There are thorny sides to a foreign posting...but there could be roses among the thorns!
The Singapore Airlines Jumbo was moving towards the take off point at Manchester for its non-stop flight to Bombay in India. Mike was a little uncomfortable in his business class seat, as he had to keep it upright for takeoff. He tried to concentrate on the issue of Times, open in front of him. By force of habit he looked at the listings. The stocks of his company, which dealt with modern floorings, were continuing their upward movement. This clearly meant there would be expansion of operations. Was he doing the right thing by moving away from the corporate headquarters now?
This was the question, which had bothered him for the last one month. His bosses had waxed eloquent on the need for foreign experience to round off his profile and had convinced him that when he returns he will be on the fast track of career progress. He had already started dreaming of the corner office with a view of the stadium.
Catherine, his girlfriend of two years, was not too impressed. Working in the Information Services of the same company she had seen the shenanigans of the top brass at close quarters. She was quite clear that Mike was an absolute darling and an intelligent marketer but he was too naive in the matters of the real world. Maybe it also had something to do with her being a levelheaded Capriconian! She had tried to moderate Mike's expectations but his child-like ebullience restrained her. In all this, one thing was clear to her. There is no way he would propose to her before he left. She already felt like a war widow! Maybe she would look at other options in due course.
Unlike Cathy, Mike's dad was quite blunt. Mr. John Findley was never known for mincing words, "India indeed! Looks like some of your colleagues have managed to banish you to faraway lands so that they can get all the plump jobs here. Anyway you seem to be very keen. Go right ahead and pay no attention to me. The only bit of advice that I can get give you is, try not to stay longer than six months. Even today a white man is a special person in India and you, sort of, get drunk with the attention and presto! Before you know it, you are a colonial."
Mike‚Äôs mother Philomena did not agree with that. "Now John, that is not quite fair‚Ä¶ and Michael, you will see that it is not true. India is a country of wonderful individuals who somehow don't seem to be effective collectively. You can still learn a lot from individuals if you ignore the collective squalor."
That visit to Holyhead to meet his parents had been the starting point of Mike's dilemma. He valued the opinion of his parents. They were still connected with India as a part of a large international charity organization. Mike's paternal grandmother had also, for a while, worked as the press secretary to the Viceroy of India.
John‚Äôs words kept echoing in Mike's ears as the huge aircraft reached its cruise altitude and a low hum permeated the cabin. The hostesses, in their beautifully stitched silk uniforms, which accentuated their lovely curves, had started gliding along the gangway. It was a soothing start to Mike's sojourn. For the moment Mike‚Äôs dilemma, whether this sojourn was good for him, seemed irrelevant.
Unlike most cities of the world, Bombay has no separate aerobridges for the business class passengers. Maybe it had something to do with the socialistic leanings of the founding fathers of independent India. To offset the lacunae, preference was given to them in disembarkation. Mike was surprised to find his co-passengers rushing off towards the immigration counters. Only when he reached the counters he realised what experience had already taught most passengers. While individual officers at the counters were efficient there just were not enough counters to clear the passengers quickly.
Mike, who was always wary of officialdom, approached the counter with some trepidation. Surprisingly his job was done in less than a minute and the officer waved him on with a cheerful, "Welcome to India Mr. Findley. I am sure you will enjoy your stay." The luggage took some time to arrive on the belts and Mike used that time to fill up the customs declaration promising not to sell his laptop while in India.
At last Mike was officially cleared to enter India. As he stepped out into Bombay's sweltering midnight heat, he instinctively took off his jacket and placed it in the basket of his luggage trolley. He looked around at the sea of humanity awaiting the arriving passengers. He had been told to expect the caretaker cum driver of the company‚Äôs guesthouse, one Mr. Joseph Harrison. His bosses had already told him not to be misled by the name but look for a normal fifty-year-old Indian face.
Mike peered at the placard wielding humanity behind the barricade trying to locate the one carrying his name. There was one carrying the name Mr. M. Findley but the holder was no old Mr. Harrison but a beautiful and a very British looking girl in her twenties. Having confirmed that no one else was carrying a similar placard, Mike decided to approach the girl.
"Yes sir, I am waiting for you. I am Mr. Harrison's daughter. He suddenly took ill and I am substituting for him. Actually I should have written that as well on the placard. Then you would have reached me easily." She seemed a little perturbed that she had not handled the situation a bit more smartly. Mike assured her that it was perfectly all right.
Sandra Harrison offered to push Mike's trolley for him but he declined and followed her as she skilfully cleared a path for him through the milling crowd. Mike felt a bit like James Bond with beautiful girl leading the way as he came out.
Sandra was a treat to the eyes of many a weary person in the arrival area. Her frame was clad in an embroidered square neck t-shirt and body hugging jeans. She was wearing normal walking shoes. Her shoulder length hair was lush and shiny. No one could miss her very delectable proportions despite her very unassuming attire. Most people who saw Mike and Sandra together in the car park assumed they were companions. They were a little surprised that while the Englishman was formally dressed his girlfriend was looking charmingly casual.
After depositing his luggage in the boot of the Mercedes, Mike turned to find Sandra holding the rear car door open for him. Mike was reminded of his visit to Holyhead and his father‚Äôs words. ‚ÄúOh come on Sandra, you don‚Äôt have to do that. I am not a colonial‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ He firmly closed the back door and got into the front passenger seat. Mike had always preferred the front seat as he felt most modern cars were designed for owner driving and the front seats were more comfortable.
