February 06, 2010


  • It had been six months since Somesh was unemployed. He tried hard to get a new job, but was unsuccessful. Somesh had worked as a hotel manager for more than eight years of his life. Tall with broad shoulders and muscular built; he had a strong jaw line. His short hairstyle with fine shades of grey and a trimmed moustache made him look all the more charming and anyone who heard him speak would certainly be impressed by his style and pleasing personality. Usually dressed in a slick black suit that bore a logo of his hotel, a red tie, he looked dashing as ever. His rimless glasses gave him a more sophisticated look and his smile would make you feel at ease. Most clients who talked to him felt comfortable and mostly dealt with him with their requests.

  • He had been doing well, but they fired him because he could not please a female client of his, who was staying at the finest five star properties in town. Something he wouldn’t do for any amount of money that was paid to him, for he was faithful to his wife Saritaa, whom he loved a lot. The client accused Somesh of theft and got him fired. That was the beginning of his struggle. His struggle that brought a lot of disrepute in the hotel industry for him, which is very closely-knit in a city like Mumbai and your reference checks could do as much harm as the people knowing each other in this line of business. Somesh had a four-year-old daughter and a sixty five year old mother to look after. His wife had stopped working after she had given birth to Ritu, and had been a stay at home mom since then. He was not comfortable to ask her to start working again and he was bothered, as he was unable to secure a job in the market even a couple of levels down. He had tried many places but his bad luck and even worse reference check always made him lose face. These six months that he had been looking for a job had drained him off his self-belief if not anything else.

  • Today lady luck shone upon Somesh, he was selected for the final round of interviews at one of the decent hotels in Mumbai. ‘The Intercontinental Grand’ around the corner, a few blocks away from ‘Not Jazz by the Bay,’ overlooking the sea face of Marine Drive. The place was located strategically, had many elite customers, and offered a real retreat for them. Although he was being interviewed for a different post, one that probably paid him lesser than what he was earning before, he was more than happy to take up this job. He set out in search of a new ray of hope; one that he felt would end up on a positive note. Early that morning he had an egg white sandwich and orange juice. He wore a light blue shirt and his lucky tie; he set out for the interview. His looked oozed an amount of confidence that would probably change the face of his struggling life and give him a new beginning. One that he desperately wanted, much similar to that night four years ago, a night he would remember throughout his life.

  • ***

  • “Saritaa, I’m here sonu’ He said as she was being taken into the maternity ward.

  • They had waited for nine long months and the doctor had warned them earlier that there might be complications as Saritaa was very thin and had struggled a lot throughout these nine months. She was slender and even though almost as tall as Somesh she drooped a little bit. Over the nine months, she had taken good care of herself and somehow managed to gain some weight, yet she struggled to a certain extent. She had long hair before marriage but she trimmed it post her three months into pregnancy. Having had to deal with hair loss as well. There were many such frustrations that she dealt with each passing moment in those months. Every day seemed like a huge struggle for Saritaa with several tests being conducted, Somesh tried his best to ensure that utmost care was given to his lovely wife who looked even more beautiful while she was pregnant. That entire wait had ended after these nine months. Saritaa was screaming loudly inside the maternity ward, right from the time her contractions started. This was one pain and suffering she had anticipated and was trying hard to hang in there. All the suffering, she knew would ultimately bring her joy that has no definition.

