Love and Liabilities

About the Book
Manav is a 25 year old flamboyant guy who works with a BPO. He is selfish and finds himself full of overconfidence. He has a girlfriend but, like most of the young guys, he thinks of being the next Casanova. He has no goals, no dreams and no confines but, all of a sudden, everything changes when a girl named Nikita enters his life through a weird bet — a bet with his friend Rajesh that changes three lives completely. Fun-filled romance and flirting becomes a matter of life and death. A hurricane of emotions and feelings destroys everything and leaves Manav wondering about the meaning of love, living and liabilities.

•    What happens when Nikita enters the love life of Manav?
•    Why do Rajesh and Manav enter a bet which changes their lives?
•    What was the bet all about?
•     Who does Manav choose…Nikita or Sambhavi? Or does he get the chance to choose?
•    What is the end of this love story…or does it end at all?

Days, Weeks, Months, Years, Decades and Centuries; nobody knows how old the phenomenon of love truly is. We keep on hearing, watching and feeling different love stories but do we ever get bored? The answer is ‘No’ because every love story has something different to offer. The story which you are about to read is not only a love story but it also has humour, hate, betrayal and self-realization. The story will tickle you and will make you laugh. It will make you think hard about the small things going on around us. It will make you cry and it will also make you to smile with tears in your eyes. At times you will be furious at the main character and at times you will love him. It is not a very complicated story but a very common story of a common boy. Once you have read it, you will realize that this story is that of one of your friends or your relative’s or even yours.

About the Author
A 2008 graduate in Zoology Honours and holding a diploma in Hardware Engineering, Chandan Sharma started his career as a technical specialist and has worked for companies like IBM and DELL. While working with the IT giants he continued to pursue his passion for writing as a freelance writer. He has written for many local magazines and has also participated in programmes of ‘Akashwani Patna.’ He has been an active freelance writer and has helped a few companies to develop their content.

He has an instinct for observing different things going on around him and hence the art of writing comes naturally to him.

This is his first novel and is inspired by people working in different MNCs and BPOs. It has a very close and tentative look towards the life of a common out-station boy working in a so-called IT company.

You can contact him here:  Chandan-Sharma@live.com and website www.chandansharma.org

A few extracts:
Every day, following the same routine for almost whole life, is not easy. If you are the one who goes to office on an empty-stomach and utilizes the sutta-zone (cigarette smoking area) to burn away at least a packet of cigarettes then you should be proud of yourself. You are not only helping India by inviting death to take you away and reduce the population but also you are giving jobs to many people. Thank you for being concerned about your nation and please accept my condolences in advance on your pre-mature probable death. I will meet you guys in heaven as I have started to do this social work lately.

If you are an out-station candidate, living single and cooking your own food, then you are the one who is a renewable source of workforce for all so-called MNCs and BPOs…And guess what? I am your co-worker. I am out-stationed in New Delhi, living single, and I cook my own food (if you consider tea and Maggi noodles as food then yes, I do).
Surprised to know it? Ya, I know the question before you is “how on the earth could an MNC employee write a story?” Not that the MNC employees are not talented but, when the hell do you get the time for it? You go to office and after life-sucking 12-14 hours you return home. You look at your kitchen where the utensils have become a breeding ground for fungus. Suddenly you decide that today is the chosen day to wash all of the poor utensils. But before you can commence upon it, you find yourself on the bed dreaming about your one and only fantasy…Holidays.

So, thinking that an employee has written a story in such a tight schedule definitely increases anxiety levels. Let me clarify — neither am I an insomniac nor was it a sudden rise in adrenaline which made me a superhuman like Spiderman. And, do not even think that I got leave from my office; I had to resign from my job, dude. Yes and that’s true. I turned in my resignation to write a story…the story of an incident which changed my life.

Well, if you think this story contains all the cribbing and bitching about the MNCs then I must say that you are partially correct. Why partially? The story will let you know.
I am not sure if my parents did anything wrong in my upbringing but, yes, they let me watch many movies. I grew up watching movies of flamboyant Saif Ali Khan who wished to flirt with all the girls on the world map and Akshay Kumar who used to dream about getting married to the richest girl ever born in near about all of his comedy movies. Any guesses about my character build up?

I used to call myself a playboy until I heard the song Pee loon from the movie Once Upon A Time in Mumbai. I stopped calling myself a playboy after that…I became P-lay boy (not the colour). Here, drinking does not mean alcohol…it means nectar…the G-nectar. I believed every girl has that, only the tastes are different. The best part is that you can drink it even with your eyes…straw is not required every time. And a P-lay boy was destined to taste all of them. I was a boy who was working in an awkward BPO. I had no dreams, no goals, no future and no humanity, but time changes…and it changed.

