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Monday, October 22, 2007

Rebati and her resignation

Her tired fingers tapped the keyboard mechanically on the old Remington typewriter. It was almost 3 in the afternoon and she waited impatiently for the tea boy. She looked at the heap of papers on her table waiting to be typed, mostly miscellaneous letters drafted by the clerks and office assistants in awfully incorrect English and horrible spelling. So much so that at times she almost doubted her own knowledge of the language. . Mr Bakshi, her departmental boss had very cleverly shifted the task of correcting the grammar and spelling to this obedient worker, without tacitly acknowledging her contribution. Mr Bakshi prided himself to be a very efficient office master utilizing to the optimum the qualities of staffers without giving any recognition or extra benefit to the deserving. But all staffers were not as docile as she was and Mr Bakshi had to be very careful while picking the names of the trouble makers , both the efficient and the worthless alike, for recommending to the higher authorities. He was basically peace loving and timid and though sometimes conscience pricked , he had to ignore . He was to run the office and that was no matter of joke, he told himself, cleanly wiping out the stains of guilt. Mr Bakshi himself did not have much of an intellect and his belief that she was not in the know of how very helpful she was in clearing those garbage day in day out was not correct. Like Bakshi, she also realized that without her help he would never be able to check, clear and sign all those letters and with her somewhat unique sense of duty and responsibility she thought it natural that her boss should be spared so that he may attend to more important matters.

She counted the papers on her table. Only eleven left, so she could relax. She sipped the piping hot tea with relish. For a while her thought wondered off to the day she came to this place for interview. It was late August. The sky was overcast for the last four days with a constant drizzle damping her spirits considerably. She remembered an old man clad in dhoti and white shirt slouching in this chair. The interview board comprised of three; the Chairman, the Managing Director and the Secretary. She did feel uncomfortable under their steady gaze. It was her first interview and she never wanted to work in an office for that matter. After finishing her master’s degree she wanted to go into the teaching line, but Bablu stood in the way. He was only one and half , an adorable child, who according to her had the sole right on his mothers care , love, attention and time. So she remained home, remained unemployed . By the time Bablu started going school, Soumen was a man broke both in spirit and cash. He left his steady job with the Insurance Company to start a business of ready-made garments. He invested a lot, plundered more, with little or no knowledge of the trade and a partner who had no capital and no scruples, leaving Soumen in the ditch . It was Soumen who saw the advertisement in the local newspaper.

The Interview Board studied her carefully and what they saw pleased them.
“Madam ahm…, “ the Chairman cleared his throat,
“We can see you are a very fine lady, much too delicate to be exact, do you think you can take control of the staff, very rough and unruly they are.”
She started doubting herself… will she be able to really… but she has never been tried.. So she said “I will try my best Sir.”
“We know you will. We can see you are the sincere type, but` we are afraid that as you do not have experience ..” he did not finish his sentence. She got panicked, she must get this job, she can’t go job seeking . She detested the prospect. “But….”.
The Manager added,
“By the end of October we will have a vacancy for the post of an Office Assistant cum typist, if you do not mind, and if you are interested…..”

Soumen felt very guilty but also relieved that she was so obliging as to accept the offer.

“She applied for the post of Jr. Admn,. Officer…” someone whispered…And accepted the position of a typist…” It was another and a little louder.
“How could she really? Doesn’t she have any self respect?”
“She must have been pretty desperate.”
“I heard she had been abandoned by her husband. Poor woman”

Thus began her career as a typist and her journey alone in the infinity. Every body knows that man is born alone and leaves this world alone, but not all realizes that we take this journey all by ourselves, people from the side line may cheer up or heckle, some overtakes and yet some stays behind. Yet the journey for everybody is unique and is to be undertaken by himself only.

Her intercom started ringing. She was a little startled. Her hand shook and the amber liquid fell on her. What a mess, she sprang to her feet and rushed for the washbasin.

This was the second time today her dress got spoiled. Just as she was about to leave for office Soumen called her from drawing room over the morning newspaper

“What have you prepared for lunch Rebati?”

“Some vegetable, dal and fish curry and ofcourse rice. I have prepared Bablu’s Tiffin and put in his box. Please tell him when he comes out after taking shower. Will you Soumen. I have kept everything on the kitchen table”
She replied in a haste.

“But Rebati I told you I would like to have egg fry for lunch”. Soumen sounded exasperated.
“I will make it for dinner. I am getting late for office”. She pleaded.

“Now don’t tell me that you can’t afford to be a little late. You are only a typist Rebati. The office won’t stop without you.”