  • He took the ten o clock train fairly packed with regular office goers. He had to travel from Borivili all the way to Churchgate, from where he would walk by to ‘The Intercontinental.’ He caught the train as it came into the platform. It was a starting train; he hopped in real quick and found himself a seat next to the window where he could relish the breeze. It was humid that day as it was the onset of monsoon and just last night there was rainfall that made the weather more humid. Even though he could smell the whiff of fresh earth after an odd shower or two, he could also feel the heat and humidity intensified especially after the rain had come and gone. Now the sun was shining bright in the sky and he hoped his fortune would too, as this day ended. He was thinking a lot and trying to figure out how he would get this job and how he hoped that there was no reference check, at least for the job that he had applied for. He decided not to give the reference of his last job and show gap in his resume, anyways there was a gap of six months. So he decided to take a risk hoping it would pay off. The train started its journey and he was all set to go wage his battle and come out victorious. He thought a lot about all the pain that he had gone through, all the uneasy moments that he had had. In the past, he had suffered a lot because he had been extremely honest. A little tact this time, he hoped would probably get him what he needed. It was not as though he was robbing a bank or slitting someone’s throat. He wondered how these six months of staying at home had made him a different person altogether. A person that he had become especially with his principles and limits that he had followed all his life. This was something he had to do and this was the time for him to make it or break it. Maybe this tweaking would benefit him and not really do any harm to anyone else. Anyone else he knew at least.

  • “No harm done,” he said as he started to read the newspaper to ward off his fretful moments.

  • ***

  • “Ahhhh, Somu.” She yelled as the pain was getting excruciating…

  • She was struggling, exulting in the labour room besides Somesh. She was in so much pain that she bit Somesh several times on his arm. She just could not take the suffering, something she had prepared herself for. While she was in pain, Somesh was getting even more concerned. Desperate to know what the result would be! He really was hoping that his wife gets relieved of the pain soon.

  • “Sonu, I’m here. It’s going to be okay,” he kept telling here, as he stroked her back and caressed her hair while the doctor and the nurse was busy delivering the baby.

  • Somesh had reached Churchgate and he woke up from his slumber. He had gone to sleep while reading the newspaper. He realized he had reached his destination the minute he was awakened by the buzzing commuters trying to jump into the running train to get their share of window seats. He got down, went to the public toilet to freshen up. He washed his face, tucked in his shirt, readjusted his tie and combed his hair neatly. Finally wore his specs that he had carefully removed and kept aside.

  • “All set, you can do it Somesh. You are the man.” He thought, pepping himself up.

  • He went to the hotel and waited in the lobby for more than half an hour, then, he was called to fill a form and other interview formalities that needed to be done. By the time all was done, it was about lunch. So he had to wait for an hour or so before they interviewed him. He called his wife from the lobby and told her that he would not come home before 4:00 PM. As he sat there, his nervousness growing, he was waiting, patiently looking at a small wall clock in the lobby that had an antique yet a classic touch. It was the wall clock with a pendulum, ticking away to glory and he was watching the pendulum go back and forth. It gave a strange feeling of time that was so precious. Every time the pendulum swung, he tried to count how many times it swung a minute, is when he would realize, how much every second is worth. The lobby had a nice pair of chandeliers, which matched the ambience of the soft sandalwood paint. One would generally get the feeling of being in a place that had the tranquility, which could last for eternity. But in Somesh’s case, it was otherwise. Every little second that passed by and every time the pendulum swung, it killed him, for his anxiety grew. He was hoping this day would bring him immense joy and open a window of opportunity to fulfill all the dreams he had set for his sweet little ‘Ritu.’ The Directors who were going to interview Somesh were busy in the boardroom let alone taking an interview, they had not had their lunch up until 4:30. Somesh thought of giving another call to his wife and letting her know that he would not come home until 6:30. But a sweet voice interrupted his thoughts.

  • “Are you ready for your interview Somesh?” Priya from HR asked Somesh and he nodded in affirmative. He looked up signaling to God and hoping that this day turns out to be a day that he would never forget. He prayed anxiously and hoped that this eleventh day of the month would end his suffering finally.

  • “Eleven was a good number,” He thought to himself, being a firm believer of Lord Ganesha.

  • Eleven is the number that suited him and something that gave him respite amidst all the fretfulness. Soon the interview started and his anxiety converted itself to a little bit of pressure but later on eased itself out. They were interviewing him for an hour at least. He had to also give them some practical demonstration of certain fine skills that needed to be possessed by a line manager which by the way was something Somesh had mastered over the time but since he’d not stepped into those shoes for a long time, he felt a little rusty.

