The colossal building, made up almost entirely of glass, had a huge metallic word just above the entrance--Aerowalk. Shekhar, trying to avoid the thoughts about the recent incident, headed toward the entrance of the enormous edifice, his stride stiff and egotistic. As he reached the huge glass door, the young skinny watchman in a cadet blue uniform opened the door for Shekhar courteously and wished him, ‘Good morning, sir.’
Shekhar entered and glared at him. The young watchman looked scared.
‘Why is your cap tilted?’ asked Shekhar, his tone authoritative.
The watchman stammered but no words came out. He quickly re-positioned his cap.
‘Sorry, sir,’ stuttered the watchman.
‘Do it well or look for a new job.’
‘Sorry, sir, it won’t happen again,’ the watchman said.
‘It ought not,’ he strode towards the elevator.
Nothing was new for the skinny watchman, who was the first one to meet Shekhar in the company everyday and Shekhar always found something wrong in his uniform, especially with his cap. The watchman was scolded almost daily for it. He had tried hard. He had tried many methods to keep his cap well positioned. His cap showed many tiny marks that he had made after measuring it to keep it well positioned, but his boss inevitably found it incorrectly placed. He sighed and again wore the cap, aligning the mark on the cap with an invisible line drawn from the tip of his nose towards his hair.
Shekhar Kapoor strode towards the elevator, his gait haughty and prideful. Ignoring every employee who greeted him, he reached the elevator and entered it. He saw a young man running towards the elevator to catch it, but Shekhar pressed the button and closed the door.
Shekhar entered his lavish office, a rectangular room with plain burly wood coloured walls embellished with various portraits, some modern art, and a few antique vases. He put his bag on the table and went to the corner, where a garlanded framed photograph of a beautiful woman hung. He looked into her eyes. Her beautiful smile, however, did not make him smile. He felt a knot in his throat, his eyes misted. The beautiful woman was Shekhar’s mother who died in a car crash twenty-four years ago, but the wound on his soul was as fresh as ever. Even today, after so many years, his eyes dampened whenever he looked into his mother’s eyes. He went back and slumped on the soft chair. Preoccupied, he rang the bell. A peon in a white uniform came to the threshold.
‘A cup of coffee,’ Shekhar ordered the peon, ‘and send Mr. Kshirsagar.’
The peon went back.
Shekhar never savoured the paintings or the portraits in his office, or anything else, except his comfortable bucket chair on which he was sitting. He glanced at a tiny black stone replica of a shoe on his table, a sign of his father who had placed this on his table when he was the chairman of Aerowalk. His father had loved it and Shekhar had never changed its place in last ten years. But whenever he saw it, he felt a pain shoot up in his chest. He was gazing at the shoe absent-mindedly when, all of a sudden, images of the whirling cloud, vibrating cell phone, and the skidding car flashed in his mind. He shifted his position and forced the images out of his mind.
Shekhar stood up and moved towards the glass wall facing a garden and looked outside, where some children were playing. He looked at their cheerful faces, their mothers talking to each other while having a look at what their kids were doing. Shekhar looked at his reflection in the glass wall. A corpulent face with a French cut beard stared back. He was a thirty-eight year old stout man. He again looked at the happy kids. He had been a kid, a happy one at that, but now life seemed burdensome.
A man reached the threshold.
‘Sir, may I come in?’
Shekhar turned to look. ‘Manish, come in,’ he said and walked across the office and sat in his bucket chair.
‘Sir, you are looking different today,’ tall and slender Manish Kshirsagar said, whose smiling-for-no-reason face looked toadyish. ‘You are looking… handsome.’
Shekhar waved him off and motioned him to sit before him. Manish sat down on the chair, his back slightly hunched.
‘Sir, the new employee, Miss Hrishita…’
‘Tell me about the loan,’ Shekhar said dismissively. ‘You’ve talked to the bank manager?’
‘Yes, sir…’ hesitated Manish, ‘I’ve talked to the bank manager.’ Manish looked for something in his shirt pocket as if he had a file in there.
The peon entered the threshold with a saucer and a cup of coffee; he put the smoking pot of coffee on the table.
‘Send Mr. Kailash Chandra,’ Manish said to the peon. The peon nodded and went back.
Shekhar looked at Manish, and said, ‘Why Kailash? You know I don’t like him.’
‘I know, sir,’ Manish said. ‘We pay him for nothing. I thought we should make our money useful.’
