Originally posted on mh-sulekha.tumblr.com at http://mh-sulekha.tumblr.com/post/43725085954/soft-toothsie
Note : This story was first posted at posterous (mh-sulekha.posterous.com) on 26-Nov-2012 but since posterous announced its shutdown, I am reposting here.
Taapsee placed the iron box on the side. She folded the warm lapels of the coat, put it around the hanger on which she had already hung her trousers. She looked at the coat, held the hanger in her right hand, and a plastic bag with shirt in her left hand. She looked at the clothes carefully for a few seconds. The pink shirt and the cement color suit will be very impressive. She gave a broad smile.
Sunday evenings are normally a drag and for a change it was nice to look forward to the week. There were two things she would do before going to bed every night.
She took her cell phone and clicked on the alarm icon. It showed 7 a.m. Holding the phone in her left palm, she clicked the roller button and the numeric buttons on the key pad a few times. She would get up at 6 a.m.
Taapsee went to the chair, picked up her laptop bag and sat. She took the laptop out of the bag. After the laptop powered on, she opened her mail inbox. There were no new emails. The one from Saraswathi was still at the top:
I know you would be busy at work, so didn’t call on your mobile. After going through the photos and video clips you had sent, we have selected you.
Get ready, we will launch you in my maiden Telugu movie venture. Call me back so that I can get your air tickets ready for you to reach the mahurat.
She hadn’t replied to the email. She shut down the laptop, switched off the lights and lay on her bed. Yes, she will get to be the project lead. She was confident. She dozed off. Not replying to some emails is a good thing.
She took a paper mug, took black coffee from the vending machine and walked briskly to the meeting room. Nothing like a meeting to get the week started. The name of the meeting room was Symphony. It was of medium size and a favourite of many an employee. Mainly because of the olive green marble plates that were put on the wall. If ever the Greeks had a corporate conference room it would have been like it.
Mandu, the program manager for Europe region projects, was seated at the head of the table. Taapsee did not know what his full name was. He had four initials and the first one was M. His actual name was Chander. Or maybe it was Sridhar. Everyone called him Mandu.
He was known to have followed the rigour of processes and discussions for all project work. However, because of his long experience with the company, and good standing with the management, he could bend the rules wherever required.
It was after fifteen minutes from the start of the meeting that the Europe telecom project came up for discussion. “We have to decide on an onsite project manager,” Mandu said.
Taapsee cleared her throat. “Sir, I would like to go onsite as the project manager. I know I have only 1 – 2 years experience and you may consider me as too young to don the role and entrust me with such a responsibility.”
She waited for a few seconds to let the idea go across. As he did not object, Taapsee continued.
“The past one year here had seen a blaze of performance from my side, culminating with the best young achiever award I received as the highlight. Taking it forward, we must permit opportunities to those that will inspire dreams of overachieving amongst others. It will benefit the organization.
During college, I have had the opportunity to conduct national level youth festivals, which required tremendous amount of planning, proper division of labour, realistic budgeting, continuous monitoring and taking mid-course actions. The youth festival that I conducted was the finest that my college had conducted, affirmation for which can be obtained from my faculty and class mates.
I continued to show the same levels of energy and action even after joining here. You have known me as a diligent and committed employee. About this project, I have read the entire project charter and other specifications. I understand the requirements completely, and know all the risks involved. Sir, I can even recount all the names in the project contacts and escalation list without referring to the plan document.
There would be apprehensions about giving me the role of the project lead and ownership of the software delivery. I know sir, you would be laser focused on the project level profitability margin of 55%. I will employ all the best practices that are recommended in our project management methodology.
And should the project run into rough waters, I have backup plans that go way beyond what we recommend in our methodology. Right from start, I will be constructing many risk mitigating engines that are very suitable for rapid deployment. And I am not talking about shadow resources. I am talking about extending the agile methodologies with creativity techniques.
I have a document that expands on what extending the agile methodologies with creativity techniques means. Here it is for your kind perusal.”
She handed over a brown folder to Mandu.
Taapsee gave her final pitch. “Sir, we must obviate past precedences on this score. As for record of the successes of experienced seniors versus the successes of the youthful, I want to turn the tide, as we have not had these opportunities. You should give me the chance as we embark new verticals and the freshness of the youth will herald many a business path on which stories of success will be emblazoned.”
Mandu sat there without any expression on his face. His response was only a few words. “I appreciate your energy and ambition. However, I would have to assign the position to Venkat. Do not lose heart and hope your requests will be fulfilled in the future.”
He then moved to other items on the meeting agenda. Taapsee did not hear anything after that, though she was in the meeting for another forty five minutes.
From the cafetaria counter, Kajal and Taapsee took their snack plates and coffee cups and went to a table near the wall. She was Taapsee’s friend from school through college and both of them got their jobs through campus recruitment.
As they sat on their chairs, Kajal noticed the forehead twitch. Years of being close to her and being a confidante, she knew how to start.
“Tell me what went wrong.”
Taapsee said, “You know this Europe telecom project. I tried for the post of onsite lead.”
