Crossroads–A STORY WITH THREE POSSIBLE ENDINGS
—dedicated to Grannymar
“Goodnight Chitra. See you tomorrow morning.” Chitra lifted her tired eyes. Her secretary Sue was leaving. It must be six o’clock already.
“Goodnight Sue. Have a nice evening.”
“Is it going to be another late night?” asked Sue.
“Unfortunately it looks that way”, replied Chitra and turned to her computer once again.
“Global conference call @7.30 this evening. Urgent.” Chitra read the terse message from her boss, Pramod. Her words were coming true and it looked like it was definitely going to be a long night. That was the trouble with working for a global company. Trying to touch base with colleagues in London and New York generally meant staying on late quite often. “Oh well! It will give me time to catch up with other work anyway” she muttered. She looked at the client dossier she had been given this morning. Pramod was going away on holiday tomorrow and had asked her to attend the client’s important product launch. She wanted to master the dossier so that she could interact appropriately with the client and try to win some new business. It was rumoured that the client was starting a new internet company and the bank was eyeing the IPO that would no doubt follow shortly after.
Chitra rubbed her eyes. She felt drained. She had been spending more and more time at the office and that did not seem quite right somehow. Chitra sat back in her Aeron chair and took stock of her life. At thirty-five she was happy with her professional life and she had really done well for herself. After graduation and PG from a top-notch management institute she had instantly been recruited by an international bank. She had worked hard right from the start and had risen rapidly in the organisation, remaining totally focussed on her career. Her other classmates got married and settled down and many of the women compromised on their career often entirely abandoning their jobs in favour of raising children. The men ended up feeling pressurised to provide for their families. Most of them had chosen job security over quality of job content.
Chitra’s role had been as a bystander looking at her friends grapple with day to day domestic issues. She herself had been totally carefree and was able to give herself 100% to her career. The result was that she did not have much free time for herself. She worked late often in the week and hence a social life was virtually impossible on weekdays. She also had to travel on work from time to time. As for weekends, she used them to read up on work related literature as well as spent time in the gym to remain fit enough to face her work pressures. Occasionally she visited friends, but found that the conversation centred on children, education, domestic issues and family topics to which she did not have much to add. She preferred going out to watch a film on her own or even to see a play or listen to a concert. She took an annual holiday to go and visit her parents.
Chitra suddenly realised that over the last few days she had been feeling just a little bit lonely. Her life seemed to be whizzing past in front of her eyes and apart from a very successful career, there was little else to it.
It was 7.30 and Chitra made her way to the video conference room. She wondered what the urgency was and why Pramod hadn’t called her to discuss it earlier. She walked into the room and found Pramod with the Human Resources Head. Chitra was puzzled and wondered if it was another restructuring. Pramod asked her to take a seat and having patched in other offices began. “This is just to let you know that I have tendered my resignation. I am going to be joining a consulting firm in Hong Kong. This call is to thank all of you for being such a great team to work with and also to name my successor. I would like to announce that Chitra will be taking over my job as of tomorrow. I’d like to wish her the very best and am sure she will be as successful, if not more at growing the business.”
There was no looking back from that point onwards. Chitra grew from strength to strength in her career and all thoughts about her personal life were banished from her mind – she simply did not have the time to think about it.
Chitra went to the client’s product launch as scheduled. It was a spectacular ceremony and Arvind Gupta, the smashing dynamic CEO was difficult to corner. Chitra tried in vain to get a moment with him during the cocktails. She was really keen to talk to him about this internet company he was supposed to be setting up. She had virtually given up all hope when Aruna, who worked in the finance department, caught hold of her. “Why if it isn’t our favourite banker? Have you met Arvind Chitra?”
“Unfortunately it has been impossible to wade through all his admirers”, Chitra said.
“Come let me introduce you” Aruna said and led her to Arvind. Arvind was an engaging conversationalist and Chitra thoroughly enjoyed speaking to him. She could hardly remember the last time she had enjoyed interacting with a man. She did not get to speak to him about his future plans for the new company. Disappointed, she hoped to make an appointment to see him soon.
She rang his office the next day and was pleasantly surprised when he answered the telephone in person. “Yes you can certainly come and see me. How does later this afternoon suit you? In fact there was something I wanted to talk to you about myself. It’s this new company I plan to start”. Chitra was excited. Perhaps she would manage to bag the business after all. She ensured that she arrived at his office on time and planned how to put forward her proposal on behalf of the bank. She was however in no way prepared for the proposition that Arvind made – he was starting this new internet marketing company and how would she like to be his working partner in the venture. ” Think about it and get back to me in a day or two” he said.
Chitra tossed and turned in bed trying to make a decision. Her job did not excite her as much as it had in the past and she was worried about reaching a plateau. An internet company sounded like an exciting venture and Arvind seemed like someone she would enjoy working with. And then who knew, perhaps the professional relationship would grow into something more? She decided to accept his offer.
That weekend Chitra went to a fundraiser for an orphanage that her friend Kamini was opening. The bank had contributed a significant amount of money to the foundation thanks to Chitra’s recommendation. After the programme Chitra went backstage to congratulate Kamini on the excellent job done. She found Kamini with a small baby in her arm.
“Looks like word got around that we are starting an orphanage. Someone left this poor little girl outside in the foyer. Do you mind hanging on to her for a few minutes Chitra, while I go and look for something to keep her warm in?” and Kamini planted the baby in Chitra’s arms and disappeared.
Chitra held the baby awkwardly and did not quite know what to do. The baby gurgled. “So who might you be?” Chitra asked. “Poor baby, you have been abandoned have you? You know sometimes I feel a little abandoned too, only in my case it seems to be of my own making.” The baby whimpered. “Don’t cry please. I am sure Kamini will be back very quickly with something warm for you. I don’t know much about babies. I wonder if you’d like it if I sing you a song? Let me see, what was it that my mother used to sing to me? Oh yes, I remember” and Chitra began to hum softly. She was altogether delighted when the baby rewarded her with a tiny smile. “I wonder what your name is. We’ll have to call you something won’t we? How about Asha – that means hope. Maybe there is hope for you and me in this world. What do you think?”
While Chitra was talking to the baby, Kamini returned. “I found something to wrap her in temporarily. I’ll have to start planning on having some clothes made for this little one. All the dresses that have come in as donations will be far too large for her. She looks lovely, doesn’t she? I hope we’ll find someone to adopt her and give her a home soon. Do you know of anyone Chitra who may want a little girl? The problem is that she came too early. We are not yet operational – still collecting funds.”
Chitra looked at the little bundle and then said to Kamini. “I certainly know someone who’d like to adopt this little girl. The only thing is I don’t know if you’ll be happy with them. People who want to adopt do have to meet certain criteria, isn’t it?”
“Why don’t you give them a call and ask them to meet me. Then we can talk about it. In fact why don’t you call them right away if it is not too late?” Kamini replied
Chitra said, “There isn’t anyone to call Kamini. I would like to adopt this little one if that is okay with you.”
Nitila and Padmini Natarajan
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