They sat on the uncomfortable high chairs in the sprawling lobby of a busy downtown building. They didn’t notice the men in suits of varying shades of grey in even more varying price range walk by. Their eyes were focused on the printouts spread out on the table.
Meeting rooms got suffocating after a certain point in the day. They often moved to the noisy chaotic lobby and defying all logic managed to concentrate on work. Problem-solving. They were the best at it. That is why they were here in a building that dazzled inside and out.
The sleek high rise tower with darkly veiled black glass stretched from the ground floor to the grey rain clouds above. A fancy chandelier burned blindingly over the first set of escalators. The plants that were tucked in with an artistic elegance softened the scent of money. No one could quite tell for sure if the plants were real. The North East wall had smooth small grey pebble encrusted on it. Water flowed over the pebbles purely to satisfy the Feng Shui directives some architect must have had to deal with.
The sound of the cascading water and the genuineness of the trees was a source of regular conversation topic for the two individuals bent over the papers on the round glass table top. Work done, the time for conversation was approaching. She stacked the papers into a neat pile and smiled at him. He stretched his legs and leant back, visibly relaxed.
He picked up his forgotten coffee, took a sip, and scowled. “It’s cold,” he stated.
“We could get a refill. I have some time before the next meeting,” she said, smoothening her ponytail.
“No. I’ll get some on the way back to my desk. Let’s sit here while we have the chance.” He lounged dangerously low on the chair and surveyed the foyer without really registering anything in particular.
She nodded, eager to delay returning back to work. Besides, she had something she wanted to talk about. She could predict that the conversation with him on that topic would be stimulating. Their ideas were so often in sync that these interludes between work and even during work were the highlights of her day often.
“I saw this show which has Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. It’s an old show. He was a teenager,” she started, warming up towards the thing she wanted to bring up. She had deliberately infused a casual tone to hide the truth. Even so early in the conversation, she was surprised to notice how much it meant to her. The idea.
“Barney is legen-dary,” he said, managing a perfect imitation of the character in question. He slammed the laptop lid clearly satisfied with the work.
“Ya, so the story is mainly about high school kids. This school girl who is brilliant at studies at the start of the school year decides to hang around with a bunch of kids who are basically doing nothing useful with their life. You know what I mean? She even tries to go back to her old Maths club, aces a Maths competition and still prefers to not join the club. She doesn’t want that anymore. So, she idles away her time for most of the episodes I have seen,” she paused to take a deep breath.
She had broken her pen cap fiddling with it while speaking. In contrast, he sat still, listening intently, just as she had hoped. This long introduction was just a warm up. She wanted to say much more on the topic.
“Isn’t that amazing? She is brilliant at Maths but doesn’t want to be in the Maths club. I don’t even think its about peer press..” She had knocked off his coffee while sweeping her hand in a frenzied gesture. Jumping up, she grabbed a box of tissues from the nearby granite ledge and paid attention to cleaning up. She was a klutz when she was distracted by her thoughts. This was more wrong timing that usual.
“That’s the stupidest thing I have heard Meera,” he declared. His lips were drawn together. He looked imperious.
“But, think about it Aryan. She doesn’t want to participate in a Maths club so she left it. Isn’t that logical?”
Aryan was clearly disapproving of every word she uttered. She wasn’t prepared for this outright rejection of her idea. An idea so dear to her. An idea that had dawned on her while watching a show probably meant for kids. An idea that had been least expected and far away from the grasp of her conscious thoughts, until the very moment it seemed to clutch her brain and threaten to strangle her with its intensity.
Meera breathlessly continued, her eyes flickering between Aryan and the messy table she was having a hard timing mopping.
“I had this friend in college. She told me about this movie she saw of kids. Strange how all this is coming out of kids on screen..”, she digressed.
Noticing his frown she quickly resumed her argument. “This boy remains quiet all through the movie. His group of friends are in trouble and a whole lot of cute things are happening, but this boy doesn’t talk all through it. Get it? Then in the very last scene, he blows everyone’s mind by the concise speech he gives to the enemy gang kids. It’s all kids okay, but the movie sounds fun.”
