It was the corner office in the tenth floor of tall building overlooking the sea. The view was great, the spacious room was cool and yet Ratna Kumar (known as RK in short) was seen wiping his face with his kerchief. Today was his wife Sumitra’s birthday and he had booked a table for the evening at a posh restaurant. He was yet to buy her a gift and wished to leave office sharp at 6pm after this meeting. As Marketing Director of a big company, he was concerned at the dipping sales graph in one particular segment. Seated deferentially before him was one of his senior executives Rakesh Khurana (another RK) who was in charge of that particular area.
“Rakesh, how are your wife and children at Delhi? You were mentioning a couple of months back that your father-in-law had sustained back injury due to a fall. How is he? When are you bringing your family to this place? I know she is working in a Kendriya vidyalaya and trying for a transfer,” enquired RK.
“He is better, sir, but uses a walker. My family may be required to stay for a year more there. I am managing somehow.
“Good, Rakesh, I called you to discuss an important matter. The sales in your segment is very poor in comparison to others. Do not say the demand is low. All the others are doing well. The other day MD was specifically mentioning about your area. I told him that you are very hardworking and a very good material for higher responsibilities needing no supervision and that I would talk to you about the low sales.”
“Thanks, Sir, I will do my best in this quarter and show you much better results.”
“Good, leave no stone unturned to make up for the lost ground. This is in your own interest. Am I clear?
“Yes, Sir,” replied Rakesh as he stood up.
“Sit down. I am not done with you yet. There is a personal matter that I wish to speak to you in confidence. I am not sure how serious and true the information I got is and I am hesitant to broach on it. Nevertheless, since it may impinge on your performance in office and affect the company, I thought it fit to mention in private to you.”
Rakesh looked at his boss RK with apprehension not knowing what he was about to say.
“Of late I have been receiving complaints from market that sales in your area is going down and customers are unhappy for poor service, delayed deliveries and false assurances. I also hear that you are not easily available. The impression is that you have not been showing much interest in your work and frequently leave office early. I have myself received some complaints about your department from a few customers. I wondered what happened to a good executive like you,” said RK and paused.
As Rakesh kept mum with his head bent, he proceeded further. “I made some discreet enquiries and learn that you are close to your secretary Ms. Vimla and you two often go out together much earlier than office hours. It is not my intention to intrude into your private affairs outside office. They are entirely your own and are of no interest to me., But I am concerned at the poor outcome in your work as a result of this liaison that has affected the company. I am transferring that lady to a branch in the city,” he said.
Rakesh was seen uneasy and heavily perspiring. Rakesh tried to take his kerchief but pulled out from his coat inadvertently a small red coloured packet. He kept it on the table and took out the kerchief. RK took the packet in his hand and saw from the cover it was GUCCI perfume for women. There was a look of consternation in RK’s face and guilt in Rakesh’s when he mumbled sorry.
RK then grimly reminded Rakesh about his dear wife and children at Delhi and that his act of betrayal is being talked about in the office behind his back. He also reminded that ethics of the office would not permit such liaison between employees. If it did not stop, he would be compelled to take extreme steps, he warned.
Rakesh highly in remorse promised that he would mend his ways from that very moment and welcomed a new secretary in place of Vimla for him. He left the red packet on the table when leaving the room refusing to take it with him lest it tempted him.
It was already 5.45pm and RK remembered his wife Sumitra would be waitingat the restaurant for birthday dinner. He had to hurry as the traffic was heavy around that time. He saw on the table the packet of perfume bottle and it struck him it would be an ideal gift for her. He felt no qualms in taking it as he can always reimburse the cost to Rakesh later. He slipped the bottle that was lying on the table inside his coat pocket without even opening it as he hurriedly left.
When he reached restaurant at 6.05pm, he saw Sumitra already seated at the corner table. Mumbling sorry for being held up by traffic, he gave her a small hug and sat opposite to her in relaxed manner. Improvising Shakespeare, he said “Age cannot wither you, nor custom stale your infinite variety” and shook her hands warmly saying Happy Birthday. Sumitra watched him with amused smile, as he took out from his pocket with a flourish the red coloured packet.
Sumitra happily took the packet from him and noticed the words GUCCI written on the red cover to her great joy. RK was pleased to see the radiant face of his wife as she opened the red cover of the packet. A small piece of paper fell down to the bewilderment of RK. She curiously started reading what love message her husband had written. “To my sweetheart Vimla, with everlasting love, RK”
RK was shocked to see Sumitra abruptly and angrily getting up. Pushing the bottle towards him she cursed him, “You two timer, you have the cheek to gift me the perfume bottle you bought for your lover. Fie on you. You will go to hell. Do not ever make an attempt to contact me.” She stomped out crying without waiting for the dinner with others in the restaurant turning their perplexed faces at them.
Dazed at the turn of events and not knowing what made her angry, he bent and took the chit to see what Rakesh had written. He sank on his chair as if hit by a sledge hammer ruing for his grievous mistake of using someone’s gift without checking fully. He knew it would take a very long time for him to explain the faux pas and pacify her.