Short Story: Help

On a normal working day, Rajat Gupta, who worked as a marketing manager with a large private company, would be in some corporate meeting at this time in the afternoon. But today was a relatively light day. So he was sitting at his desk staring at the laptop screen, pretending to be busy, but actually reading some news from a website. His cubicle was always in order. It had photographs of his family, a coffee cup and some papers related to his work. He looked at them and thought life was good.

His colleague, Kiran, dropped in at Rajat’s desk.

“I need a small help from you. Are you free for a few minutes?”

Rajat looked up from his laptop.

“Yes. sure – what do you need?”

“Well, there is a friend of mine who has got an offer from Microsystems Corporation. He wanted to chat with you as you have worked there earlier.”

“Oh Sure. Give me his number. I will call him.”

“No – he has come over to the office. His name is Gautam and he is sitting in that meeting room in there.” Kiran pointed to the glass room on the other side of the corridor.

“If you could drop in and have a quick chat, that would be great.”

“Yeah sure. Will go right away” said Rajat.

“Thanks. And by the way, just let me know when you are done.”

“Will do” said Rajat and started walking towards the meeting room.

They generally used this room for meeting visitors like interviewing candidates or presentations from vendors. The room had a large table with six chairs. It was in the corner of the office floor, so it had only one proper wall and on three sides, it had walls of glass. Two of the glass walls were facing outside and one of the glass walls faced inside. The one facing inside had a glass door. Rajat pulled that door and entered the room.

“Hi. Are you Gautam?” he asked.

Gautam was standing facing the external facing glass wall which had a view of the road below. He was probably looking at the traffic below. He had his back to Rajat as he entered.

On hearing Rajat, Gautam turned around.

“Yes I am Gautam.”

“Ok great. I am Rajat. Kiran told me about you.” He thrust his hand forward for a hand shake.

“Oh – is it?” Gautam said, turning a bit pale, and did not shake hands with Rajat.

A bit surprised, a bit peeved, Rajat pulled a chair and asked Gautam to take a seat.

“Thanks” he said and sat down.

“Yeah – Kiran told me that you got an offer from Microsystems Corporation and needed some inside info before deciding to join them.”

“Yes – that’s right. I am currently working with NetSolve Corporation and was wondering if it would be a good move. How long did you work with Microsystems?

“Well I worked there for around 4 years. It is a nice place overall. I think..”

“Did you know anyone in marketing?” Gautam cut Rajat abruptly before he had completed.

“Yes I worked closely with Mr Roy.”

Gautam flashed into a smile on hearing that. Rajat also noticed that Gautam was staring at the window and at the table from time to time, as if trying to remember something. He was not quite sure why. Just as he was going to ask, Gautam continued.

“Wow. That’s amazing. I will be reporting to Mr Roy. How is he to work with?”

“Well, he is a decent guy. Quite good to work with.”

Rajat noticed that Gautam started staring at the ceiling now. Right in the middle of a conversation, he would start turning his attention to other objects in the room. The window, the table, the ceiling. Rajat was getting a bit distracted by that. And also starting to lose a bit of his patience. He was the one who was helping. He expected a bit of attention when someone has come to ask for job advice. Instinctively, he felt like stopping. But this was Kiran’s friend. So he continued.

“Mr Roy will give you all the freedom to operate independently. Generally, he will spell out his expectations upfront, but leave it to you beyond that.”

Rajat felt a bit thirsty and got up to get some water. The bottle was at the other end of the table. He walked to the other side.

Gautam continued asking his questions. “Great. That’s good news. And how is Microsystems overall as a company?”

Rajat picked up the bottle of water and took a gulp.

“Is it a good place to work in general. Does it offer good growth?”

“One sec.” Rajat said and walked back to his chair. “Do you want some water?”

“No thank you.”

There was a moment’s silence as Rajat had another gulp of water. Gautam was staring at him,  and was lost in thought. He was waiting for the answers.

“Overall it is a nice place to work. They will let you decide your working time and offer you flexibility in your work location. Growth may be a bit slow. You know how it is in such large companies.”

“Yeah, that’s true” agreed Gautam flashing into a smile again.

“So when are you joining them?” asked Rajat. He was now getting ready to close out the conversation. He was hoping that Gautam had no further questions. In any case, his constant fiddling and lack of attention was putting Rajat off. He thought that he was done with whatever help he could provide.

“They expect me to join next week. But I will be taking a month or so.”

“Alright then. Hope my inputs helped and wish you all the best.” Rajat was getting ready to finish. “I need to get into another meeting now.”

Rajat did not have any such meeting, but he got up from the chair and prepared to leave.

Gautam got up too and with a smile, he thanked Rajat. Gautam put his hand forward for a handshake. Rajat shook his hand and left.

He walked down the corridor and went back to his desk. He checked his laptop to see if he had got any email. There was nothing new. So he went back to the news that he was reading before this funny meeting with this funny guy.

Seeing Rajat at his desk, Kiran dropped by.

“So how was it?”

“Well, it was fine. I gave him all the inputs on Microsystems he needed.”

“Ok great. Thanks man for your help.”

For a moment, Kiran thought of stepping out, but then stopped.

“By the way, how did you find him?”

Rajat looked at Kiran not quite sure what to say. For a moment, he thought maybe he should tell Kiran that he found the guy odd and that his behaviour offended him. But then, he decided against it.

“Well, the guy seemed ok. How do you know him?”

“Hmm..He is my batch-mate from B-school. I know him for 10 years now. So did you find anything odd?” Kiran probed.

Rajat felt maybe he should tell Kiran now that he was insisting.

“Yeah, I found him a bit odd. He seemed a bit fidgety and low on attention span.”

“Hmm..that’s the reason I asked you.” Kiran went into some kind of thought after saying that. He briefly paused and finally started speaking.

“I forgot to tell you before you went in that Gautam is blind.”

Rajat looked up to Kiran from his desk. Rajat felt a bit stunned on hearing that.

“He slowly lost his vision due to an illness over the past 5 years and now he is 90% blind. He does not wear sunglasses or carry a stick or tell anyone. And his eyes look perfectly fine. But he can only make out that you are there but nothing more than that.”

Rajat did not quite know what to say. His mind went back to the meeting room and the sequence of events during his conversation with Gautam. Kiran patted Rajat on his back getting him out of his thought.

“I will just be back. I need to walk him downstairs to his car. And by the way, thanks a lot for your help.”

Rajat sat down on his chair and stared back into his laptop screen. He tried to read the news but could not concentrate.

2 Responses to Short Story: Help

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