The Best Of Both Worlds
The Best Of Both Worlds
“May I come in?”
The manager responded at the usual knock.
A few moments earlier, she had walked into the campus dressed in a pretty pink saree. She had looked familiar, more like the kind you simply can’t forget, even if you want to. Sharp features, a distinctive vibe and yet something unusual about her very existence. Also, there was something about the way she walked, for it made 30 odd people in an otherwise aloof corridor, pause and notice her.
But none of these had seemed to bother her. She had rather looked prepared to handle the attention and the perplexed faces. I had seen her walk past me, rushing into the ‘lift of dreams’ for perhaps a job in the catering company above our floor. Although I had recognised her at one go, it didn’t seem like the right time to intervene.
“Archana”, as I recall her name, was now outside the manager’s office of “The Home Food” eatery that was the quickest food option for all the corporates, including us.
She heard the manager call as she walked into a space that smelt of spices & a certain aroma of “ghee”. The smile on her face suggested how she loved the place already. Her eyes gleamed with a tiny flame of joy for it seemed like she was about to end the trial of running for a job all these years, here and there. She looked like HOPE.
“Excuse me? Why are you running into my cabin like that? I am busy.”, he looked at her disgusted.
“Hello Sir. I am Archana Das. I’ve been called to discuss the salary for…”
“Do I look like a fool to you? Is this a joke? I don’t have any money to give you. Please leave.”
“Sir, I think you’re mistaken. I am Archana, that’s my dish you’re eating right now and I’m so glad that you agreed to have me in.”
“Have you in? Are you out of your mind? Ramu, please take this person out of here.”
His voice , now stern, questioned the audacity of the person who stood in front of him.
“Sir, please. I got a call that I was shortlisted and that I’d be a great fit as a chef here.”
“Listen, I do not want you to curse me but you are not the person we’ve shortlisted. You can never be. Just leave right now.”
He tried his shot at reasoning it out with her.
“Sir, please allow me to sit & you can take any exam, I’m really good at cooking. I can also bake.”
She refused to understand & insisted.
“Look at yourself before you speak further. Take this, stop your bullshit and leave right away.”
The manager heckled a 100 rupee note from his pocket and threw it in front of her. Ramu arrived looking perplexed at what was happening. He seemed to be scared to touch her and nobody in the room spoke for a while.
Archana took the note, put it under her blouse, picked up the ‘tiffin box’ from the desk and replied, “The money is for the food you thought you’d relish for free.”
And then, she let her hair loose of all the decked up gesture that she had prepared for the meet, smiled at the Manager and walked past him with a sense of pity in her eyes.
I was still there at the corridor. It was only fifteen minutes into our lunch break and I hardly felt like eating that day. That’s when, I saw her again.
“Hey. Archana? Aparna? Sorry, I don’t remember exactly.”
“How do you know my name? Are you from the ‘The Home Food’?”, she said and stopped to turn around.
“Hey, no. I work here at a creative agency. How are you?”
Archana seemed to have forgotten me. And that’s okay, she’d meet a hundred people daily. I had met only one like her.
“Remember, I had crossed paths with you near Victoria Memorial. I was hurrying for my NGO’s meet. You asked what I did for a living?” I continued anyway.
“I meet a lot of people daily, child. How do you think we will survive, otherwise?” She looked straight into my eyes. Her voice broken yet fierce. She was shattered but the man in her constrained her tears as if to engulf an ocean of emotions at once.
“What was that she felt?” my eyes sought an answer that the heart already knew.
“Was it even necessary, to begin with?”
I stood there and saw her leave, perhaps back to where people like her belonged.
Perhaps, I’ll meet her again in the same lane outside Victoria blessing people for money to run her house.
Or maybe, someday, she’ll walk past me dressed as pretty as today working beyond her identity of a ‘hijrah. (transgender)’
Maybe. Someday. We’ll recognize them as the best of both worlds.