“Good morning” A heavy voice said as though the owner of the voice was greeting the whole wide world.
I heard the voice and immediately resisted the temptation to look over my shoulder.
I would have recognized the voice even if I heard it amongst a cacophony of other noises. It is funny how people always recognize voices that they try really hard to ignore.
“Hey, you busy?”
There was no letting off.
I locked my computer and slowly revolved my chair. My face bore an expression akin to that of a school kid on a Monday morning.
Santhanam Balaji stood there with a wide smile adorning his face.
“Hello, you are busy? Did you have breakfast? Care to join me?”
I had often wondered how he managed to talk while keeping his grin intact. To an uninitiated mind the grin and the innocent face could have been indicative of a very charming and lively face. But from experience, I had come to realize that behind that smile and innocent face, lay a trap.
“I am not that hungry now. I will go over sometime later.” I said.
“Come on, you shouldn’t miss your breakfast”
“I will not miss it. I said I will have it later.”
“No no. You come along now. Give me company” Santhanam reached out and yanked me out of my chair. I was no match for Santhanam. I rued my decision to choose dramatics instead of karate in school. Back in school it had seemed like a solid choice because almost all girls used to sign up for dramatics. But now, I really wished I could wriggle my arm out of Santhanam’s grasp and land a blow on his chin accompanied by a guttural ‘yeeehaw’.
“Santhanam, I am not hungry now. Please let me work” I said unconvincingly.
In fact I was feeling a bit hungry and I was definitely not working. But I did not want to go with Santhanam.
“Hey hey, call me Santa. I am Santa. Dude that is my style…”
He had told me the same thing when we were introduced the very first time. But I had made it a point to call him his full name whenever I got the chance.
“Ok. If I call you Santa, will you let me go?” I asked almost hopefully.
Santhanam chuckled and said, “No. I won’t. You don’t take care of your health nowadays. Come, we will have a good breakfast today.”
So I went along, tailing Santa like a reluctant bride. While we were walking past the cubicles towards the door of our development bay, I saw my roommate, Rajat walking towards us. Rajat also worked for the same client as us and sat opposite to my cubicle. Rajat saw Santa and me walking towards him and froze in his tracks.
I looked at Rajat pleadingly and tried to make my face look like a cute puppy. Rajat realized my plight, but instead of rescuing me, that Judas took out his phone and pretended to make a call and started walking in the opposite direction.
“Santa, do you see Rajat there? May be he hasn’t had his breakfast. Let us ask him.” If I was going down I was taking Rajat along with me.
“Good idea” Santa started calling out Rajat’s name.
Rajat increased his pace and went farther away.
I was all for following him but Santa didn’t care that much. Santa already had a prey.
I resigned myself to my fate. After all Santhanam was not that bad. The problem was he had an opinion about everything in the world and it was impossible to shut him up. A conversation with Santa would go with him talking… “Blah blah blah…”
One might try to interject and say something in between, but he would not let it go beyond two syllables.
Santa and I reached the food court and stared at the board on which the names of the varieties of food items were written.
Santa suddenly began, “Do you know how white boards came into existence?”
“It was made to take down messages and was kept near telephones in olden days”
“I find the use of whiteboard for display rather weird. What do you think?”
Honestly, I was thinking of ways to shut him up. So I didn’t bother to answer; not that it mattered to Santa.
He went on, “Do you know that staring at a white background can cause vision impairment? Also the markers used can cause some people to become addicted to smelling it”
Then he went on to describe the various substances to which people can get addicted. He kept it up all throughout while we were having breakfast. I realized that even food did not dilute the enthusiasm of Santa.
He talked even while chewing food and I wished I had a face mask for protection from the rain of crumbs showering all around me. A mask for my plate of food would also have been nice. I decided to put that in my wish list for my birthday. Suffice to say that I did not eat my breakfast and poured out my bowl of cornflakes, with crumbs of idly floating in it, into the waste bin.
We returned to our cubicles. During our walk back to our building, Santa had moved to the topic of paint thinners and how harmful they were to human lives.
Finally we arrived at Santa’s cubicle and he reluctantly let me go. Santa was working in a development project for a large Australian bank which was our company's client. Rajat and I were working for the same client but in a support project. So our cubicles were at two separate corners of the development bay. We had a common Team Lead, Bharath and I knew for certain that if Bharath was fed-up with anyone other than me, it was Santa.
I had seen Santa lecturing Bharath on the inefficiency of the team structure every now and then and once Santa had pasted a printout of Santa’s ten point plan to improve team efficiency, in Bharath’s cubicle. The first point in the list mentioned the Team Lead working on Saturdays.
So I was assured of only a second spot in Bharath’s list of despicable people and I knew for certain that I was a distant second.
As I neared my cube, I saw Rajat looking at me and smiling. I mouthed a profanity at him accompanied by a rude hand gesture. That only increased his merriment.
I slumped down into my chair and unlocked my computer. The day was off to a very bad start.