Each Sauntering Step : Chapter 2
S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
…You have to ensure that those that have not are allowed to have, not make it easier for those who have to continue to receive…
At 6:31 pm, Ashwin finds himself wandering the streets of Bandra.
I’m drunk. I’m off the wagon again.
Three months add up to zip.
…That’s what the reservation system in India does. It allows the daughters and wives of rich men access to the same things those men would’ve had access to. It does nothing to empower the average woman; and in the case of the education system, it creates a selected caste within the lower castes. It doesn’t seek to provide a level playing field. In the end, it is the common man who suffers. He can’t choose among worthy candidates. He can’t provide his children with a proper education…
What have I done?
Reminder, Ashwin. The voice of Anastasia Myshkin reminds Ashwin he has his earpods on. Reminder, Ashwin. “Yes Anastasia,” Ashwin says absentmindedly as he gauges his surroundings. Reminder, Ashwin. “Yes..” Rem — “Yes, Miku. Read reminder.” Singh party. “Thanks, Miku.” Repeat re — “No, Miku. Thanks.”
Where’s my car?
…have to offset inequality of opportunity and status. You need to ensure equal access, a level playing field, as they say. That would mean equal access to primary education, a complete and total abolition of the caste system, and protection of the girl child…
Open podcasts, stop, Ashwin says. He pockets his earpods. I must have had these on for hours.
My ears hurt. My body aches. I can only hope I have not done something stupid.
I need to stop drinking. I need to get in shape. I shouldn’t be so anxious all the time. I need to relax. I need to get a woman to take care of me. I should get a girlfriend.
That’s so sexist though.
I should stop being sexist. Maybe if I had a girlfriend I wouldn’t be sexist. Maybe if I got in shape, healthy, fit, I would get a girlfriend.
That’s so superficial.
I should stop being so superficial. I should stop overanalysing. I need to relax. Maybe I should believe in god. I should pray twice a day. That way I’d stop overanalysing.
Where’s my car? Oh god. Did I drive? Did I drive while drunk?
Ashwin sets himself down on the pavement and puts his earpods back on. I hope I didn’t drive.
I last remember submitting the documents in Joe’s room.
You are one hour away from home.
I’m one hour away from home. Technology was supposed to help. I know I’m an hour away from home. I don’t need a phone to tell me I’m an hour away from home. I know I’m —
Standing traffic on Western Expressway.
I know there’s standing traffic. Of course there’s standing traffic. There’s always standi — I’m an idiot…
“Miku, could you help me find my car?”
Yes, Ashwin. Would you like to know —
“Just give me a location, Miku”
Yes, Ashwin. Your car is at Andheri (East). Would you like a —
“I don’t need a specific address, Miku. Could you give me details about the last journey.”
Last journey ended at 11:31 pm — Oh thank god — Bhandup at 10 — “Thanks, Miku. That’s it.”
Is there anything else, As—
“No, Miku. That should be it.”
That explains the car. Now to figure out why I’m here at 7 pm without it. I hope I haven’t gone and done something stupid.
Ashwin starts to walk. He lights a cigarette and takes refuge in the lengthening shadow of a building. Noticing his reflection in the glass, he walks away towards the main road. Great job, Ashwin. Here you are, drunk, wading through a sea of vermilion-tinged faces. He turns back into the bylane, stubs his cigarette, and wanders aimlessly until he encounters a cul-de-sac.
He paces back.
I should stop drinking, really stop this time. I should never drink again. I should stop making unreasonable demands of myself. I should get out more, meet new people. Maybe if I met new people, I wouldn’t have such high expectations from myself.
I really should stop overanalysing. It’s not good for me. Maybe that’s why I drink, to stop overanalysing and just relax. Maybe I should work out. Really work out this time. Or maybe just sleep more. I really need to stop overanalysing.
1 New Message from Vishal.
Looks like you cashed your get out of jail card. Congratulations.
Get out of jail card? What is he talking about?
The dim orange of street lamps overpowers the dying sun. Ashwin lights another cigarette and walks along a compound wall with Boobs! spray-painted on it. Tonight I’m not alone. He stops at a familiar sign.
One in five Indians experience alienation and an abstract sense of loss
Call 1800-438-4357 now
Issued in public interest by the Ministry of Health, Government of India
Alienation and an abstract sense of loss.
Call from Arun.
“Hello…” “Yo, you headed to Singh’s place?” “Uh, wait. What’s the time?” “I don’t know, eight odd? Are you drunk, Ashwin?” “I’ll be there in an hour…” “… An hour, ok. Sunayna is here, by the way. She’s already at Singh’s place. I’ll be going downstairs in like five minutes — ” “Oh, ok, yeah, Singh told me. I’m in Bandra, just getting some stuff done.” “…” “I’ll be there in an hour.” “Ok, cool.” “See you there.” “Yeah, bye.”
I hope nobody saw me staring at Singh’s door and changing my mind a while ago.
“Miku”, Ashwin says.
“Open music. Play next song.”
One of several things could have happened today.
Joe, we need to talk. I’ve gone through the documents, they — Not about the documents Joe, I need fifteen minutes of your time. Ashwin, can this wait, I — No Joe, it can’t. Look, Ashwin, I’m— I’m quitting Joe, I’m putting in my papers. Oh, ok. Can we please discuss this in a room rather than out in the corridors of the office? Yeah Ashwin, let’s.
At nine, I knew. I knew at 9 am. Today’s the day. I could picture his face, I could see him recoil, shocked, his eyes asking questions he couldn’t yet vocalise. What has led to this? What has led to this strange turn of events. What will we do now? What will we do now that you’re gone?
