Two Years

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Chapter 22

Making Friends, and Enemies

First real project. I catch myself sharing this with Karthik in my mind, gleefully sharing the look on Madhuri’s face when she found her objections overridden!

Pratap says he doesn’t want me to look at the requirements at this stage, till I meet Vijay. I nod, though I see no reason why. He mails me the requirements from Subramanian, and I understand why that project landed on my lap. I don’t even have to think much for that one. I mail my suggestions within a week, getting one of them out of the way.

I take longer to mull over Vijay’s drawing. He is difficult to please, that much I understand. Madhuri and Pratap have a personal rapport with him – that also I understand. Which means, Madhuri will have influence on how Vijay thinks, I realise that too….

First I go about working on the suggestions Pratap has given, and as I look at the finished design, realise why he is GOD. Though he has neither created Madhuri nor my versions, he can see the points of integration instantly. After I integrate them, I realise how simple the whole things was all along!

I mail it to Madhuri and Pratap, who fixes a meeting with Vijay a week later. Madhuri storms to my table and tells me angrily that I got the dimensions wrong. I look closely and realise I really have made a mistake. She smiles smugly and walks coolly to Pratap’s room. I sweat it out, but no hell breaks loose. He simply asks me to correct it and re-mail it as he hasn’t sent my earlier version yet.

I am shaken. Madhuri is dangerous, I realise. She has declared open war. Though other designers don’t exactly overlook me, they are careful with me.

Before the week is up, I have had to work out three modifications based on inputs from Vijay, sent over mail. Only, I thought I was going round and round in circles. The guy seemed completely confused.

I tried to point that out to Pratap, who looked at it closely. For the sake of appearances, I had to make sure Madhuri was in the picture too. She exclaimed, “You are going round in circles, no wonder he is getting frustrated.”

I worry. “He is?”

“I think he will if this is the way we are going to respond. Let me handle this,” she tells Pratap. Do I detect desperation?

Pratap says, “By the way, the Rastogis called today. They have returned from their Egyptian trip and seem to have picked up some stuff from there. They want you to take a look and fit it in. They want to know if an Egyptian theme is possible.”

Madhuri rolls her eyes, throws up her hands, and says, “They and their ideas!” She looks at me. “You may enjoy working with them.”

I shrug. It maybe an insult, but trying out something Egyptian seems challenging to me. I suggest that, and Pratap laughs, sending Madhuri into frenzy. I wonder he takes such risks with her. Won’t she leave? Isn’t he worried about that? She is good, after all! Maybe, familiarity breeds contempt, or he was simply challenging her to do better. Why should I bother!

I go back and start working on the drawing.

Subramanians are a darling. They liked my work in first go – very undemanding. They are also in a hurry. Work starts in right earnest as the shell of the structure of their house comes up. It is an independent house, and they want us to give the suggestions for rooms, the layout, the spacing, the colours…

I return to office very tired. It has been a particularly hot day. I walk in, expecting yet another postponement of the meeting with Vijay. He has proved elusive. I could do without meeting tough people. We have done yet another round of changes, and he postponed the meeting as he wanted to see the latest version before meeting us.

All I want is to go back home and put my feet up. No, I don’t want to go home, actually. I use it more like a hostel room. I don’t want to think about it.

I must be in a lousy mood.

I walk in, but before I can rest my feet, Madhuri screams out for me. I go to her room. I notice someone standing near the window, but before I can process it, she starts off scathingly, “You understand costing and time?”

I almost lurch chortling, but control myself. “Why do you ask?”

“The number of iterations! I have never had this experience before!”

I shrug. “Maybe you have never had a customer like this before,” I say evenly, trying not to match her pitch.

She looks me up and down. “Don’t give me that crap. We have dragged our feet on this for too long. I am going to talk to Pratap about this.”

I shrug and turn to go. “Be my guest. Can’t say I envy you. We have gone in such a full circle that we are back to where we started, with my original drawing.”

The man turns sharply. I ignore. Madhuri is speechless. “I have saved all his messages and his versions. You may also have, or at least you must have it in your mail. You can confirm it.” I turn to go, and then turn back to face her again, “Since you are following this project closely, I am sure you have noticed this already.”

I walk to my seat and rub my forehead. I am getting these headaches nowadays that I cannot explain. I order tea and close my eyes. It is an effort not to call Karthik to vent my anger.

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