#1 That Girl I Met

It was a big day for me. I was hopeful but nervous too. Getting into the final round of that job interview was a big deal for me. It was one of India’s best international call centers after all. Cracking its final round meant thousands of rupees in my bank account every month, and my family no longer mocking me for being of no use.

I was new to the city. I was still not comfortable with the weather, people and local language. I reached there all drenched due to unexpected rain. Though, after looking at the luxurious office, it all seemed worth it. I took one of the seats in the lobby where all the candidates were waiting. I kept looking at my watch, kept checking the arrangement of the documents, and kept admiring the office premises. Across my seat, sat a beautiful girl, fidgeting with her handbag and phone constantly.

“Hello, Hello!” She tried to speak on the phone “what rubbish!”, she annoyingly said and threw her phone inside her handbag.

I looked at my phone and realized that the signal was weak. She then looked around restlessly, and caught me looking at her. Once our eyes met, I looked away.

Fifteen minutes passed and I sighed in boredom.

“So you’re here for the first round or you have given few?” She asked

“Um… final round. I gave previous ones on the phone.” I replied the unexpected question

“You’ve got drenched. Aren’t you feeling cold in this air conditioned lobby?” She asked

“I am fine. I’m almost dry again.” I said

“Dude, you’re going to get sick, okay” She authoritatively said

“I’ll be fine. I keep getting drenched in Indore, have never been sick” I said

“You’re an Indori?” She said and laughed

“It’s a city. Not a place where cartoons live. You don’t have to laugh.”

“No. No. Don’t get me wrong. I am from Indore too” She said

“Oh, Great!” I got excited

And then, we kept talking about our hometown. She was living in Pune for almost a year. She told me a lot about the best areas to live in Pune, how to deal with the brokers and gave me almost every information you need when you move to a new city.

Soon, I was called for the final round. All thanks to her, I eased off a little. After ten minutes of discussion, I was asked to wait outside by the interviewer. When I came back, she wasn’t there. She was giving her final round in the other cabin. A while later, she came back too.

“How did it go?” I asked

“Rubbish”

“Why? What happened?” I inquired

“You see that half bald guy over there?” She pointed out

“Yeah”

“He’s a psychopath. Asked me too many rubbish questions.” She said

“What did he ask?”

“The usual shit. Can you handle work pressure? Are you determined to perform? Can you achieve numbers?”

“They will obviously check all this. They’re going to pay you after all.” I said

“Yeah, right! As if I am going to tell them that I’ll not be doing any of that shit he was asking me to”

“So, are you not willing to perform here? How will you survive in this company?” I asked

Our conversation was interrupted by one of the HRs there. I was asked to go back into the cabin. Once I walked in, they had an offer letter ready for me. The salary offered to me was above my expectations. Within minutes, I signed the documents and was asked to report for duty after a week.

When I reached back, she was gone. I was too happy to think where did she go. I walked towards the exit and while returning my visitor’s id card at the reception, I saw her again.

“Hey!”

“Congratulations” She smiled

“Thank you. How do you know that I’ve got the job?”

“When you’re asked to meet the interviewer after the final round. It only means one thing.”

“Okay, what did they tell you?” I hesitantly asked

“The usual, that they’ll call me later” She said “rubbish people”

“So is it like, they’ve kept you in the consideration or something?” I asked

“Are you giving interviews for the first time?” She scoffed

“Not the first time. But in MNCs like these, yes.”

“Dude. We-Will-Call-You-Later is their polite way of saying Get Lost”

“Oh, I am sorry that you didn’t…”

“Forget it, it’s usual for me” She said “you got the job nah, you’re happy, right? Come, give me a treat. I need some coffee.”

That came out of nowhere. The girl I had just met, was demanding a treat from me, for my new job. Before I could think, we were at a café near my new office building. We settled down and ordered our coffees.

“They wasted my entire day.” She said

“You were not willing to perform anyway. They must have sensed it.” I said

“Nope, that was not the reason. They must have called my previous office. Those bastards must have blurted out everything about me”

“What did you do in your previous office?” I suspiciously asked

She grinned.

“Ran away! I absconded from their company one week after finishing the training. They tried calling me for days. Never picked up their calls.”

“Why?” I curiously asked, amused by the way she narrated things.

“I keep running away from companies dude. Do the training, take the money for two-three months, work in production for a week or two to keep things fair and square, and then, poof!” She dramatically moved her palm near my face

“But don’t you think eventually you’ll end up doing this in all the companies in Pune. What will you do then? There will be no one to give you a job.”

“I’ll go to Delhi. There are a whole lot of other call centers there.” She said and sipped her coffee

“Don’t you think that’s bad for your career? How will you settle down?”

“Who needs a career? I live for experiences.” She said

“Experiences?” I raised my eyebrow

“Okay, let me explain. Before this, I was working in Mumbai. Attended trainings of eight different companies. Each company’s training lasted at least for two months, each training batch had at least twenty five people. Can you imagine how many different and new people I met in Mumbai?”

“Err…”

“Before Mumbai, I was in Bangalore. Worked with six companies. So many new and different people in Bangalore. In Pune too, this was the seventh company I was trying to get in. But I guess, now I am too famous to get a job here. So next stop is Delhi.” She smiled

“But what about life, stability, career and marriage?”

