.
“Can we make you some coffee?”
“Yes, Meera you could, but before you go we have something to say.”
“Yes, tell us.” Hul seemed curious.
“Well, we got jobs.” Kamli, who had been silent till then suddenly spoke out.
“That’s great! That is absolutely amazing! Where?” Meera countered.
“That’s a great company to work in, many of my friends work there and have vouched for it.” Hul seemed genuinely happy and it struck Arihant that you could make friends without really spending time with them. Even in days. Perhaps, even in one day, for Hul and Meera seemed like old friends by now.
“Rahul, where is the coffee?”
Meera shouted out from the kitchen and at once Kamli and Rehan realised what they didn’t know till then. ‘Hul’ was an assumed name, a pseudonym from ‘Rahul’ which was the real name of ‘Hul’ and whom they knew as Hul was actually ‘Rahul’. Perhaps he had adopted the name ‘Hul’ to sound more modern, more metrosexual. They would find out why in a while.
“Hul, is your name Rahul?” Kamli, famous for his social goof-ups by now questioned Hul and Hul nodded his head.
“Yes, my name is Rahul but people call me Hul. In fact, many friends don’t know that I am Rahul.”
“Why have you adopted the name Hul, Rahul?” A relentless Kamli asked.
“Because of what I do for a living.”
“What do you do for a living, Hul, we just haven’t asked you?”
“This might come as a surprise to the two of you, but I make tattoos.”
“Yes, Tattoos...people call me ‘Hul, the tattoo maker’”
Arihant chipped in at that moment; “You make tattoos? Why didn’t you tell us? That is so cool...”
“I didn’t want to tell you guys but now that you are staying back in Bangalore, what with jobs and all, I think it’s time you knew.”
“Wow! Meera, does she make tattoos too?” As usual Kamli pitched in with his bit of curiosity.
“No, Meera helps me but it is me who makes the tattoos and not her.”
“Ok, can I get one too? A tattoo...” Kamli sounded like a child who had his eyes on a particular toffee he wanted.
“Yes, you can but do you have a girlfriend or someone you love whose name you would want tattooed on you?” Asked Hul, smiling at Kamli and Arihant.
“Do we need to have a girlfriend to get a tattoo? I will get one; I will get a girlfriend because I want a tattoo...” Kamli volunteered.
“Me too...” Even Arihant seemed like he wanted a tattoo.
Little did the two know that their innocent bantering on girlfriends and tattoos would be heard by some entities on that realm which could only be mentioned but not described. A lot had happened that day but what remained foremost in the two minds of the friends who had become brothers were...
A girlfriend and a tattoo