In the end, when everything has been said and done, all that matters is love and friendship.
Following up on my previous article on #DatingAtWork, this is Part 2. Hope (Part-1) Dileep and Kavya’s story was able to entertain and provide some perspective on office romance. This next story offers a different perspective. Once again, for the sake of their privacy & dignity, the overall sensitivity of the matter, and my peace of mind, the names are going to be fictitious, while the situations are very real.
Boban & Shalini
I had never seen two people so completely in sync with each other until I saw Shalini and Boban, together.
They got on together like a house, (not big enough)..uhh…CASTLE on fire? (or whatever object that hyperbolizes the idiom). And it didn’t take them months or weeks. They laid their eyes on each other and it was an instant connection. Theirs was quite a crazy and complicated story. I don’t think I can fully be honest about it, so I’m going to be suggestively vague. It took me some time to decide on what I was going to write about them. Well, here goes nothing.
When They Met
It had been close to 15 days since Boban had joined the organization. He already looked bored and tired, and occasionally depressed. And then she walked in with a large white handbag. The HR greeted her warmly and then quickly took her around introducing her to everyone, starting with him. They shook hands, smiled, greeted each other and that was it. After the introduction was over, Shalini was shown to her desk which was right behind him. They briefly chatted as she settled in and then got busy with work. At break time, he turned around and invited her to lunch. They were the first ones out the door and the last ones back, at the end of lunch hour.
In Their Own Little World
The smile, the looks, the teases, the inside jokes. It was as if there were carrying a secret around that no one else knew about, but everyone noticed them. Boban was the kind of guy who seemed tough and hostile. But was actually quite sweet and sensitive once you got to know him. Which was ironic considering he was in sales. Shalini, on the other hand, had a very attractive personality, extremely outgoing and talkative. Which was ideal for her role in sales. However, there was a longing for escape, to be free from her ‘life’. (At least that’s what she once revealed to one of the other girls in the office.) Perhaps that’s what Boban gave Shalini, an escape from her reality. And I guess for him, he had found someone to share his vulnerabilities. So every time they talked, every time they were together, they looked happy and content in their own little world, whether they were alone or had people around them. Except, there was one problem – Shalini wasn’t single.
The Bigger World Around Them
Their personal interests merged with their professional lives. They started going out on ‘sales meetings’, together. Occasionally, they skipped hours of work to ‘hang out’ using the same reason. Rumors spread about them, and because Shalini wasn’t single it was never a question of love or friendship, but ‘an affair’! Their respective reputations (both personal and professional) began to suffer. They were in sales, after all. Targets had to be met, appearances had to be maintained and relationships had to be formed. In spite of consistency in their work performance, Shalini and Boban were reminded that they were in essence, in competition with each other. They were reprimanded and advised and soon there was a conscious effort from both sides to maintain some ‘distance’.
One of Them
In spite of the rumors, I believe whatever existed between them was borne from a very deep and personal friendship. That they needed each other to get through whatever issues they were dealing with in their personal lives. (However, I don’t think that’s an excuse for their unprofessional attitude towards work). Management seemed to think so as well. I leave next part of the story to your imaginations and efforts. Boban and Shalini, despite the HR’s advice and their well-intended conscious decisions, couldn’t just keep away! Office time was the only time they could ‘see’ each other since Shalini had someone else in her life. There was a feeling of unease and tension within the office. It soon became a distraction for everyone and management couldn’t ignore it anymore. One thing led to another and soon a decision was made – someone had to leave!
The HR was supposed to meet with them, individually, to discuss an almost generous offer in exchange for a resignation. Shalini was called in before Boban. Unfortunately, she misunderstood the situation and thought she was being singled out.
She needed the job. It was her only source of financial freedom, in spite of her relationship status. I found out later that she had certain responsibilities and commitments. Probably why she was looking for an ‘escape from her life’.
In order to secure her position, she revealed a sensitive information about Boban that provided them a reason for his immediate termination. Boban was called in next and fired. He was given until the end of the week to complete the transition over to another associate, in return for a lesser compensation.
It was THE most uncomfortable week. Not just for Shalini and Boban but for the entire office. Aside from the obvious issue, it was weird watching two people who used to be very close, completely avoid even looking at each other. One was out of disgust and anger, the other out of shame and guilt. At the end of the week, Boban requested to leave a half hour early (Probably to avoid the embarrassment of walking with everyone else). As he packed his bag for the last time, Shalini got up and walked around her desk and stopped behind him. The whole office stopped working and watched like hungry wolves, waiting to see what would happen. Considering Boban’s hostile nature, we expected an ‘explosion’ of expletives and abuse. As he turned around, his face was a mask of fury and rage. She could hardly look him in the eye, as they began to fill up with tears. She said something in a whisper. Two seconds of silence followed as Boban contemplated his response while not taking his eyes off her. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and then spoke loudly but calmly as he opened them. “It’s okay. I was always going to leave anyway. I was never happy here.” And with that, Boban walked away from a tearful Shalini, without so much as even a backward glance.
KARMA – Sutra
I don’t think Shalini ever got over that guilt. The energy was gone and she wasn’t as talkative as before. She mostly kept to herself and did her work quietly. On the personal side, we heard things fell apart with her ‘significant other’. Apparently, he heard things about Boban, there was a fight and then he left her too. Professionally, things were falling apart for Shalini. She made a mess of things on two big accounts she was managing. She missed out on few of her appointments. She kept getting reprimanded every day. It was absolutely depressing. Finally, after a month had passed, since Boban had left, Shalini was put on notice.
The notice period went by quickly and soon it was time for her to leave. She, like Boban, requested to leave early and then told some of us as she bid ‘goodbye’. As she packed her large white handbag, she glanced at the exit and the row of desks towards it. She lowered her head preparing herself for the long walk towards the door, knowing everyone was looking at her. Finally, she found the courage and walk out with her head held high. As I watched her leave, I smiled to myself and wished her, ‘good luck’.
A few minutes later someone in the office (who was closer to the window) exclaimed, “Boban!” Some of us rushed towards the window and looked down from the 2’nd floor. Sure enough there he was exiting from the passenger seat of a taxi. A visibly shocked Shalini stood outside the building, staring at him completely speechless. (I am not ashamed to admit that I had something to do with his sudden appearance.)
He walked forwards with a reassuring smile on his face and stopped inches from her. He raised his right hand and wiped her tears away as Shalini finally broke down. Enclosing his arm around her he pulled her towards him as she rested her head against his chest while enclosing her arms around his waist.
To say that we were shocked, would be an understatement. It was more like, ‘Oh My God! I can’t believe this is actually happening in front of my eyes. And I am actually seeing this.’ Some of us laughed, some of us mocked them, some of us criticized them and some of us cheered, while some tried to take out our phones and record the whole thing!
Turning to his side, he quickly took the large white handbag from her hand and walked her towards the car, with his right hand protectively placed around her shoulder. They entered the back seat, the taxi took off and that was the last we saw or heard of them. They disappeared from social media, and… well it wasn’t like we went looking for them. I tried calling Boban twice but he never picked up.
I know the ending sounds ambiguous but I like to think that despite everything that happened, they got to walk away together into the sunset. Wherever they are, I hope Boban feels free to be himself and Shalini is no longer looking for an ‘escape’. If you guys are reading this, I hope you’re healthy, safe, and I also hope you guys found the happiness that you were looking for.
So, if you’re in love, cherish it, respect it, enjoy it, but don’t let it get in the way of work, and don’t let work get in the way of love.
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Originally published at Linkedin