Two Years

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Chapter 20

New Bottle, Old Wine

The course picks up steam, and every minute I have to spend at work crunching numbers is agony. I want to draw, to colour, to create.

Despite the long day, I am awake at night, pursuing my passion. But no, truth be told, it is the questions that keep me awake. The answer I am scared to hear make me toss and turn. I had recoiled at his touch when I was living with him. Now, I long to curl up next to him; to feel the comfort of his body next to mine.

I often wake up to read, to finish pending work, and have to rouse myself from pursuing fruitless thoughts. I can’t find my rhythm and so I have to work longer and harder. But, finally, when reality penetrates, it is a heady feeling to be doing something useful - instead of moping and wondering.

The course is challenging, the lecturers demanding. But I am in my elements as we get into detailing and creativity. The final semester is what everyone is looking forward to, when one of the practicing and leading interior designers will take classes for us, drawing from his rich experience. If he likes our work, our job is assured – the rumour mill has it.

My work – I just about manage not to disappoint the employers. But awake and asleep, I breathe lines and colours. Weekends and every available moment, I am browsing stores or books on design and interiors. This is my calling, I can feel it in my bones.

When in the final term, the visiting professor walks in, there is a subtle sigh that reverberates through the class. He is THE GOD, I can sense that. Even other lecturers defer to him, change schedules to accommodate him.

So when he asked for an assignment, all of us wanted to outdo the other. Friends turn foes, and foes turn collaborators.

It was rumoured that whoever impresses him gets to work with him. All would have sold their souls for this privilege. Most of the students in the class were just that – students. Such things mattered much to them.

Only two of us in the class are senior – a salesman desiring to change lines, and me. We are the only ones with some experience in the corporate world, and were more cautious in expressing ourselves. But, it would be a lie to say that we were not affected. The prospect of working with the man enticed us. He was a legend at the institute

The day of submission, and the tension in the air was palpable. It was quite amusing to see some of the “bit” mentality, each trying to peep into another’s work, hiding one’s own from others.

The stakes were high. The last time someone had been absorbed to work with Pratap, that was God’s name, was four or five years ago. He either hadn’t found anyone worth it after that, or had no vacancy.

As I was leaving the class for the night, I was called to the staff room and questioned closely about the design. Where had I seen something like this? They could not believe that I had done it on my own – I could fathom that much. Should I take that as a compliment or feel insulted? I had to remember I was a student and not a prospective manager. I tried to answer straight, without any of the sarcasm that was straining against the leash.

The next day, I got a call at work. Pratap wants to meet me.

I am excited and apprehensive. I go to his office and wait. It is almost half-an-hour later that I meet him.

There is something effusive about the man. He tries to make you feel too much at home, and that makes you cautious. I didn’t think the first one-on-one meeting went off all that well. But a week later, he met me again and asked me if I would like to intern in his firm. I am speechless for a second, unsure if I heard him right.

Seeing him wait for my response, I muster up courage to say, “Of course, sir.”

He beams and calls Madhuri, one of his senior designers. He introduces the two of us and asks me about my date of joining. I hadn’t given this a thought at all. I had completed nine months at the workplace, so I was a confirmed employee. I would have to give notice. I am in a fix.

I ask for time, and see Pratap’s eyebrows quiver. Controlling a nervous smile, I tell him of my dilemma. He is understanding, but suggests that I give a month’s notice there and join by mid-next month.

I am in seventh heaven. When I turn to Madhuri smiling, however, the cold look robs me of some of my joy right away.

The task of informing my current boss is not pleasant – he purses his lips thinking of all the pressure he had been under to hire me.

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