( The readers are requested to read the earlier chapters 1 to 9, to understand the continuity of this story so far …)
Some of the days it so happens that the day remains relatively uneventful, but it suddenly starts hotting up as the work-day is about to end. I reached the office after lunch, a little late this Saturday. As soon as I settled down, my secretary Mrs Hema Sharma, came in saying she had something urgent to discuss. Heena was a middle aged lady, around 55, a widow. She is an extremely capable lady and very reliable too. Some of my office responsibilities required confidentiality which she performed with sincerity. But she maintained a steady official distance from the other staff members, which helped her to perform her duties with aplomb. She however managed to sustain a cordial relationship with all concerned.
But today she dropped a bomb shell. Well not literally! She came and told me that she wants to resign with immediate effect. Her son who had recently got an on-site posting in the States wants her to go and stay with him in the U.S. It seems that this process has been going on for some time and her visa has finally arrived. Her travel date is in 10 days. That is why she wants to resign today, which is a Saturday, giving a 7 days notice period.
I was dumb struck. I rattled out, "But who will take care of your work Mrs Sharma ? You should have told me earlier, I would have got a replacement."
I immediately called up my boss, my Regional Manager at Mumbai. Explained my problem to him. I requested that I need an immediate sanction for a replacement for Mrs Sharma's position. My boss said that, "Sumit you know this is the last quarter of the financial year. We are not approving any financial sanctions now. You will have to wait till April."
I protested, "Then how will I function? I need some person as a replacement and that too immediately. I need Mrs Sharma to train the new person in the next one week while she is still here."
My boss replied, "Then try to pull out one person from some other department and ask him to share the load. But ensure that service level to customers doesn't get hampered by that. Or else, the best I can offer you is that you take a good person on a contractual basis. Get him or her trained. If the person develops well, you can confirm the person after six months. By that time, you will be getting your sanction for a permanent person in the next financial year's budget." That was the final say of my Regional head.
My mind was racing fast. Mrs. Sharma will be leaving in a week's time. Today is Saturday evening. I will have to get a person definitely by Monday to start taking over from Mrs Sharma and get as much training as possible before she leaves. How do I get a person so fast? The person will also have to be adequately intelligent and most importantly absolutely reliable. I just cannot pull out any of my existing staff from other support functions. That will hamper my support for sales and service. All the more so, this being a crucial business period, being the last quarter of the financial year.
Then it struck me. A brilliant idea. Sita is supposed to join my Appliances Service team from Monday. I was taking her in on a contractual basis anyway. What if I take Sita in the position of Mrs Sharma. In that case, she can start getting the training from Mrs Sharma from Monday morning right away. She is intelligent enough. She had also told me that she used to also handle administrative work in the school she was working in for quite a few years. And the best part is that, she would be absolutely reliable and loyal to me.
As for the position I was initially taking her in, I had already interviewed about a dozen candidates and had shortlisted a few, before I decided to give Sita the position. I know this was some sort of nepotism on my part as I was in effect favouring her just to help out her sister Geeta. (If new readers are not able to follow, please read chapters 2, 3, 4 of this series "The Lady Cook" to understand the context). I can now call any of the other candidates of the shortlisted ones and fill in the position for which I had initially planned Sita to join.
With that part taken care of, I could at last breathe freely. The added bonus being, now there's a very good possibility of getting Sita a permanent position in the company. After six more months she will no longer have to be a temporary contractual employee, but will be secured for her full career. The only task will now be to train her up properly, so that she can live up to the expected performance level. I headed back home, exuberant to share the good news with Uma and her daughters Sita and Geeta.
I was expecting to see Uma back in my flat by now. Geeta would definitely be there. I was thinking of calling Sita too, just to share the good news with her. It's actually for her only.
The door was opened by Geeta. She literally pulled me inside and closed the door shut. She took the laptop bag from my shoulder and kept it on the dining table. She seemed to be in quite a hurry as she was doing everything with quite a haste. I was opening my shoes by the door side. By that time Geeta was back in front of me waiting. She just scooped me up in her cradle as a mother might pick up her 5 year old child and started kissing me all over my face. I was stunned. This was the first time Geeta was kissing me and that too with all this gusto. She was kissing me and walking with me, with her face bent over my upturned face, as I was being carried lying horizontally in her arms. It felt as if she was eating my face up. She stopped at the centre of the room and lifted her face up from over my face. She looked down at my bewildered eyes. My hands on an impulse had gone around her neck when she had violently picked me up in her cradle. She slowly raised her hands so that I was bodily lifted higher up on her breasts. She brought my face right in front of hers and lightly touched her lips on my lips.
What was happening !!