How many times have you thought that your nightmare will come true? How many times have you been slapped by your own hands?  How many times have you experienced how it feels to be a murderer?  How many times have you discovered how it feels to be a father? How many times have you reincarnated? Once, twice, thrice… no matter how many times…this time it is different…I present you a true love story, Me and She2 — a story of romance, remorse and reincarnation.

Chapter 1: Not a Call Centre

“I have asked for two breaks… one for each of us, just come fast. I am going to the cafeteria.” Rajesh ordered me with all the authority in his voice and rushed outside the floor. He could afford to be dominant at that time because he achieved to pull out two breaks from the TL (Team Leader)’s pocket. In a call centre asking for a break is the same as asking for a finger from the TL. The sentence ‘Can I get a break sir… for 15 or 30 minutes, whichever available?’ converts to a different sentence altogether by the time it reaches the awful ears of a TL ‘Can I get one of your fingers sir…the normal one or the thumb which ever could be cut easily?’ Especially our TL was all wound up on account of all the people who wanted to take all their 3 breaks. According to my TL the guys who ask for the break repeatedly are not serious towards the job. I stared at my TL from my seat to make sure whether he had all the fingers intact with his hand which required stern sanitizing. He saw me glaring at him, “You are still here… I have given a break for you. Be here in 15 minutes… no exception.” I started typing at the fullest speed I could manage and shouted from my workstation, “Sir I am writing the notes. Please give me a minute.” He ignored whatever I said and I knew that he would ignore but it was a formality which was required. I locked the computer after finishing my notes and went towards the cafeteria almost running.

In a call centre if you are the person who takes the call and thinks the damn company is running just on account of you, then you are called an ‘agent.’ Here if you complain that you don’t get the breaks in time, people will declare that you are cribbing and you have a negative thinking. Here being visible on the floor means to stick your butt to the chair and work like an ass without asking too many questions or, if possible, any question…the most important aspect is that you should not stop buttering your boss even if he is a severe heart patient and it really does not matter that at the end of the day we all want our bosses to die like a stray dog. Nevertheless they want the same for us but after completing our work. An employer wants to get as much work done as possible from his employee with as little money as possible and an employee wants exactly the opposite. It is a universal tug-of-war which never ends but, of course, the ‘boss is always right.’

I entered the cafeteria and started looking for Rajesh. The cafeteria is really a funny place. Here people are bound to 15 or 30 minute breaks. They do their work in fast forward motion. The only bunch of people here who are hesitant to cope up with the watch and do whatever they are doing, taking all the time on earth, are the vendors, the stall keepers with a default name of ‘Bhaiya’ (brother). I spotted Rajesh, sitting alone on a chair and waiting for me.

“I am sorry dude, I was writing the notes,” I said adjusting myself on a nearby chair.

He just stared at me and pointed his finger towards the cup of tea which he had ordered for me. I started sipping the tea without paying much attention to the taste. Soon I also became a part of the fast forward world of the cafeteria.

“What the fish! I have been waiting here for 12 minutes for a cup of tea and you are still saying it is about to get ready. Are you preparing the tea on a candle?”

I almost poured a sip of tea on Rajesh’s face from my mouth after hearing that funny line. We together saw a girl shouting at one of the ‘Bhaiyas’ there.
“Just one minute madam, tea is almost ready.” He was a bit scared or embarrassed.

I can say that he was scared because generally the default time they say is either 2 minutes or 5 minutes. The girl was furious, “We get only 15 minutes of break and the whole episode should include drinking the tea as well, not just making the tea. Now keep that tea for yourself.” She walked out of cafeteria like a bullet. I kept on watching the girl for some time… till the time she became hard to observe. “You rascal, don’t even think about her… I will approach her.” Rajesh was looking in the same direction and I guess thinking the same thing as well. I kept my hand on his shoulder and quoted, “Let the time decide it my friend.” He almost shouted, “What … time? We are about to exceed the break… run.”  I stood up and tossed the paper cup towards the dustbin…we didn’t have the time to see whether we were able to aim at the dustbin correctly. We rushed towards the floor praying for our breaks not to have exceeded the stipulated time limit.

Everything is a matter of time. It was just a matter of time that a shithole was our TL. It was a matter of time that I was working in a call centre and it was also a matter of time that we friends were ready to quarrel over a girl who was a total stranger to us. A guy always thinks that the girl he likes already loves him. It is just (again) a matter of time that he will propose and the girl would start dancing as if she had been waiting for this moment since she took birth. Is it funny… ya, boys are funny at times.

“Put a manager’s auxiliary break and go to that cabin.” As soon as we reached after exceeding our breaks by a few seconds, our TL pointed towards a cabin.