Shekhar nodded. I don’t know why Dad had chosen Kailash as the General Manager. He’s useless and Dad is an idiot to have chosen him, Shekhar thought.
‘And what about the new plant?’ Shekhar asked. ‘Construction is going well?’
‘Sir, first I want to praise your choice. Bangalore! It is good for our business. Construction is going very well. But, sir, soon we'll have to transfer funds for raw materials.’
‘We need a loan for construction,’ Shekhar said, ‘and soon.’
‘Yes, sir,’ after a pause Manish said. ‘Sir, can I ask you a question?’
‘When you hate him, then why don’t you throw him out?’
I wish I could do that, Shekhar thought. ‘I can’t,’ he said.
‘Why is it so?’
Because he was my dad’s favourite, Shekhar thought but said nothing.
Shekhar was excited, he had worked hard and now he was expanding his business. He had bought a piece of land in Bangalore and construction had already begun and he had spent almost everything that he had. It was his over-a-thousand-crore project. He had already taken a loan from bank for machinery and now he was trying for another loan for infrastructure. The machines for his new factory were being manufactured by the finest engineers in Germany, and he was getting the machines delivered directly to Bangalore.
Shekhar had given Manish Kshirsagar a job. ‘Keep in touch with the bank and convince them for a loan,’ Shekhar had said and Manish Kshirsagar had nodded, ‘Yes, sir,’ with a big grin.
‘May I come in, sir,’ asked an old man who wore a tattered ten year old Safari suit.
‘Come in, Kailashji,’ Manish said with a fake smile.
Kailash entered holding a file.
‘Where is the file?’ Manish asked, ‘I’d given you.’
Kailash handed him the file as if he already knew what he’d been called in for.
‘Sir, the bank manager said, your loan will be sanctioned soon,’ Manish read from the file.
‘Have you told him,’ Shekhar asked, ‘we need it immediately or it’ll cause us huge loss?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Manish said, ‘and he told me…’ muttered Manish while searching in the file. ‘One second, sir,’ he turned the pages.
‘He asked for our trimester report, sir,’ Kailash, the old man in the safari suit, said. Shekhar and Manish both looked at him.
Manish looked at Shekhar, ‘Yes, sir, they asked for our trimester report.’
‘Why?’ asked Shekhar.
Manish again looked in the file and searched for answers.
Kailash said, ‘Sir, they want to know how Aerowalk is going to repay the loan.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Manish said.
‘Why is it not done yet?’ Shekhar said. ‘And Manish, you’d told me the bank manager was in our favour.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Manish said, ‘Umm...’ he looked around for an answer.
‘Sir, the bank manager has been transferred to Maharashtra,’ Kailash said. ‘The new bank manager, Mr. Pillai, is strict and wants to know how we’re going to repay the loan.’
Shekhar stared at Kailash, ‘Did I ask you?’
Kailash, the old man, looked down, his wrinkled face looked timid.
‘Leave,’ spoke Shekhar, clenching his teeth.
Kailash left the room.
Shekhar eyed Manish, who looked alarmed. ‘Talk to the bank manager and convince him for loan ASAP,’ Shekhar stood up and walked to the window. ‘And why does Kailash know everything and you don’t?’
‘S … sir,’ Manish stood up too, ‘I was a little busy, so I told Kailash to talk to the bank manager.’
Shekhar turned towards Manish, ‘Don’t you know how important this matter is? If you wanted to ask someone to do this, you had so many options, why Kailash? Keep him out of this.’
‘Tell Unnati Sharma to look into the matter, talk to Mr. Pillai or whoever he is, and tell her to convince him for a loan at any cost.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Manish said.
Shekhar looked at him and said, ‘You can go.’
Manish went toward the door and turned and said, ‘Sir, the new employee, Miss Hrishita wants to meet you at home. Should I send her?’
Shekhar eyed him and nodded.
Two hours later, Shekhar was working and, while pulling a blue hard-cover file from the pile of files placed on the distant right corner of the table, he accidentally dropped all the files from the table on the floor. He glanced at them for an instant then ignored them and opened the file he had got and dug into it. Busily, he rang the bell on his table.
The peon came to the threshold and stood wordlessly for an order. He saw the scattered files on the floor and stepped forward to pick them up.
‘Send Kailash,’ Shekhar said.
The peon returned without delay, leaving the files on the floor.
If you want to read the book on your Android phone, first download "Amazon kindle app" from google play and purchase the e-book from amazon. It will appear in your kindle app, open the book in the app and enjoy it with a cup of coffee.