He was not blinking, staring right at her. She took that as a good sign. That is how he listened when he was engrossed in a problem.
“Finally, his friends ask the boy why he kept silent all along when clearly he was particularly gifted in the art of speech. This tiny 7 or 8 year old shrugged and replied, ‘I can talk. I just choose not to.'” Meera ended with a flourish, certain that the story would affect Aryan as much as it always affected her.
“I don’t agree.”
There was a long pause or a short one, she wouldn’t have been able to gauge.
“If you are a prodigy in something. Or even good at something. Anything, small or big does not matter. You have something that others do not. By not using it to the fullest, you are squandering possibilities and potential. What if this high school girl of your show was meant to, I don’t know, cure cancer? And all she is doing with her life is bunking classes and drinking beer when she is not supposed to, just for being cool or whatever the heck is her latest fad.”
There was an edge in his voice. His eyes were steely. Meera felt a sense of loss at the disconnect. The words he said made sense. She did agree that one had to give the best to everything one did. Aryan and Meera got along fabulously because of this similarity in ethics of life, but she couldn’t get herself to be won over by the argument.
“Let’s say this girl was eager to try out music or sports and wanted to pick that instead of the staid path of studying differential equations, it would be perfectly legitimate. Here she is doing nothing. Wasting time. That is unacceptable,” Aryan countered. He was angry.
She got him. She truly did. His reasoning was appealing and compelling, but for some unimaginable reason, she could not agree. They had never argued about such an abstract thing. They had never argued. Period. That was why they worked well together. There was no other is office she respected more. He was sensible and inspiring.
“Am going to get my latte,” He pushed back his chair in a sharp movement and strode off.
Meera sighed. Miserable. She could see him waiting for the elevator. There was time to catch up and smooth things over. She hated conflict. She could go after him. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could. She just chose not to.
indrani robbinsJanuary 16, 2017 at 7:47 pm
loved the story. reminded me a bit of our conversation. plants “softened the scent of money.” very nice. and that wondering over whether they’re real or not. the story telling was very very nice.
ZsoltJanuary 17, 2017 at 5:13 am
I agree so much, Indrani. Just the right amount of external details to make the scene real and personal, but they still don’t distract from the story.
I don’t agree with the guy, though:) Nobody should ever tell you what to do. Even if he tells you the right things.
rhea sinhaJanuary 17, 2017 at 10:46 am
Thank you both 🙂
Archana popliJanuary 21, 2017 at 1:48 am
I liked the story and the conversation they were having .And it reminded me of how we indians pressurise our children into going to ivy league schools to claim that they are successful.but in reality if your kid talented and gifted he do well in any good school ..Also pushing our kids into fields where they can become rich .Over what they prefer to do .56
rhea sinhaJanuary 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm
Thank you Archana. Glad you liked it. Really the examples you state are why the heroine in the story had never even given thought to making a choice for herself. I sincerely hope more and more Indians learn its sometimes okay to relax and just be true to themselves versus trying to be ivy league successful.
AnkitaJanuary 22, 2017 at 3:09 pm
This one is awesome. The girl chose not to go after maths or even at the end not giving in to the argument just to “smooth things over”. Sometimes not taking the conventional route and choosing to just be is very crucial to preserve “you”
rhea sinhaJanuary 24, 2017 at 12:32 pm
So nice you came Ankita. What you say is true. The more people realise this the happier they will be.
DurgaSJanuary 24, 2017 at 5:23 pm
Very interesting conversation Rhea. Thought provoking. I like the story narration. And I agree. Just because you are good in something doesn’t mean that you can’t be doing something else. But the boy does have a point. Choosing to be idle is not the alternative.
rhea sinhaFebruary 7, 2017 at 12:56 pm
sorry about the late reply durga di. Nice that you agreed with the boy. Followers for each point of view..