We felt as if the company’s door had been slammed shut on our faces. I was about to shout about how could they terminate us just for exceeding our breaks by a few seconds. Meanwhile he continued, “The manager is taking a session about a pilot batch which is about to get started from next week.”

The pilot batch is not a batch of handsome pilots but a team of innocent goats who are sacrificed in the name of a new process. Rajesh heaved a sigh of relief, perhaps thinking that at least he was not being terminated.

“How come both of you exceeded your breaks by 10 seconds each?” the TL asked after poking his head inside the monitor.

“Sir, it is only 10 seconds.” Rajesh made the biggest mistake of the day. The TL stared at Rajesh as if he was solely responsible for the world’s economic meltdown.
“We have 400 agents here, if you calculate 10 seconds for each it will become 4000 seconds. This means more than 1 hour a day is wasted for nothing, which means at least loss of 5 Lac or even more.” He showed his statistical skills to us. I thought that he could be a better retail wholesaler than a TL. I pinched Rajesh which was a signal to disappear from there though I wanted our TL to calculate how much profit the company made by not giving us 1 out of the 3 breaks on a daily basis. In the meeting room there was only one empty chair and beside it was one which the beautiful cafeteria girl had occupied. We both rushed towards the chair because it was not only a chair but a chance to sit next to that green chilly. I was proven the loath one as Rajesh acquired that chair and his face lightened up as if it was the throne of a king that he had managed to acquire. The manager — Ramesh Khorana — was a short guy with a weird moustache. His English was appalling but we liked his sessions as an entertainment source and on top of that we were spared from those irritating head cuffs…the headsets…for some time. As soon as he opened his mouth to say something a lady entered the room. She was either habitual of fast food or her diet had nothing except fat. Out of courtesy the cafeteria girl stood up and offered the chair to the lady. Now Rajesh was bound to enjoy the company of that overweight lady and the cafeteria girl was standing just next to me. She looked at me and gave me a formal smile. I returned her smile with an even bigger one. Rajesh looked at me and then at the door. I knew he was pleading to God to send one more of the same breed sitting just next to him so he could offer his chair as well and have the heavenly advantage of standing beside the cafeteria girl. I was sure that God had other important works to accomplish and He was least interested in the testosterone level of guys like us. The manager waited patiently with an open mouth till the fat lady was settled in the chair. I thought that he wanted to ask the lady, “How will you come out now?” Though the question was genuine, yet managers are highly trained professionals who are experts in overlooking the genuine questions (Especially if the question is related to the welfare of agents). Finally he got a chance to start the session with his trade mark sentence.

“Friends, we are proud to state that we are launching a new process for Macintosh and all of you have been lucky to be selected for this process as a pilot batch. We will give you training from tomorrow onwards; it will be for 2 weeks and Akshit will be your trainer. Do we have any concerns?” The last line was spoken so softly that we were left wondering whether he himself was able to hear it.

“Who the hell is Akshit?” Rajesh whispered to me looking back.

“Is it a concern?” I noticed that though the question was to me yet he was looking at the cafeteria girl.
“Sir, we don’t get breaks on time here… in other call centres…”

The poor guy didn’t get the chance to express his entire concern because the manager almost shouted on the top of his voice.

“This is not a call centre. We are registered as IT Company. How many times do I need to tell you people this? Don’t compare yourself with those petty call centre and BPO employees.”
I realized that the guy had committed two mistakes here. First that he raised a concern and second he called the company something other than a call centre. We were supposed to wear head cuffs, we were supposed to take incoming calls, and we were supposed to be always unsure of our shifts whether it would be of full night… semi night… or late night. We were not entitled to any of the national holidays. We were not supposed to be aware of our weekly offs. Last but not the least, we could not take our breaks without pleading with our inadequate TLs but yet it was not a call centre… it was an IT Company.

“Any other concerns…? No… ok. The meeting is adjourned. Please go and login quickly and from tomorrow onwards your training will begin, so be prepared.”  The manager said without even waiting for anybody to open their mouth. As soon as he walked out from the room Rajesh stood up from the chair from which he had wished to get away long before.
“Life in a call centre is ugly man… it sucks.”

“This is not a call centre,” I shouted on top of my voice and for a moment there was a pin drop silence and just after that we all burst into laughter. The sound of the cafeteria girl’s giggle was lovely… as lovely as the sound of a waterfall. I looked at her and she was beautiful… beautiful as a wild orchid. She smiled looking at me and offered her hand for the precious hand shake. As soon as I touched her hand I felt something akin to an electric current and excitement running inside my body. “Nikita Vajpayee.” She told me her name. I stood for a minute in amusement and then I realized that it was my turn to reciprocate,

“A…Am… Manav.”

I realized for the first time that in life not only your horrific involvements but also beautiful experiences make you look like a dumbass and act senselessly.

