The Front Row Seat

He raised his hand and jerked it upwards, trying to pull back the inconvenient yet somehow majestic sleeve of his dark grey blazer. The intercom rang and he sighed as he heard the ever-so-bland voice of his assistant reciting to him some appointment she thought he had forgotten.

But he hadn’t.

He simply chose not to remember it. 

Nevertheless, he uttered “Send him in ten.” 

“Certainly, sir.” came the response. 

He needed these ten minutes. Not to prepare himself or clear the mess from his already compartmentalized desk. It was a gesture. A rather passive one meant to make the person sitting on the opposite chair subside with irrational inferiority.  

But in reality, he felt bored. He was like a teenager in the body of a 35 year old. What he really wanted to do was walk out that door and greet the gentleman waiting outside. After all, time was precious to all and wasting it, in his opinion, was a sort of cosmic crime in the moral books of the universe. 

The Murano Glass lamp on the table camouflaged just perfectly with the ethereal air of the room. The Swarovski pen lying next to his laptop displayed wealth and stature gorgeously. Handmade Egyptian artifacts on the wall behind him never failed to have an arresting effect on anyone who entered that door for the first time. 

Overall, his office appeared magnificently gregarious. Although to him it felt like an entrapment. 

His feelings were jostled into a tunnel of his mind with the buzzer painfully piercing through his ear. 

“Sir?”

“Send him.”

For the next two hours he was immersed in the one-to-one symposium with his colleague. Cups of coffee were refilled, the AC temperature adjusted and papers signed. Constant activity left no room for any Awkward. There was neither a casual breath nor a worried silence. There were talks in jargon and numbers not meant for the layman to understand.

Finally, the enfranchising words were let out, “It was a pleasure doing business with you Mr. Manhotra.” Accompanied by a quick nod, they were both good to go.

He felt consumed. One would presume from his ecstatic smile that he was now a comfortable part of that life style. But nobody knew that it was a result of those forceful braces back in eighth grade which gave way to an inkling far from the truth. 

There was still time before he would be expected to reach home. Even though he felt like rushing out, he had to fight himself. It was, supposedly, ‘a thing’ to come home late from work when you were the Vice President of a large firm. And then they said money would make life easy. 

But the money never pinched him. He had seen enough of the callosity that prevailed in the lives of those that lived on the tattered streets of Mumbai. He had come to realize that Money was a dictator. A cruel one at that. And though silent and seemingly powerless, it would inevitably withdraw certain privileges from your life. He was more than aware of the criticism that would stab him in the back like friend; he was ready to serve as the martyr in the war field of this corporate world if it meant giving his family a quality life.

One of his many untold struggles involved this 44th floor office. The grand glass window that gave him a view from the top. The fear of falling was so secure that he had forgotten what it felt like to look up. 

It was like being the topper of your class in school; full of innocent joy and pride. Until one fine morning you woke up and found the redundant happiness smothered by vacillating colours of insecurity. He knew there was no going back. At least for him. 

But he hoped. He wished this was not what true success felt like. He dreamt dreams that manifested escapades involving his disappearance into someplace else. His awakening would bring to him a reminiscent shame. This moment was once upon a time his dream, too.

He loosened his tie a little. His thoughts sometimes possessed the ability to physically smolder him.

Breaking away, he glanced at his Rolex. 

It was time to go home. A schoolboy-like excitement welled up inside him even before he could begin to hide the injuries from his reopened wounds.

They don’t tell you that success, just like funerals, is all about others and nothing about you. They don’t, he thought.


 


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