VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – I

It was one of the usual days at work for 33-year old Shaloween. A dedicated workaholic, she was engrossed in scrutinizing the pile of files before her on yet another hot May day. With not many performance parameters in public workspaces, she always felt her work to be less challenging. She was a go-getter and an eager learner with a hunger for achieving a lot. But, she had adapted to the work culture and had decided to give her best even if her work went unnoticed and unacknowledged.

A knock at the door made her look up from the files. The door opened. It was Rama, the office peon.

“Madam . . . Sir wants you in his chamber. Some higher officials have come to supervise the earthquake restoration works. Sir wants you there”, said Rama.

“I’m coming”, said Shaloween. She put her pen down, closed the files after carefully marking them with post-its and got up from her seat.

“Come Shalu”, said her superior officer Arvind Sikdar as she entered his chamber. How she hated it when someone shortened her name! But, by now everyone in the office referred to her as ‘Shalu Madam’. So, she had stopped correcting them.

Shaloween greeted the three men in the room and seated herself in a chair to which her superior gestured. She presumed from the appearance of the two other men in the room that they were probably the higher officials that Rama had referred to. They seemed to be in their mid-fifties. No introductions were made by anyone. Either it was assumed that each one in the room would be knowing the other’s rank and position, or it didn’t matter much to anyone. She set to work as Arvind Sikdar kept directing her, with the other men interjecting in between with their suggestions and proposals.

“So, Shalu where are you from?”, asked one of the officers after almost two hours had passed away. “Sir, Shalu is from Lojigarh – the same city as you belong to”, replied Arvind to Shekhar Chandra before Shaloween could answer. Shaloween nodded with a smile.

It was busy day with not much conversation beyond work in Arvind Sikdar’s chamber. Shekhar Chandra had given a few assignments for Shaloween to work on. The other officer, Ankur Mahem was passively present all through. Work dragged on till late evening, when all four of them got up to call it a day.

Exhausted from the day’s work, Shaloween skipped dinner that night and just threw herself on the bed and drifted off to sleep as soon as she had freshened up. She woke up around 3:30 A.M. and was unable to go back to sleep again.

“I might as well have an early start today. There’s anyway much to do at work. Boss should get a good name before the visiting officers. I need to perform well. They have entrusted so much responsibility on my shoulders. Probably, these senior officers would recognize my work too!”, thought Shaloween to herself as she sat up on her bed in the wee hours of the morning.

She reached office before anyone else did and started off where she had left the previous day. She called for some of her subordinates after a while and delegated certain tasks to them. After an hour, Shekhar Chandra and Ankur Mahem reached and assessed the work that they had assigned the day before. Shekhar seemed pleased with Shaloween’s work, much to her delight.

“Mr. Arvind, I am a good observer. In these two days, I have noticed that of all your staff here, Shalu is extremely sincere. As you know, a dedicated worker is often entrusted with more responsibilities. You could make use of officer Shalu’s dedication for many more works”, said Shekhar Chandra in the midst of all the work. It was a light moment, as both Shaloween and Arvind Sikdar smiled in acknowledgement.

Lunch break was just a formality. With a mountain load of work in front of her and a desire to make a mark with her competence, Shaloween took just fifteen minutes off to quickly gobble up some food and stretch her arms and legs a bit. She was back to her working desk in Arvind Sikdar’s chamber before the others could come in.

“We need the report on the number of casualties in an hour, Shalu. Start working on it immediately. Gather all the information and compile it”, said Arvind Sikdar as he entered the room after a while.

“Sir, I have been collecting information on this and we don’t have any casualties in our region as of now. I am yet to get information from three other sources, after which we can compile the data”, replied Shaloween. By then, Shekhar Chandra and Ankur Mahem had come in and gave Shaloween some indices to work on.

Soon it was evening and Shaloween excused herself out of Arvind Sikdar’s chamber to supervise the tasks that she had entrusted to some of her subordinates. After a while, her mobile beeped and she found a message from Shekhar Chandra –

“You look so different in office . . . for a moment I thought it is someone else.”

She was taken aback! Momentarily distracted, she was unable to comprehend what to reply.