  • Meanwhile the anxiety had transferred on to Saritaa, who was at home and it was way past evening. Her husband had not yet come home nor had he called. She was wondering what had went wrong and why Somesh did not call her up as she was getting really worried about him. She had finished all her chores, washed the clothes put Ritu off to sleep and cooked dinner as well. Usually she went to the park with Ritu and Somesh’s mother, but today his mother had gone to stay with one of her cousins so she was all alone and feeling all the more apprehensive. She was trying to ward off her angst by watching television. Usually packed with the same old boringsoaps full of twists and turns which you would get used to by now especially after watching so many of them. She was surfing the channels when she happened to tune into a news channel.

  • “Seven bomb blasts in a span of eleven minutes! Terror strikes Mumbai again…”

  • ***

  • “Doctor, when will this pain be over?” she asked as she struggled to deliver the baby.

  • The doctor told her in front of Somesh that there were some complications, the baby had changed its position and it was an awkward situation for them to get this through.

  • “We may have to do a cesarean.” She said to Somesh.

  • There was utter silence in the room. Even as the news continued to play on the television, Saritaa could hear nothing. She was deafened with a silence that took her out of the frame. She was petrified. For minutes she couldn’t move, she just lay there sitting on the couch with a chain of thoughts surging her brain and flooding her with all the nightmares that she had ever dreamt of. All of those dreadful images just struck her and paralyzed her in the mind and in body.

  • She slowly regained composure and tried a little bit to think. What should she do? The first thing that she thought of was to call him up on his cell phone and soon she realized that he had forgotten it at home.

  • “What to do? What do we do doctor?” Somesh asked the doctor as Saritaa overheard. The doctor asked Somesh to calm down. She said everything is under control.

  • “I know there are complications, but don’t worry she’ll make it through and so will the baby.”The doctor went out to get some more medicines and surgical tools while she asked the nurse to take care of Saritaa.

  • Saritaa didn’t know what to do. She thought of calling Somesh’s mother and try to find out if he had called her at her cousin’s house. But she stopped herself; she did not want to take that risk, as her mother in law was a heart patient.

  • The fact that she has not called up yet, means she may not be aware of the blasts that have occurred. She thought of trying to get a resolution herself before taking any drastic steps. She just could not imagine it had to be this day that Somesh had to go for the interview, cursing herself for not reminding him to take the mobile. By the time the interview might have been over, he would be coming back in one of these trains. Though Somesh didn’t travel first class, her heart was still thumping not knowing where her husband, her life her soul mate was. Most of the bombs were placed in First class compartments that is what she heard on the news. She began to think of many other things. Things that she did not want to think of. She tried calling Somesh’s friends and asked if he had called him. Most of them said they have not heard from him for a long time. They offered help and said will call her if he called them. She just did not know what to do. She could not even remember the name of the hotel that Somesh had been to for the interview. She was trying hard to remember but she felt numb.

  • ***

  • “These painkillers should help you reduce the pain. But you will also feel a little anesthetized” The doctor told her.

  • So desperate she was that she did not know what to do. She was scared. Scared stiff! Worried, if her husband had been one of those caught in the blast? She started crying, for that was the only emotion that whizzed out of her, being overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts that hovered around her mind. With the tears, rolling out of her eyes and the loud crying even Ritu woke up and she sensed the pain that her mother was going through and she started weeping as well. After a while of shedding her emotions out, Saritaa wiped the tears off her face and became grittier. She regained her composure and thought with a calm mind. What is the most logical thing that she could do at this moment? What was it that could either make her find the name of the hotel that Somesh had been to or get the contact number for that place.

