Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Perils of the modern day - A short story

Beep, Beep...Beep, Beep. The beep of the incoming SMS woke up Debu at the ungodly hour when it was just half past six in the morning. Debu is the CEO of a new age media company and doesn't believe in getting into bed unless it is long past the Cindrella hour. Last night was no different. The only thing he remembers was the sweet red wine he was sipping in Good Earth, as his much younger colleague looking at the PYT sitting on the next table and scheming how he could obtain her mobile number. Groaning he fished for his mobile phone - iPhone, no less would do for our hot shot not so young media executive where appearances matter as much as, if not more, than reality.

What he read jolted him awake faster than an ice cold shower could or would. "Choli bhai, goodbye", was the message from one of his buddy's from engineering college days (Loosely translated: Going brother, goodbye). He immediately dialed Amit's number. No ring tone. Amit's phone was dead. Debu's mind started whirring and flashed back to his engineering college days, the adda at the pada football club, the first whisky they shared from the same glass (no rocks, no soda, only water and the glass of steel), the first woman they had a crush on (no she was not their English teacher, she was their Hindi teacher) and... well there were just too many memories. It was just last winter, when the two friends with their better halves had driven down to Jaipur from Delhi.

What had gone wrong for Amit to take this drastic step? This was no way to go. This was no time for a 42 year old to say goodbye forever. And there can never be a strong enough reason for this. Amit was one of the brightest persons in their batch and had lived up to his talents in his professional career. At the pinnacle of his career he had decided to take a mid-career break and take it easy - early burn out of living out of the suitcase in a 24x7 world? Definitely possible and very probable. Was he depressed? He didn't seem to be. Debu had spoken to him a couple of weeks back.

For a few moments, Debu's mind had gone blank. Who should he contact? Trying to contact Amit's wife, Rumi, was out of question. He didn’t have her number. Where was she? Did she know? Debu tiptoed out of the bedroom, not wanting to wake up his wife. Slowly his mind cleared and he dialed me – a common friend. I had gone to MBA school with Amit. I took the call in my car. I was driving into office really early on this Wednesday morning since I had to make a few urgent client calls. Debu broke the news to me. I decided to call Rumi as I had spoken to Amit over the weekend about their plans to come to Mumbai later during the week. Amit had sounded absolutely cheerful and normal and it was just three days back.

What had happened in the intervening three days? I knew that Rumi was scheduled to be in Hyderabad attending a conference. I called her up and it was obvious from the sound of her voice that I had woken her up.

Self: “Hey, Tora Bombay kobe aaschish? Toder plan hoye geyche?” (Hey, when are you guys coming to Mumbai? Have you made your plans?”)

Rumi (sounding sleepy, bored and also probably cursing me): “Na re. We are not coming this week. Amit kaaje Kolkata jachche aaj ke. O ekhon flight e thakbe.” (No, we are not coming this week. Amit is going to Kolkata today on work. In fact he must be on the flight now.)

I almost leapt with joy and quickly said goodbye to her. I slowly realized what had happened. After about three hours, I called up Amit who answered even before the second ring started – they teach this to you in MNCs and BPOs (not in HBS).

Self: “What SMS did you send Debu?”

Amit: “What SMS?”

Self: “Before you took your flight out today?”

Amit: “I didn’t send any SMS.”

Self: “Really? Did you send a SMS – “Choli bhai, goodbye.”

Amit: “Oh, shit! Did I send it to Debu in Bombay?”

By now you would have guessed what had happened. Amit and Debu (let me call him D2 for the sake of differentiating him from our original hero Debu) had left Amit’s home early in the morning to go to Delhi airport. Amit was flying to Kolkata by Kingfisher Airlines and D2 was flying to Bangalore, his home town, by 9W after spending the night at Amit’s house. Since they were in different terminals, Amit sent a message to Debu (by mistake not to D2 but to our hero) once he boarded his flight. Amit and I had a good laugh and I could still hear his laughter ringing in my ears as I disconnected the phone.