Soument had long stopped feeling guilty or sorry for his wife. With the support that he got from his wife, both monetary and moral, he had been able to revive his business single handed and was doing moderately well. Her face went ashen with pain. It hurt her most to find Soumen to be so insensitive. But as always, she suppressed her pain, went back to the kitchen to prepare the fry and thus, in her hurry, her sari got a little spoiled with cooking oil.

Mrs Bose, Mr Bakshi was asking for you, Atanu, the accountant conveyed the message. Mr Bakshi was talking over phone when she went to his chamber and he indicated a chair to her. She waited impatiently while Mr Bakshi carried on his conversation for more than ten minutes during which twice she started to get up and was held back by a raised hand of her boss which indicated her to remain seated. After finishing his talk Mr Bakshi lit a cigarette , leaned back in his chair and said

“Sorry I had to keep you waiting. But it was a call from head office. The Secretary is coming next week to see how the computerization is working in zonal offices.” .

She waited for more to come, for she had not given a computer to work with so it does not involve her. “ Mrs Bose, as you must be knowing, Srimanta has been frequently on leave as his wife has not been keeping well for some time. As such, you see, a lot of data are yet to be fed to the computer. Srimanta called me this morning. He would be joining office only next Friday. You see, I am in a fix.”
“Yes, but I don’t see how can I help you sir,” Rebati was a little puzzled.
“I am coming to that point. You see, I consider you to be a very good and sincere worker. You are very good at typing, have an excellent speed. Now if you could only feed some data. You see, I do not have an extra hand. Every one is so busy with their own work.”

“But Sir, what will happen to my work? Who will type the letters? You know sir, I will have to do the data entry in office time only, for I might need help from the section.”

“Yes, yes, don’t you worry Mrs Bose. The letters can wait for a few days. You start doing the data entry from tomorrow. You can work at Srimants’ terminal and thank you Mrs Bose. You have relieved me from a great headache. Really! I will put in a good word or two about you to the Secretary when he comes.”

Everything went according to plan. The accounts job was up-to-date. No pending. Secretary was very happy. In the afternoon he came to the table of all employees and shook hands expressing his happiness for the good work put in by them and assured that their effort will be rewarded by the Management. But when he came to her table and his eye brows knitted into a perfect third bracket.

“Why are these files kept here in a heap” the Secretary asked.

Mr Bakshi put in quickly “Sir these files contain correspondences of our clients.”

“But why are they here on her table and not in the rack Mr Bakshi? Or do you keep files in such unplanned way?”

“ Actually sir, there are draft letters in these files to be typed.”

“And why are they not being typed ? There must be atleast hundred files in this pile.”

“Sir, you see, we have only one typist . She is very much overworked Sir, you see”

“I can see, Mr Bakshi. I can very well see. I appreciate your efforts to protect your staff Mr Bakshi. But over protectiveness will not help you run the office and it will not do any good to you either. I hope you would remember that in future.” Then he turned to Rebati and asked “Madam, how many files can you clear in a day?”

“About forty sir?

“Good. I am here till 7.30 in the evening. I want to see as many letters to be typed as you can. Please say back for some time after close of office Mrs. Bose. See for yourself how much good effort your colleagues have put in to keep all records uptodate. You should also try.”

Soumen looked at his tearful wife with concern. “Why did you not try to explain the whole situation to the Secretary”
“ I thought Mr Bakshi would and then the Secretary would not have listened to me. I am going to resign from the job Soumen. I will throw the resignation letter on his face. The liar” Rebati was livid with rage and humiliation.

“Rebati. Don’t do anything rash. You can ofcourse resign but would that help situation? Yes I am not doing bad but think of the comforts we have become accustomed to. Think of Bablu and his needs , his education. We spend a lot on him and his upkeep and his education. If you stop earning, do you think I can manage with my sole income . We will definitely not be comfortable. Don’t you think so Rebati?”

“But Soumen I can take another job” no sooner than she uttered those words she herself knew how futile they were. She is almost forty. She had no technical qualification nor any respectable experience. She had been working as a typist so long. This is an age of specialization. A mere masters degree wont do. Soumen could guess what was going on in her mind. He said softly

“Dear you have supported me like a solid rock in my hard days. It is for you that I have been able to revive my business. It is for your effort that Bablu has become such a brilliant student. Please wait for a few more years. You will have no worry when he finishes his engineering degree. He will get a good job and you can then throw that resignation on your boss’s face. “

It was well past midnight. Rebati came to Babul’s room. The table lamp was burning, the young man was sleeping peacefully with a book open on his chest. Rebati took the book quietly and put in on the table. She put off the table lamp and came back to their room. She stood before the open window looking at the night sky . She was ashamed of herself. How could she compare Soumen with Mr Bakshi. But that was exactly what she did

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