Chapter 22:  Verdict against Life

I was not able to sleep or even lie on the bed the entire night. I was frozen in shock and despair. I was just waiting for Rajesh to come and tell me something I was not able to think of myself. I looked at the clock; it was 6:00 in the morning. There was some time before I could expect Rajesh to come. I was feeling restless and soul-less. I decided to write an email to Niki to confess the terrible things I had done. I thought that after consulting Rajesh I would send it across to her. I turned on my laptop and kept looking towards the wallpaper for almost 15 minutes. I really had no idea from where to begin or what to write.  I started writing and deleting the text and after some time I finished half of it. I read it to make sure that I had written exactly what I wanted to convey.

‘Dear Niki,
I don’t know whether you will be surprised by this email or if you were expecting this. I also don’t know how will you react to this, but I am writing this email to you to tell you something which I should have told to you long before. I know I am a very bad person and have no right to even write something to you. I am not sure where to start.  I have done terrible things in my life, including messing up with my career and leaving my family long time ago. I am ashamed of not only what I did to you but also to Sam, my friends and my family…’
I wondered that after struggling for more than 30 minutes it was all which I could manage to write. I sat thinking about what I should write next when I heard a beeping sound from my mobile. I thought it must be Rajesh. I stood up and looked for my mobile. It was Niki.

I observed my face in the mirror and found that drops of tears were stuck in the corner of my eyes. I swallowed a large quantity of saliva and tried to close my eyes in the hope that when I would reopen my eyes I would find myself on the bed and the nightmare would be broken. When I was a kid I used to see myself falling from some cliff or colliding with a bus. Just before touching the ground while falling or just before meeting with the over speeding bus, my dream used to be broken, but this time the story was different. The tears fell out of my eyes and one drop of that saline water collided with the screen of the mobile which was in my hand. I wiped away the drop of the tear and read the message sent by Niki yet again.
‘I am tired of making excuses to myself…I know the reality will not change, please don’t try to contact me because I no longer exist. Enjoy your life.’

I realized that it was neither a nightmare nor a daydream. By now, I had already read the message at least 80 times but every time I read the message it was the same. It was hard for me to believe whatever I was reading. I felt my heart squeezed and heartbeat struggling to even make a sound. I silently moved towards the bed and sat on it. I was still holding the mobile. I don’t know what I thought at that time but soon after I found myself calling on Niki’s number like a maniac. Every time I dialled, the same monotonous voice greeted me telling me that the number I was trying to call was switched off. It was not less than a death sentence for me. After I got the same heartbreaking message for the 40th time I threw my mobile down with anger and dismay and it crashed against the wall and pieces of it scattered on the floor, bed and table. While the mobile was about to bang into the wall I tried to recall the message again and wanted to confirm whether I had read it correctly. Yes, it was exactly the same … as far as I could remember… I wish I could forget it. I was still feeling the heat of my guilt.  I tightened my fist and punched the wall. A wave of pain travelled from my hand to the neurons and a narrow line of blood again came out of my hand onto the wall. Soon my anger again sank into the grief and distress. I could not believe that I had actually lost a selfless love… forever. I was feeling suffocated by my own guilt and my life appeared worthless to me. I looked at the laptop. The email was still incomplete… it was full of sins I had committed and my confessions. I closed the screen of the laptop and took the blade lying beside the pen stand. I closed my eyes and slowly cut the veins of my wrist. For a moment an astonishing pain seized all the thoughts of my mind and a silent scream stuck in my voice box.  A fountain of blood started oozing out of my half cut and damaged veins… soon the velocity of blood reduced and fountains of blood transformed into droplets of blood. They fell slowly from my wrist on to the floor finding their positions on the floor to die. I burst into tears, not because I was sad or scared for myself but because I was feeling miserable for a girl who was so good and true that an angel could have felt envious. She loved me altruistically and, in return, I had cheated on her and by the time I realized my offence, everything was finished. It was too late to realize that I had committed a crime not only against the girl I had ditched but also against God. I proved myself a coward and a damned person who could only play with emotions. I was the most atrocious thing which could happen to anyone … I was an enemy of God.

Soon the voices coming from different places stopped gradually and darkness began to envelop me. My heartbeat became slower and slower. I felt free from the felony I had committed. I closed my eyes and saw beautiful Niki in her blue salwar-suit waiting for me. She raised her arms to hug me… and I felt peace at being forgiven. I went closer and asked her,
“Have you forgiven me?”
She just smiled in return.

“Am I dead?”

I asked her the second question and she didn’t answer but smiled again. I was about to ask her the third question but she vanished and once again darkness prevailed.

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Rating: 9.1/10 (7 votes cast)
Love and Liabilities, 9.1 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 16th, 2013 at 10:54 am and is filed under Fiction, Synopsis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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