This is a blog about writing. Mostly short fiction. And occasional personal rant once in a while, if I may. Feel free to make your comments and feel sane again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Appointment

He bends his thin frame forward, and answers my questions with quiet confidence. His long, bony fingers are clasped together on my desk. I like his purple and electric blue abstract print tie. His tigereye cufflinks winks in the florescent light of the conference room. I hear the ticking clock above me, read his blank face, and sense his need for the job. The girl I interviewed before him was brighter, had better credentials but I don’t want to appoint a female as my personal assistant.

He shares his birthday with my son; my only child I lost 15 years back. His CV is neat, adequate, okay. A commerce graduate and a certificate diploma for computer applications. He has a driving license for four-wheeler so his family must be well off. He has written ‘collecting coins’ as his hobby. There is something about him. The way his straight brown hair fall across his forehead, his big eyes behind rimless glasses, his loose fit shirt. I hire him on the spot.

I introduce him to my staff members. Make him familiar with the responsibilities given to him. He is exceptionally polite and a fast learner. Like many of his colleagues, he brings a lunch box from home.

Within a week, we are on lunch sharing terms; I have never done this before. Our talk leads to his family. He tells me about his merchant navy father, his growing coin collection from his father’s travels around the world. Their yearly holidays at the little known beaches along the western coast. His passion for nature photography. The difference between fish the eye lens and macro lens. He explains why Hasselbled is the best camera in the world.

Next day, he compliments me for my Benaras silk sari and asks me about the photo on my desk.

I tell him my fossilized story: “He is Rohan. I lost him when he was six. I was to pick him up from his school gate but got delayed. When I reached there, my boy had vanished. We informed the police, ran advertisements in The Times of India, announced a modest rewards on TV for three long years. Nothing turned up.” I try to hold my breath despite a solid knot in my throat and slump forward on the desk. I hate myself for being so weak.

My legal secretary walks into the chamber to get my signature on something.

He snaps at her: “Not now, she is not feeling well.”

I don’t look up for a long time. I am crying.

“Let me drive you home, it’s almost five pm anyway. You will feel much better tomorrow,” he offers. His gentle voice touches a forgotten nerve center of mine.

He negotiates Delhi’s evening traffic with an expert’s ease. Cool November air works like a tonic for me, lifts my spirit. Every few minutes he looks at me but doesn’t say anything. We reach my home and I insist that he should come in.

He sits in the drawing room, embarrassed. The wall above the brick and mortar fireplace is covered with my missing son’s enlarged photos. My son with his plastic tricycle. My son buck-naked in the bathroom. My son on his birthday party. My son and I at the park. My son behind the steering wheel of my Opal. My son with his little friends at Play House...

My maid walks in with mugs, a pot of coffee, and a plate of chocolate pinwheel biscuits for us.

He picks up a magazine from the table and shuffles the pages till the maid leaves us. Reluctantly, he pulls out a buffalo skin purse from his trouser pocket, opens it, and thrust it under my throat. I see a black and white middle-aged face with a low forehead and dry, tight smile. Our hands touch for a brief second and a strange current pass through. I feel dumb till he speaks.

“My mother,” he sniffs. “Breast cancer. I was eleven at the time.”

He jerks his head away and looks out from the bay window as if hypnotized by the sight of the descending birds. I nod absent mindedly, and pour the hot brew.


I do not switch on the light for the fear of breaking something delicate.