Kajal’s head bobbed forward and she almost spat her snack. “Whaaat?”
“Yes, you heard me right.”
“And obviously, you didn’t get it. Was it Mandu?” Kajal asked.
“Yes,” Taapsee said.
Both didn’t speak for a couple of minutes.
Kajal broke the silence. “Have you heard about the second project? Just now heard from Anand. Apparently we got the deal.”
Kajal said, “You are a fighter, remember how uncleji was against your participating in the Miss India contest”
“Oh yeah, convincing dad was not much of a struggle,” Taapsee said as she took another bite.
“Struggles are the same, it’s the degree of effort that we put that varies. Think about it my friend,” Kajal said.
Taapsee asked, “Do you mean I should try for the leader of the next project to?”
Kajal was quick. “You grasp fast, no need to explain much to you. Remember, you won the Miss Photogenic face award.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course,” Kajal replied.
“But I’m mad at Mandu,” Taapsee said.
“Don’t be mad. All men are the same. This is the beginning of your career, and you will face a lot of them ahead.”
Taapsee sipped her coffee. All men are the same. Those words kept echoing in her mind.
In a few minutes, they were done with their eating. As they got up, Kajal asked, “So. What have you decided?”
Taapsee said, “Yes, I will try again, and I will cross the bridge.”
Kajal did not understand what crossing the bridge meant. She did not bother to ask. All she cared was that the twitch on Taapsee’s forehead was no longer there.
Two weeks went by. The company was on a growth curve in Europe. In the weekly update from marketing, there was the mention of clinching another project. It was the same project Kajal had mentioned.
Taapsee left the office an hour early. She stopped at the Topaz Mall. It had a Globus outlet. As it was a week day, there was not much crowd in the Mall and in the store.
It did not take her much time to pick the dress she needed. Light gray and white frock, low cut. The band at the back would be helpful. When pulled properly, part of her breast would show up. She just has to tug it at the proper angle.
She went into the lingerie section and picked up a thin bra. The bra was thin enough to show her nipple if she ran some impulses on her skin. She wanted a sexy one. What the heck is a sexy bra, any bra is sexy to the man, she thought.
Back in her room, she finished her dinner, and checked her email. There were a lot of unread emails in the inbox. She replied to those that required her reply, read those that had information that she had to know and filed them in different folders. The couple of hours passed quickly and she drifted to sleep easily.
In the morning, the meeting in Symphony started on time. Mandu was never late in starting his meetings. Taapsee’s pitch was short and voice normal this time.
“I would be glad if I get this opportunity.”
The lean forward.
“Though I did not get the onsite opportunity for the previous project, I want to try again.”
The quick slide of her fingers around her side and positioning of the frock band at the correct angle.
“To achieve the project metrics and delight the customer would be my highest priority.”
The sideway lean and the band tug. Part of her breast exposed. Bull’s eye, his gaze was locked.
“I assure the management that I would put utmost diligence, hard work and time into the project.“
The sliding of her palm for impulses.
“And it would be a continuation of the record of accomplishments I had built during my academic life and my job here.”
The opening of the book at the right page with the big lyrics of the song, ‘Let’s go party tonight.’
“Needless to say, the project would be a huge success,” she concluded.
Compared to the previous occasion, her pitch took only a fraction of the time. She observed Mandu’s deep breaths. The half a minute wait felt like eternity.
Mandu got up and said, “I am pleased to announce that Taapsee will lead the project onsite.”
Taapsee opened her mouth agape; the combination of surprise and happiness to be expressed in right proportions; it was something that she had done in the past, at the winning of the best photogenic face in the Miss India contest.
First come the bogus expressions. Genuineness comes later. In the form of tears.
She barged into her room, the door made a loud sound. It’s a freaking man’s world, the thought kept ringing in her mind again and again.
She threw her dress and bra to the floor, and went into the kitchen. Do I have to show my anatomy, she muttered grinding her teeth.
She returned with a match box. She took a stick, lighted it, bent down and threw it on the dress. Being of synthetic material, it caught fire immediately.
Taapsee took a step back, and looked at the burning dress. She raised her hands, put them on the temple and raised her head. The smirking mouth let out a cry, aaaahhhh. For about 10 seconds.
The dress was reduced to ashes. A trickle came down her eyes. She took a broom and put the embers together to make sure that other things in the room didn’t catch fire. She covered herself with a towel and opened a window to let the smoke out.
I offered knowledge and competence but did not get what I wanted. So be it. If beauty is what is required, I will offer it. And bloody hell get rewarded for the same. I will move on. Her ringing thoughts coalesced into clarity. Clarity enables action.
With small sobs, she sat on the chair. She opened the laptop, booted it, and connected to the net. She typed quickly. The acceptance was only a couple of lines. Taapsee clicked the Send button.
She picked her cell phone, and dialed the number. As she heard ‘hello’, she said, “Yeah I will come, have just sent the email confirmation.”
Saraswathi’s voice from the other side was like waves of destiny flowing forward. “Oh Darling, you will have a freaking fabulous life, Hyderabad is waiting for you.”