Take your precious documents, you snivelling douchebag. I quit. I throw the drive I have been holding on the table in front of Joe, whose face has contorted into an expression of confusion. I hate working for you, I hate working for this company, I hate what this place has made me.
The truth is I like Joe; I think he’s a great boss. My three years here have been the best three years of my life; there’s nothing more I want than to continue, but I have to move on to better things. To a more challenging role, where I can steer conversation, make decisions, actually make a difference.
Hello? Hello, hi Viren. Ashwin here. Hi, yeah, I’m good, how about you? Great, great. Viren, I called to continue our discussion from last week.
I just wanted to know if you’ve had the time to consider the revised pay package.
Pack up and leave, Ashwin; we’ll have IT run through your — No Joe, don’t bother, you go ahead, I’ll hand over all of my stuff to IT myself; are there any other formalities — No Ashwin, just IT and HR, they’ll let you known when you can expect to get the remainder of your pay. Tell them I have allowed you to shorten your notice period to a week of out-of-office work. So I need to talk to HR before IT? Yes, tell them your notice period has been waived, ask them about your final compensation, of course I don’t need to remind you to do that.
Oh how I wanted to see him recoil. At ten, I marched into office. The last time, I thought, the last time I walk through these doors. And today I march. By two, I’ll be a free man. No Joe can stop me. No Joe can tell me what to do. I’m Ashwin Ram, I can — Hey Ashwin. Hi Mona. Joe wants those reports in by noon. Yeah, we’ll see about that, I thought. Sure Mona; will do, I said.
What better opportunity exists? I have worked with a pioneer. In a field of which he is an expert, a Rajiv Gandhi Priority Sector. There could have been nothing better for these three years of my life, of that I’m sure. If given the chance, I’d gladly work with Joe again; I’m sure I have a lot more to learn.
Call from Singh.
“Oi, you coming over?” “Yeah, I just spoke to Arun. I’ll be there in an hour.” “Sweet. Could you get some whiskey on the way? We’re almost out.” “Sure man, will do. Bye.” “Bye.”
What the fuck do you mean Joe? I mean that all of you are the same. You guys walk in here with your egos inflated and your heads practically detached from your bodies, no loyalty, no class, the day Arun left, I knew you’d follow him, I knew you’d burn out just as he did, I should have just fired you instead of paying you to be trained. Whatever Joe, maybe the fact that everyone leaves this place also has something to do with the way the place is run, you should also consider that, shouldn’t you, before accusing everyone else of having out-of-control egos. Fuck you, Ashwin, as of right now, you still work for me, don’t tempt me to make that notice period magically reappear. Sure Joe, off to HR it is then, just one more clarification, you didn’t pay me to get trained, you paid me to work, which I did, I worked my ass off for this company.
No, I won’t create a scene. I’m above that. I don’t create scenes. Not I. Not Ashwin Ram. We carry ourselves with grace in this family, my father had once told me. It has been a pleasure to work with you, I’ll say. A true honour. And he’ll smile. I’ll smile. And things will just work out. I’ll get that six-month break I’ve always wanted. Travel. See the corners of this great country. Get started on the documentary I always wanted to film.
Oh sure. Twenty, right? Ok, and post-appraisal? At that point we… Ok, yeah, that sounds fair. That sounds about right. Give me a day to get back to you? Sorry Viren, I just can’t do that. It isn’t possible. I need… I understand Viren, but what’s in one day? I promise you; I’ll get back to you, tomorrow morning. Definitely, definitely. I’ll call by ten. Thanks a lot, Viren.
Hey Joe, I hope you received my email. Yes I did, Ashwin. I was wondering if you could spare me five minutes, I wanted to talk to you about something in private. Not now Ashwin, I’m on my way to another meeting. Oh, on your way out now? Yeah, Ashwin, can it wait until tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning, but tomorrow is Saturday. Oh yeah, I forgot, Monday morning then? Monday morning, actually Joe it’s a bit urgent. Please Ashwin, send me an email, no, I’ll go through it. An email, no Joe, I’d rather discuss it with you face-to-face. We’ll talk about it on Monday please Ashwin, I really have to rush.
Ok Viren, I’ll call you tomorrow, bye. Hey Joe, got those docs? Yeah, Ashwin. All in one piece? Yeah Ashwin. I had a chance to go through them on my way to office, they’re in good shape, thanks. I wanted to talk to you in private Joe, it’s urgent. Actually Ashwin, can it… No Joe, it’s very important, it can’t wait. Oh, ok, give me fifteen minutes? Sure, fifteen minutes is good.
There goes the dream. Another one vanishes. You’re a coward, Ashwin. Now what are you going to say on Monday. Oh, it was nothing, not important. I bet you’ll get loaded this weekend and forget all about it. You disgust me, Ashwin Ram.
The thing about working here, though, is not Joe. That’s not the best part. What a team. Everybody has their shoulder to the wheel. Everybody contributes. And what a smart bunch, without exception. Every one of them smart.
Yes Ashwin, you wanted to talk? Yeah Joe, I’m putting in my papers; I’m resigning. Oh, resigning? Yeah. Ok, are there any troubles with the team or the company, anything like that I should know about? No, nothing like that at all, Joe. You’ll have to forgive me, this is a bit sudden, what brought this about? Oh, it’s just time for me to explore other opportunities, to see what else there is for me to do out there. Ok Joe, no it isn’t anything like that. It’s just that I have to look around, see what my options are, learn more about the world, it’s like the thing that we have written by the Meditation Chamber outside, horizontal, vertical, expand.
I need to go out and grab a drink.
come waste your time with me