I enter the eighteen-storeyed building at 12.30 a.m. as the work demands staying back at times. ‘Never argue with the boss, so you can be the lucky one who wins an early ticket to the on-site office,’ seniors at the IT factory had suggested to the new hires. They never explained at the cost of what though. Sleep. We figured out soon enough!
My abode is a tiny corner on the eleventh floor of the Shri Krishna Co-op Housing Society in the ever-expanding suburbs of Bandra where young professionals, college students and refugees rehabilitated by the local government find a home.
It hasn’t been more than ten minutes since I entered the house when the doorbell starts ringing incessantly, typical of Saurabh from the good old engineering days. I eye the door, annoyed beyond belief.
Why is Saurabh here? His ailing mother used the ultimate Bollywood-esque weapon, ‘Beta! I think I am going to pass away anytime now,’ on repeat over Skype. The aftermath? He is back in India and visits us often. Even though I am in no mood to listen to what Saurabh has to say, I won’t have an option in five minutes from now when he enters the apartment! Sigh.
‘Please go and get that one!’ Rhea, my roommate, yells, ‘It is your turn.’
‘I will return the favour someday.’
‘You never will!’
She gives into my lazy attitude and escorts Saurabh to the living room. I lie on the couch, my eyes fixed on the laptop, ‘Hey! How’s work?’
He asserts, ‘Fantastic!’
Our Mr Fantastic is the reason Indians attract hate in the global community. Not racism. He works more than the daily wage labourers, eighteen-hours in a row. He aspires to redefine the international labour laws. Quite ambitious!
‘You have brought back diverse experience from Silicon Valley. Why don’t you become an Internet entrepreneur here in India?’
‘I have done a risk analysis. The results are not favourable to the proposition,’ Saurabh counters.
This guy talks like a robot. Given a chance to say a few words on his funeral, I would start like this, ‘A notso-serious case of brain drain, pseudo-NRI, he could easily be misconstrued as a member of the machine army if artificial intelligence took over the human race. Fortunately, oh so sorry! Unfortunately, he passed away. Sob. Sob.’
He slumps on a bean bag opposite me, ‘How’s your US on-site assignment coming along?’
‘Awaiting confirmation,’ I respond with minimal interest, eyes mostly on the laptop.
Rhea breaks the awkwardness, ‘Myra, why don’t you take advice from him?
He can guide you with your dilemma!’
I mutter, ‘Anybody but he can help me.’
Saurabh leans forward and raises an eyebrow meaningfully, ‘My boss tells me that if souls exist, Birbal’s has chosen my body. I have a solution for everything. Try me.’
I retort, almost instinctively, ‘Does your boss trip on LSD?’
With a robot-like demeanour, he replies, ‘No.’
This is the worst part of having a conversation with him. He neither gets the point nor reacts.
Rhea sits next to me on the couch and holds my hand, ‘Option A: Start a venture in India with her colleague Neerav. Option B: Fly to the US for an onsite assignment. What do you suggest?’
I tell her, ‘I am not going to die of cancer,’ and let go of her hand.
When you talk about starting up, your friends start to act weird. Family? Even worse... They start consulting babas, who are capable of performing exorcism of the unholy spirit in your body.
Saurabh goes off like a drone, ‘Plan A: If you work in the IT services, IT consulting is the next move to make. Plan B: Go for an MBA. This will help you either switch to investment banking or management consulting. Both plans work better in the US as you will reap more money at your next job. And who cares about job satisfaction? Isn’t money the “everything” we want?’
Rhea interrupts, ‘Option A was starting up. You did not say a word about it?’
He mocks her with a sly grin, ‘Market is very dynamic at the moment. So you can consider it as Plan Z.’
He turns towards me, ‘Looks like you guys have not done your homework well!’
I walk into the bedroom and bang the door shut. It is better to have no one than have friends who do not understand me. I browse through the website of YourStory. The latest article reads: ‘50 Women-led Start-ups Create an Impact in 2016!’ Gosh. I wish I were a part of the league.
A lover never judges, only supports. Maybe, my boyfriend, Siddharth, will understand my problem.
I ping him on WhatsApp.
Sid: I am at the airport. Leaving for Miami. Gtg!
Myra: Want to talk? Start-up...
Sid: A big NO.
Sid: You need to take up responsibilities. We are not kids any more. Our families are looking forward to our marriage.
Sid: Come to the US soon.
There comes a time in every relationship when love takes a backseat, and you realize you’re stuck in a trap. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. It gets even worse in the case of a long-distance relationship. I can’t remember when I last felt my heart flutter. All I know is, it has been a while, and I don’t feel a thing now!
I toss and turn on the bed uneasily. My life is no different than the ceiling fan in my bedroom. It moves at the same pace. Indefinitely. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn.
I open YouTube and put on the eight-hour-long deep meditation music for sound sleep. I reminisce the times spent with my best friend, Ramy. The thought of him lights up my face. It also makes me cry as I long to meet him. He would support me, come what may.
He is a nomad. Neither does he keep in touch with anyone, nor does he have a social media account. I have no means to reach out to him, except for his blog, On the Open Road. I check Buddy for any notifications. No update.
The last blog post reads, ‘The world is our home. It is delusional to call your apartment home. Even worse, to stick to the same place all through your lives. If you’ve found love, happiness or togetherness somewhere, you’ve certainly found home.’
I can’t sleep. I miss him. I asked him to stay when he visited last.
‘This is sick! You can’t leave me alone,’ I pleaded.
‘These worldly achievements do not satisfy my soul. Our paths are different.’
‘You want to please everyone. I am happy pleasing myself.’
The last question I posed was, ‘What are your plans?’
He replied, ‘A week’s plan works for me.’
Nothing I said could make him stay. Unlike me, he feels he isn’t answerable to his parents, or society.
Excerpted with permission from On the Open Road by Stuti Changle published by Ebury Press, Penguin...