In all these months I had known Geeta, she had never once kissed me, not even on my face. She had however carried me in her arms on countless occasions on her strong, tall 5'9" body. She had lifted my small 5'3" frame up in all sorts of positions viz. front straddle carry; cradle carry like she was holding me now; gave me piggy back rides; picked me on her shoulder in a fire-man's carry. Once she was showing off her strength and had even lifted me up sitting on her shoulders. But she had never displayed any emotions in the form of kissing me. And that too, so many kisses one after the other and ending up with a soft kiss on my lips.
I had to ask her, "What is this Geeta ? Why this sudden display of affection ? What is wrong with you ?"
She smiled, "Nothing…just thought that I was losing you. So……".
I was still perplexed, " Losing me ? Meaning ? How ? To whom ?"
She bent her face down and kissed me full on my lips, this time for a longer time. She was still kissing me, when there was a knock on my door. Geeta took off her lips from mine, hurriedly put me down from her lap, adjusted her sari and went to open the door. I moved inside the room and sat at the dining table.
Geeta and Sita's mother Uma came inside and was followed behind by Sita. There was something wrong going on today. Instead of her cheerful face whenever Uma sees me, I saw a gloomy countenance. Geeta walked past me towards the kitchen and started fiddling with some utensils. Her face was also serious now.
I came and stood in front of Uma. Every time I see this lady I get mesmerised. I always wonder how at the age of 55 can a woman be so elegant with her imposing tall solid figure dwarfing me with my 5'3" height. I saw Geeta and Sita both come and stand by my side. I was in fact enclosed in a circle with three 5'9" tall women standing all around me.
I had to tilt my head up and looked at all three in turns and said, "Will one of you at least tell me, what is such sad news that all three of you have gone into mourning ?"
Geeta took the initiative. Looking at her face, so sad and gloomy now, it was difficult to gauge that this was the girl who was almost literally devouring my face, capturing me bodily up in her strong arms just a while ago.
Geeta spoke up looking very sombre, "Sir, my Mami (maternal uncle's wife) had called from our house in the village. Remember, as per your advice Ma had given him around ₹1500 of food grains for their own consumption plus around ₹5000 worth of groceries and food grains to be sold from Ma's shop. My Mama (mother's brother) was told to sell those items from Ma's shop, which was in front of our house. He was strictly instructed to roll the earrings for further business. This way he would be gainfully occupied and also our village house would be looked after. He was also given ₹500 as cash in hand for his personal expenses.
Today Mami called up to say that Mama has blown off that cash in drinking. He is also not opening the shop regularly. Rather he is selling his stock at discounted rates so that he can get the cash to buy his liquor bottles. Mami was sounding distressed. She wants mother to immediately return and restrain her brother, otherwise it seems he will sell off the whole stock and drink it off. So we three were discussing all this uptill now. We have decided that tomorrow being Sunday, my husband Rajesh will go and leave Ma back at the village. Ma can control her brother. Mami says that they will keep on staying in our house along with Ma. So she won't be alone.
Sita didi also wanted to go with Ma. But both Ma and I have been telling her that she can help Ma more by staying here and not lose this job opportunity which you have given her. Since Mami is there, Ma will not be alone and both of them together can control the shop and also our Mama (uncle).
So that is the reason we are sad that Ma has to go back tomorrow.
What do you say Sir ? What is your advice ?"
Geeta was looking at me intently, her eyes trying to convey some message to me. Then it struck me. Geeta had told me earlier that since her mother had come and started living in my flat, her morher Ums had totally monopolized me. Uma is getting more time with me. She has also managed to break the ice with me and has been picking me up and carrying me around without any inhibition. She is seeing her late husband in my body and treating me as such, although she is 55 and I'm 40 with a huge age gap. With all this, Geeta is feeling distanced from me and she is losing her control and her closeness with me.
I now understood the reason for her violent passionate kissing, just before Uma arrived. She was wanting to convey to me her feelings for me and that she wanted me back as her own and not share me with her mother.
I knew both of these relationships were wrong. Geeta was married and Uma was 15 years older to me. But right then I was not in control of the situation. But one thing I understood with Geeta's dominating kisses, she wanted her proprietorship over me back, fully and finally. And that is how she expected me to answer the question she has now put to me.
The ball was in my court. Or rather, the decision to choose was in my hands. The mother or the daughter or both ? I knew that both the relationships were not right for me. But things were no longer in my control, since the time Geeta had started lifting me up and carrying me around in her strong arms, for quite some months now.
What should I say to Uma? Something that would make Uma stay back. In that case Geeta would be upset. Or some words which would make Uma return to her village. I knew that is what Geeta wants me to do. But that would make Uma sad.
What should I say ? What do I want to do ? Whom do I myself want ? Geeta or Uma or both ? Or possibly the other sister Sita ??
(Continued in the next chapter …)