Aniket was one of the candidates for the interview on that day. The waiting hall was quiet and cool, as most such places are kept these days to calm the palpitating hearts and anxious nerves of the aspirants. The rows are broken in circles and semi-circles to bring in aesthetic grace to the place of less surety and more disappointments. Of all the five factors that determine the outcome of any act, here the fate plays the most important role, for, although the other aspects like merit, efficiency, and talents may be in candidate's files, to select or not to select is the sole prerogative of the person sitting in the main chair in the inner room: the boss.
Aniket faintly remembered his early childhood passed in those narrow lanes and shanty roofs. The irregular row of houses stood witness to the hurry and hustle of unknown passes by. The children, half-naked and semi-starved, not concerned about health or for that matter anything, for there was really nothing with them to care about, ran noisily here and there without any definite aim. This was the only sport available to them. The young girls, shy and timid with the marks of upcoming puberty, hid behind the door and looked with curiosity at the careless freedom of their brothers and neighboring boys.
The mothers, anemic and looking tired, were busy in their household chores of cooking and cleaning. Once in a while a mother would shout in shrill tone whenever she required any help from her son playing in the street. Slapping him on his back, she would send him on minor errand like purchasing oil, or sugar, or occasionally vegetable. The father, either a factory worker or a casual labor, or most of the time unemployed, would leave the home after putting a few morsels of bread and a half cup of tea in his stomach.
Aniket was one of those boys. His father was intelligent enough to put him in the school and see that the boy was at least matriculate. In such circumstance, one day, as it happened, a lady, young girl would be better description, was involved in a minor accident in front of Aniket's house. As a natural reaction, he rushed to her help, lifting her and her scooter to safety. He had never seen such beautiful and soft skin covered with rich silky apparel; in short, Aniket had come face to face with such a beautiful girl for the first time. He offered her a glass of water, from which the girl sipped a little and thanked Aniket. The problem arose when it was found that the scooter would not start. Aniket volunteered to drag the vehicle to her home.
When Aniket reached the designated address, the girl was waiting for him (We will call her Rupa henceforth). The next half an hour passed in introduction and tea etc. Rupa's father, Mr. Chaudhary, was not specifically attracted to Aniket, but he knew from his experiences how a life could be wasted without education. Hence he said to Aniket:
"My boy, do you go to school?"
"Yes, sir. I have passed Matriculation. But now I am not enrolled for college, for my father says 'we do not have money to pay for college education.'"
"Then what do you do?"
"Nothing in particular, but my father says he would find some work for me."
Mr. Chaudhary thought over the matter and said: "Aniket, will you bring your father here? I want to talk to him."
And thus it was decided that Aniket would work as a household helper in Rupa's house and, in turn, Mr. Chaudhary would bear the expenses of Aniket's further education. Aniket stayed in the outhouse of Chaudhary's bungalow. Days passed by, Rupa went abroad for higher studies, and
Aniket worked hard both at home and the college.
During the six years that passed between his first visit to Rupa's house and graduating from the college Aniket learnt a lot about life. Experiences, both good and bad, taught him lessons about the ways of life. The memories of those days still filled his mind with contrasting pictures. Was he better in shanty house with his parents and friends, or had the lonely dependent life at Chaudhary's added something more to his life?
"You next," announced the receptionist, as Aniket realized he was being called as the next candidate. He entered the interview hall where in the center was seated Rupa with two other gentlemen on her side. Awed with the mixed feeling of surprise and pain to see her childhood friend there, Aniket wanted to shout: "hello Rupa, how are you?" but soon realized that up till now it was her father for whom he worked, and now here was Chaudhary's daughter who occupied that chair, would rule his destiny.
"Yes, please come in. Be seated," said Rupa and continued, "If I am not mistaken, you are the same Aniket! You have grown and not easy to recognize. I had been to USA for my studies. Anyway, Mr. Aniket, you see, our company expects very hard and sincere work from the employees. I am sure you will work with full dedication. We are pleased to appoint you as a junior manager in production wing."
It was nice and simple interview that should have suited Aniket. But strange is the way of inner revolt. Instead of accepting that everything had fallen in right place, Aniket's mind was disturbed by unknown disgust. Probably the suppressed feelings of formative years of his youth burst open, as he said, "Thank you, madam; but I do not wish to join your company. I decline the offer."
As Aniket left the building, Rupa was wondering as to which harsh word she had used that caused such a grievous injury to the young man.