Shaloween woke up to a growling stomach. ‘Mom is right.’ She thought out loud, ‘I shouldn’t miss dinner so often.’ Shaloween decided to pamper herself that day. ‘Afterall with these officials coming in I have been working too hard and with that message coming in I was thinking too hard.’

Shaloween made pancakes for herself. She ate to her heart’s content and then some coffee made her fit enough to go to the office. Had she not eaten the scrumptious breakfast she would surely have bitten off someone’s head in the office. Cooking always helped her relax and think. 

 Sipping her coffee, she made a resolve. ‘I will not pursue this Shekar guy’s message. If he recognizes me let him come forward and talk. Why messing with  my mind by sending such a mysterious message?’

She took her time to get ready and unlike her usual self, entered the office 15 minutes late. Since she was usually before the time she was sure that her senior Arvind Sikdar wouldn’t mind that day.

The atmosphere in the office looked a bit strained. ‘What is the issue?’ she wondered. 

As Shaloween got busy with her work Arvind walked in with a grave face. He informed her that one of the officers on visit Ankur Mahem was not happy with the data that she had submitted yesterday. He said there were some discrepancies in it.

Shaloween who was so thorough in her work couldn’t believe her ears. “That’s not possible Sir. I had double-checked all the data I had submitted yesterday.”

Her boss Surender Singh also walked in. “Ms Shalu this kind of sloppy work is not expected from the people of my department. I am cutting such a sorry figure in front of the high-ranking officers. They come looking for such discrepancies and here we are giving it to them on a platter. Mr. Mahem says that the data coming from the seismological agency and our reports don’t match and the report giving the destruction details is also not accurate. You were supposed to compile the data about the number of casualties. We are still waiting for it… When are your sources sending it? I want the correct reports on my table ASAP. “

As both Arvind and Surender walked out of the chamber, she sat down with her face buried in her hands. ‘I will not cry… Shaloween there is some misunderstanding… stand tall don’t cry..’ She was giving herself the pep talk, trying very hard to stop the flow of tears that threatened to come out any moment now. That was her problem if she was sad she cried, if she was feeling angry then too the tears threatened to come out. 

So much for the extra hours and efforts, she put in. One hint of a mistake and everything goes down the drain. This is a perennial problem in an Indian Government Office. 

Anyways she got back to her reports and rechecked everything. She had valid explanations for all the issues raised by Mr. Mahem. Post lunch they had a meeting. Shaloween walked in silently. Each and every point was discussed minutely. She had answers for all the questions backed by the data that she had complied. Mr. Mahem tried hard to pin the error on her. But surprisingly the other officer Shekhar Chandra took a stand on her behalf. Wherever he felt that she was being unfairly charged for an error she did not commit Mr Shekhar Chandra spoke up firmly on her behalf. 

She was really feeling grateful. Here her senior Arvind and boss Surender seem to have deserted her. Maybe they were under some pressure to agree with the high-ranking official. ‘But hey I am being unfairly persecuted. I need some backing up…’

‘Mr Shekar Chandra seems like such a genuine guy. He is not scared to call a spade a spade.’ He was being very vocal in her support for Shaloween’s work. The only support she was getting and she was very thankful for that.

By the end of the meeting, Mr Mahem agreed that there were in fact a far lesser number of discrepancies than he had originally pointed out. And the ones that were there were not their department’s fault. In fact, that was due to contradicting data being sent from the field executives.

That evening at home sitting on her sofa. She was reliving the roller coaster day in her mind. It started on a high note and then plunged into the depths of accusations and ended again on a high note when she was exonerated.

One thought that popped in her mind ‘This person Shekar Chandra indeed is a genuine honest man. Not at all the creep that I was making him out to be in the morning. ‘