August 26th, 2005
Deena waited anxiously for her turn. This could change everything about her and the house. The weather was hot and humid, despite the usual pleasant burst of shower every now and then. There was quite a line outside the building. People of all age groups, standing one behind another, carrying files. Files that could probably lead them to their so called destiny.
For a typical Akkayapalem girl, culture shock was not really a matter of concern. Deena had seen torn jeans and tight tees in the films, directly reflecting the modernity of Hyderabad. Only, there were more number of ‘Northies’ in the crowd this time. Honestly, she could not make out who was who. There were guys with colored plumes on their head, and girls who had bleached the streaks and wore black tops and blue denims. Deena was among the few who wore a modest Churidhar. She dressed up the best she could – dark blue Bandhini material with crisp yellow Dupatta. Not the ugly Yellow, the classy one.
The security guard came forth to announce.
“Those who have come for Round 1, stand this side. Those in the Final round, here” he pointed to the other side.
It was time to separate the probable ones with the rookies. The lucky ones with the strugglers. Deena looked at the line that made it to the final round. An interesting mix of the beauty and the geeks.
“Hi”, said a young man in front of her. Deena ignored him.
The boy smiled.
“Relax, I’m from Seethamadhaara”
Deena was forced to smile at that comment. She looked at him.
“So, I’m just letting you know that I’m a local like you” he said
“Not interested to know” she said, with an air of indifference.
The boy shrugged at her attitude. But there was something very captivating about that recklessness. He turned to talk to her again.
“Before you report me on the grounds of harassment, I’m looking only for friendship”
“I’m looking for nothing” she signed him off.
The rookie line suddenly started moving. So did the line for the veterans.
“All the best” the boy said. Deena walked away without replying.
The exam began. First round of written evaluation. Deena gave her best. The paper did not look half tough as that of the Andhra University final one. Deena was relieved. At least, she was confident that she made it to the second round already. She calmed down. There was no need to get overconfident. Not until she heard the final result.
The HR announced recess. The line was led to the state of the art pantry on the terrace. The interiors were done up beautifully, with posters of all Bollywood and Hollywood hit films. There was an interesting Hyderabadi auto at the entrance. One side of the pantry overlooked the beach. Deena didn’t want to waste money on food. Ever rupee at home was accounted for at home, already. She quietly took a cup of coffee from the vending machine and moved to the open air that heard the chaotic sound of the city mixed with gentle waves.
“There you are!” Deena looked irked as the annoying boy came towards her.
“You again?” she said, and looked at the far off sea.
“So how did the exam go?”
“What? So you can steal my place” she snapped.
The boy stared at her in amazement.
“God you are tough. I was just trying to be friends and all. But you, you are extremely rude. Why would I take your place? We all gave our try. Let’s see what destiny has in store” he said.
“I don’t believe in destiny” Deena said, looking at the sea still. “I believe it’s all in our hands. What we make. What we get to deal with. This job is very important to me”
The boy became quiet. He joined her and stared at the sea.
“I don’t want your company” she said.
“So, a boyfriend problem, I’m guessing” he muttered.
“I’m not giving in to this conversation” Deena left him to the view and walked away.
It was time for the second round. The telephonic round, as they called. Deena had to interpret what the expat on the other end was saying and communicate accordingly. The base skill expected from a customer service rep. She had no problem with the American accent, but the Brit on the other call sounded almost impossible. She tried her best. She heard some of those modern punks chat way in a conversational manner with the automated voice, as if they were out there to prove something. Deena cared less.
The lady from HR appeared again in front of them, like a fairy God Mother waiting to shape their future.
“We will be calling out a few names now, and the people who are called out should follow us”
There was a sudden tension in the air. Deena stood like a rock, not reacting. She looked for the boy who spoke to her from the corner of her eye. He was nowhere to be seen.
The HR lady called out the names. Deena did not find her’s in the list. Still, she did not retaliate. Her heart was pounding inside like hell, but she kept her calm.
The people whose names were called were ushered out of the room. The rest of them who were fewer in number started looking at each other’s faces. Deena wondered what happened to the boy who was going on annoying her just a while ago. Was he real? Or was he a figment of imagination of her stressed out mind?
The fairy God mother reappeared again.
“Congratulations to all of you. You are our new customer service representatives on board”
The group cheered with excitement. They started congratulating each other joyously. Deena returned the wishes to those who approached her quietly. She looked up and thanked. At last, she can get her ailing father treated with money and medical amenities. That was all that mattered at that point of time in her life.
The lady continued.
“Deena, Ravi and Snigdha, please follow me to meet your team leads who will do a final briefing with you”
Deena followed her along with the other two. She felt strong, confident and raring to go. Time had come to meet her immediate boss. There was no need to impress. Deena thought it was lame to suck up. She believed in being herself.
Deena was directed to one of the operations floors. She had to go the corner cabin. Deena knocked on the door gently. The smell from the exhausted computers felt sweet.
“May I come in?”
Deena opened the door. She fell shockingly silent.
“Hi Deena, I’m Kishore, your team lead” said the man in front of her.
Deena did not know how to react. May be a quick explanation will do.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that you were..”
“Don’t worry” the man cut her off “Happens all the time. Personally, it’s my style to check on the candidates who are applying”
Deena felt dumb. She did not know what to do next.
“First” the man continued, “Tell me what drives you to this job?”
Deena adjusted herself to reply to that standard stuff.
“To get my ailing father treated and support my family financially” she said.
Kishore was amazed at her honesty. No flowery words. No great aspirations.
“Nothing else?” he asked
“I will do my best in this job. I have no distractions whatsoever, so you will soon see me as your best resource” she chinned up with confidence.
Kishore smiled “That I already know. I like your indifference. But mellow down a bit, preferably. You have to be a team player soon. By the way, I’m not here to steal your job, okay?”
Deena laughed with relief for the first time. Kishore handed her the appointment letter.
It was the dawn of a brand new era, not just for Vizag, but for her life.
Dedicated to my extremely talented local colleagues at HSBC Vizag!!