Santa walked into my cubicle with a grave expression on his face. The clock on my taskbar read 03:26 PM. I was wrapping up my work to make an early exit from the office. But the sight of Santa’s face made my brain work overtime. I played with different kinds of replies to Santa’s question about why I ordered the sea food platter.
“I don’t know what you are talking about” or “Oh that was not included in the buffet?!!!” or my personal favorite, “It was Rajat’s idea”
But Santa walked in and slumped into a chair near me. When I looked at him there was no hint of an accusation but only a wearied expression.
“Dude”, he began, “Do you know who ordered the five plates of seafood platter? That was not part of the buffet. I had to pay 2000 rupees extra. The manager at the floating restaurant said that someone from our group specifically asked for it, but he did not remember who it was.”
“WHAT? But why are you asking me?”
“You are the only vegetarian in the group. So I can be certain that it was not you. If you saw who it was please tell me.” Santa was genuinely angry.
I could not believe my luck. Not only was I not accused but I was getting an opportunity to pin the crime on anybody of my choice.
“It was Kunvarjeet”, I said.
Kunvarjeet was a senior guy in Santa’s team. I did not like the guy much. He used to travel in the same company bus as Rajat and me. Once Rajat had saved me a seat and Kunvarjeet sat despite my handkerchief on the seat. Finally I had to pry the hankie from beneath him and had to stand the rest of the journey. I had not asked him to get up, which I would have done, but for the fact that Kunvarjeet was 6foot 2inches tall and an assiduous body builder.
So when I saw the opportunity to tarnish his image, I took it. There was also another reason. I was sure that Santa would think twice before picking up a fight with Kunvarjeet.
Santa thought for a while and finally said with a false laugh, “Oh it was Kunvarjeet? Yeah, I remember now. I had agreed to buy something special for the group earlier. So maybe he just ordered the seafood platter. It is fine. What is the big deal, right?”
I also smiled and said, “Yeah. What is the big deal? You are going onsite, man. Enjoy that!!!”
“Oh yeah, I had to ask you something. Now that I am going onsite, I need to get rid of my pulsar bike. It is in pretty good shape. I bought it from my roomie who went onsite last month, so you never know, the bike might be a lucky bike; 53000+kms done till date. I heard that you were looking for a bike. So are you interested?”
I thought about it for a moment. Buying a bike was high on my priority list and I knew for certain that Santa used to take good care of his bike. So it would not be a bad buy.
I asked cautiously, “What price do you expect?”
“Dude, what is the big deal again? You just give me 20k and we will call it a done deal. How is that?”
Honestly, 20k for the bike was a pretty decent asking price. I had seen the bike and I knew that it was worth the money. But as all Indians, I was never satisfied by the first quoted price. I had to bargain.
“Santa, the bike has run 54k kms. So how about 18k, huh?” I remembered to stress on 54k kms.
“Ok dude. You drive a hard bargain. But I need the money by tomorrow. I will come to your house tomorrow. The bike is still registered in my roomie’s name. So there is no paper work to do. One year insurance is there. So you have basically nothing to do but to take the bike from me. Saturday is a good day for money transactions as well.”
Santa and I chatted for a little longer and later parted with assurances from both sides about meeting tomorrow and sealing the deal.
The day had brought me a mixture of fortunes. But I was feeling quite happy about buying the bike.
I told Rajat about the deal on our way home and Rajat was also of the opinion that the bike might be a lucky one.
The weekend passed without much incident. Santa had come over to my house and I paid him 18k and became a proud owner of a black pulsar.
So on Monday, Rajat and I went to office on MY Pulsar. As we walked in to our development bay, we saw Santa walking towards us with a wide grin. Sometimes I used to wonder whether he was born with that grin on his face.
“Hello fellows. Tomorrow I will leave to my home town. I will be back only after a week. Meanwhile I need to talk about the visa and all with Bharath. So today is going to be hectic. On top of it all we have a team meeting at 10.”
It was customary in our team to hold team meetings whenever someone left the team or the company or went onsite. I immediately knew what the meeting was all about and the reason for the grin on Santa’s face.
Everyone would be praising him and he would be the star of the show.
The week was off to a bad start. But I was not giving into despair yet. Over the weekend I had worked on my ten point plan for improving the TL’s efficiency.
At 9:50am there was a rush of people to reach the conference room. Our team meeting usually included both the development and support team and consequently the conference room was always crowded. It was a struggle for seats because Bharath loved hearing himself speak and would go on talking for hours and those who arrived late had to remain standing the whole time.
I ran towards the conference room and dove easily under the arms of Kunvarjeet who was heading towards the last available seat and placed myself on the chair and smirked at Kunvarjeet. He glared at me and for a moment I was afraid for my life. But then Santa walked in grinning. All heads turned towards him. All the whispers and talks died down. Santa took in the attention and stood erect by the door with the grin intact. He did not look at anyone, but stared straight ahead and remained so until Bharath walked in.
Bharath walked in pushing a chair for himself and sat down as soon as he came in. I slowly placed the sheet on which I had written my ten point plan in front of me on the desk and waited for Bharath to start the proceedings.
“Friends”, Bharath started speaking in his dreary, monotonous voice, “We all know that one amongst us is going to the client location very soon.”
All heads once again turned towards Santa. He stood as though he was oblivious of all the attention and remained with his eyes fixed on Bharath. There was one improvement though. His grin had made way for a gentle smirk.
“So let us all join in wishing all the very best to Santhanam Balaji while he makes his way to Hyderabad. Santhanam, you are an essential part of our team and we are sad to see you leave. But the separation is only physical. For everyone’s information, Santhanam is going to the new branch that our client has set up in Hyderabad. The branch is a joint venture by our client and another new generation bank. We are lucky to have that project too and I wanted the best person to represent us there. And you all will agree when I say that Santhanam is the best that we have to offer…”
Bharath stopped his monologue upon hearing something crashing down. I caught only a glimpse of the figure of Santa prone on the floor before he was carried out of the conference room. I quickly grabbed my ten point plan and tore it up before rushing to Santa’s side. Everyone cornered Bharath asking him why he told Santa about an onsite opportunity when he was actually sending Santa to Hyderabad.
Bharath was all apologetic. He explained that onsite means being at the client’s office and does not essentially mean going abroad. He also said that he was unaware of Santa misunderstanding him and that it was a clear case of communication breakdown. People gave him nasty glares but nobody dared to say anything untoward to Bharath, especially after watching Santa lying unconscious.
After sprinkling water on Santa’s face and roughly shaking him for a while, he finally came around. He sat up, looked at all of us and did not speak anything. Bharath said sorry and explained that there had been a misunderstanding. Santa took it all in and then slowly walked out of the development bay without saying a word.
Santa did go to Hyderabad and later on to Australia. But I heard that it did not last long because the client-side folks were also annoyed by Santa correcting their grammar.
I used the Pulsar for a long time and other than serving me well, it did not bring me any special luck.
Bharath was feared from that day on and even I began to watch my step around him from that day.
But Santa did find a way for revenge and got Bharath in a fix. But more on that at a later date.
It is me, the model Professional signing off…