  • She began going through Somesh’s files. She razed through the closet as she began looking for interview letters, brochures or anything that could help her recollect the name of the hotel. But to her disdain, she found nothing. Her determination became stronger with this failure and she tried to think of more means and ways of trying to get to her husband. That is when it struck her; Somesh had called her in the afternoon on her cell phone. Maybe that could give away his location. It seemed like a landline and could be a nearby location. She had her fingers crossed, dialed the number and waited with desperation. Desperation, that either meant a world full of emptiness or an utmost delight never imagined ever in her life. Maybe experienced it once before.

  • “Good Evening, Intercontinental Grand. How may I help you?” a sweet voice of a young receptionist buzzed Saritaa’s ears as soon as the call was connected.

  • She was relieved to a certain extent for the voice reduced her stress a little bit. She got through the hotel and yes, now she remembered the name as well. How could she forget this place? ‘The Intercontinental’ around the corner, a few blocks away from ‘Not Jazz by the Bay’ overlooking the sea face of Marine Drive. A place, that Somesh and Saritaa frequently visited during their early years of courtship. The romantic sunset and how they held hands while they saw the Sun go down and the time stood still while they enjoyed each other’s company.

  • “I’m calling for Mr. Somesh Ahuja; he had been there today for an interview. I was wondering if you could tell me if he’s still there or if he’s left” She stuttered as she spoke to the receptionist, eager to know about her husband.

  • “Let me check the register and I’ll tell you.” She flapped through the pages of the register where everyone had to sign in and out every day as they came for interviews. Saritaa kept tapping her fingers on the dining table as the receptionist was looking for Somesh’s name in the register.

  • “Oh there it is, hmmm, well mam, strange… It’s 7:30; usually interviews don’t go this long.” She replied. She said she‘d check with the interview co-coordinator as HR would have left by now and then she’d call her back. Saritaa said she will call back in ten minutes and hung up the phone. Those ten minutes again took her back to the miserable moments and thoughts that surrounded her mind and that is when she went inside the kitchen. A place, which also had a small temple of their own with Lord Ganesha’s idol kept besides other deities. She began to pray hard and as she did, her faith in Him began to rise. She began to feel a great bit of comfort and her confidence rose. She recited her prayers for ten minutes and was about to call up the hotel again, when her cell rang.

  • ***

  • “Wow… my baby girl.” Somesh said as he looked at his beautiful baby while Saritaa could feel it.

  • She could feel the baby coming out and the pain easing out slowly. Minutes later Ritu was born, she slowly contracted and eased her grip on Somesh’s hand. She was exhausted, tired out of the three and a half hours of labour that she had gone through. Every sweat on her body and every blood that she shed made her feel that it was all worth it. Even before she could see her daughter, the nurse took her away to follow the regular practices. Saritaa was so exhausted that she went in deep slumber the minute the laborious process was done with. Later that morning the doctor introduced Saritaa to a sweet little part of her own. Her wailing sound was the sweet sound of music to her ears and meant the world to her. She was so happy that she did not know how to rejoice this moment of happiness. That is when her tears rolled out to fall on Ritu’s nose while she was still sleeping in the warmth of her mother’s arms.

  • “Saritaa, I’m so sorry… I couldn’t call” a voice that eased her so much that she couldn’t control her emotions that she just screamed with happiness followed by tears of joy. It was Somesh on the phone. He had taken a long while because there were many other candidates as well and they did not allow anyone to step out, due to restrictions best known to the management. He was unaware of the happenings outside and couldn’t even imagine what his wife must have gone through all this while. Finally, both of them were relieved and the relief that they shared was something both of them did four years ago. A moment that gave her the feeling that motherhood was something she wanted and something she will treasure for life. A day both of them will not forget ever. The eleventh day of July, a day that would end his suffering finally. He got the job and he stuck to it for several years. No harm done indeed. Yes it was the tweaking that had helped him get through this job, but at the end of the day, no harm was done as he was the best candidate for this job and he deserved it more than anyone else in that room on that day.

  • A day where he jumped into a window of opportunity to fulfill all the dreams he had set for his sweet little ‘Ritu.’

  • Copyright 2009 Srini. All rights reserved


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