“All that will happen if it’s meant to happen. While I am on the move, meeting so many people, if I find someone who would make me want to stop and settle down, I will. In fact, I worked extra three months in a company in Mumbai. I found this super cute guy. I was very much into him”

“Did he not make you stop and settle down?”

“Nope, I caught him making out with some bitch in the office parking lot. Slapped him that very moment, resigned the following day and switched to a new company within a week.”

“That sounds bad.”

“It kind of was, but that’s past. I am good at moving on, you know. I always look at the future. Like right now, all I am looking forward to is the time I am going to spend in Delhi and the people I am going to meet there. Imagine the kind of stories, people and experiences I’ll come across. Just do the math.” She got excited

“Do you think this will help you find happiness?” I asked

“Do I look sad right now?”

“No, but…”

“I’ll tell you something. Today, you’ve got this job. You’re happy. Six months later, you’ll be licking your boss’s stinking ass. You’ll be depressed, and won’t like your food if the targets are not achieved. You’ll doubt your capabilities and your intelligence. Your imagination will go out of the window.”

“Oh come on. I am sure it’s not going to be that bad. With the kind of money I’ll earn, life would be a lot more fun, you always have weekends to unwind. All this would make up for those bad days in the office.”

“Dude, you’ll sit alone in front of the TV on weekends, and wonder where your life is going. You might have some exciting time initially, but that’s what happens with everyone eventually.”

“So you think, we all should just stop working and focus on experiences. What about expectations, career and that comfortable life everyone desires?”

“Careers and expectations are the children of wants, my friend. However, the comfortable life, and that happiness you just mentioned are the children of needs. Our simple, basic needs of life”

“Too philosophical for me.”

She giggled.

“The day you start earning for your needs, you’ll be truly happy. But if you chase money just to fulfil your wants, then one day, you’ll realize that you’re going to die and still haven’t lived your life enough. It’s the experiences that make memories, not achievements”

“Achievements do make good memories. I remember every moment when I achieved something”

“What you remember is how you felt when people praised you for your achievements. If you observe, achievements don’t live for long. People who praised you for achievements will also laugh at you when you fall down. Of course, your parents being an exception.”

I looked at her blankly. I wondered what kind of day is this. I am having coffee with an unknown girl, who’s telling me that my new job will give me nothing but emptiness; and I was actually enjoying this conversation.

“You know, I have friends in Nepal, Varanasi, Goa, Trivandrum, Nasik, Kashmir, Shillong and so many other places. I have cried with a friend when her dog died. Have attended weddings of seven different cultures. Have had drinks with a retired Indian Army Officer while he narrated war and battle stories of his times. Also, have once kissed a random cute guy because I was given a dare by my friend. I can write the whole fucking book on all this.” She said

Though her quirky thoughts were interesting to hear, I wasn’t able to digest them. I wasn’t able to follow her imagination.

“You sound like one of those rich kids who’s out there having fun. For people like you, maybe it’s easy to make up a living after this ‘screw-jobs-and-have-fun-in-different-cities’ marathon”

“Oh baby, you’ve got a lot to learn in life. You men assume way too much sometimes. If she’s wearing short clothes, must be a slut. If she’s hanging out with a guy, must be her boyfriend. If she’s hugging him while saying goodbye, must be sleeping with him. And of course, if she’s switching jobs, meeting new people and choosing to live differently, must be a spoilt rich kid.”

For a second, I thought she’ll throw the leftover coffee in my face and walk off. Thankfully she didn’t.

“I belong to an almost poor family. My father made accounts for rich people and mother stitched clothes all her life in order to pay for my education. I ensure that I send them half of my earnings every month, regardless of what I do. They support me in this madness of mine in exchange for a promise that I keep their ego alive.

“I am sorry. I just thought…”

“It’s okay dude”

She looked at her watch and panicked.

“Oh shit, it’s my friend’s birthday. I am supposed to be there in an hour. I have to go home and get ready before that too”

“Oh. Alright.”

“Thanks for the coffee buddy. Nice talking to you.” She got up and picked up her bag

“Same here. But I am confused. You met me today, had coffee with me, and told me so much about you. Why? Why would you share so much with a complete stranger?”

“Sometimes, the conversations just happen, and this one was super fun. Thank You.”

“It was you who went on and on with the life lessons, enlightening me about the true ways of living” I said “why would you thank me?”

“Asking a stranger for a coffee treat, bugging him about life experiences and philosophies without even knowing his name, now that’s what I call an experience. So, thank you for this new experience before I leave Pune.”

“Wait. I don’t know your name either. What is your name?” I asked.

“How does it even matter? Experiences are beyond names buddy. Bye.” She said and turned to walk away.

I broke into a confused laughter as I saw her walking out of the door. A few days later, I tried to find her contact details in the HR department, but they all needed a name. Since I did not have it, I couldn’t track her down. That experience faded once I was soaked into my job. Three months in, I forgot about her and everything she said. I was earning well and enjoying my life in Pune.

However, almost two years later, this conversation I had with her resurfaced in my thoughts, but more on that later.

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