Sandra got into the driver seat and started the car. She turned to Mike, smiled and said ‚ÄúOh no Mr. Findley. I am expected to open the doors for all my passengers. Not only that, people here also follow a strict system to decide who should sit where.‚ÄĚ
Mike responded with equally good humour, ‚ÄúWell, I will follow all that when others are present but mind you if you are driving only me, then we shall break all those rules.‚ÄĚ Sandra smiled. This young fellow from her great grandfather‚Äôs country was someone she could get along with.
The original Mr. Harrison had come to India in 1915 as a young man of twenty odd years. He supervised the laying of railway tracks in one of India‚Äôs hills. The railway loop, which he had designed to overcome the problem of sudden elevation, is something of an engineering marvel, even today, among the railway buffs. But the ancient Harrison was fortunate enough to be working in the cool climes of the hills and had enough energy by the end of the day to think of other things besides clever engineering designs. Among those other things, he spent a disproportionate amount of time thinking of women. He managed to bed quite a few women among his workforce and most of them took it in their stride. After all, he never forced any of them to sleep with him, but simply kept dropping hints till things fell in place. But, among them, there was one who was a recent convert to Christianity and chose to confess to a rather moralistic priest. Before he knew what was happening, Harrison was married off to rather shy but extremely good- looking Indian lass from the hills.
Then came the First World War. Harrison got called in to serve Britannia and never returned to his pregnant wife. Harrison‚Äôs son joined the railways as well, but his grandson Joseph joined Mike‚Äôs company as one among the drivers‚Äô pool. Joseph Harrison married a lady with a trace of English blood in her as well. The result was the very English looking Sandra. Joseph had won the appreciation of many of his British bosses. May be, they too felt a little guilty about his ancestry. These resulted in his being given the plum job of taking care of the company guesthouse and drive the foreign visitors around. The job also gave him an outhouse on the same premises, a luxury by any standards. Sandra had a good childhood and had just completed the basic courses in computer operations. She had also acquired a driving licence a year ago, an event, which had almost coincided with the increase in her father‚Äôs incessant backache.
The company brass was aware and had agreed for Sandra to drive on behalf of her father. She too enjoyed driving the powerful and luxurious car. But for her father‚Äôs insistence, she would have loved to continue as a chauffer and forget all about computers. Anyway for the next couple of months she was going to do as much driving as possible. Doctors had put Joseph on traction and he would definitely need time to recover.
Mike had the early morning hard on as he dreamt of Cathy. A sudden crashing sound from the guesthouse kitchen penetrated Mike‚Äôs air-conditioned bedroom. He half opened his eyes and checked the time on his mobile phone. ‚ÄúShit,‚ÄĚ he said to himself in a sinister whisper. It was five thirty in the morning and Julia was pottering around the kitchen.
Right from the time she had seen him, Julia, Sandra‚Äôs mother, worshipped Mike. She simply could not overcome the awesome fact that he was from the land of her forefathers. Her conviction was firm. A thoroughbred young man from the isles needed a full English breakfast. Mike had never cared for breakfast but he did not have the heart to tell the kind lady that. So he attacked the buttered toast and eggs with apparent gusto and washed it all down with cups of coffee. Julia beamed as the young man ate heartily as ‚Äėall young men ought to‚Äô. She mothered him as she felt that she had to take care of Mike for his faraway mother. Little did she know that Philomena would never encourage that kind of mothering.
There was never was any doubt that Mike was the ‚Äėboss‚Äô of the caretaker family. Joseph would try to sit up on his bed despite his pain because it was unthinkable for him that he should receive his superiors lying down. Mike could not really determine how much of it was on account of his fairly high position as the Deputy Marketing director of the Indian operations and how much was on account of his English origins.
While Joseph and Julia were pathetically servile, Sandra was more at ease with Mike. She insisted on calling him boss saying that she would find it funny to alternate between Mike and Mr. Findley depending on the company. The term ‚Äėboss‚Äô could be used on all occasions. As Mike came to realise with time, boss is a term used by most English speaking Indians to show minimal respect without being really formal.
On the personal front, Mike settled down well within two days after arrival. He was hardly exposed to the heat and dust for which the country was famous. He did see sweating pedestrians and the dust kicked up by the swerving vehicles. He saw all this through the dark tinted glasses of his gently undulating car. To him it was like watching a movie. His office of course was air-conditioned to a fault. He was indeed carrying the ‚Äėwhite man‚Äôs burden‚Äô .
Mike‚Äôs local boss was an enigma. Mike had met Mr. Eshwaran (ish-war-an) many times at Manchester. But Esh, as he was fondly known among the top brass at Manchester, seemed to be a different person in India than in UK. Mike found his habit of either being silent or speaking in riddles rather infuriating. The brand managers who were Mike‚Äôs direct reports, seemed totally in awe of Esh.
A few days after Mike‚Äôs joining, a meeting of the regional sales managers had been called to discuss business performance. Contrary to his expectations the sales managers were as much in awe of Esh as the young brand mangers. Mike could see that the West RSM manager was sweating profusely inside his formal business suit as he made his presentation. He punctuated his sentences with generous sips of cold water as he tried to explain his lack-lustre performance. Esh forced him to skip many of the slides making him lose track of his logic. Esh had this wisecrack at the end of the presentation, ‚ÄúWhen you lift your hand to point a finger at someone three are pointing at you.‚ÄĚ The RSM started saying something in response but Esh silenced him by saying they could discuss the points raised by him later on in Esh‚Äôs cabin. The North RSM hid his nervousness by sounding cocky. He was above target and tried to explain the reasons for his success. Esh had a beatific smile on his face and had this to say at the end, ‚ÄúWell! The means are as important as the end results.‚ÄĚ When his turn came, the Eastern RSM received the homily; ‚ÄúYou need to cut some of the forests before you can grow crops.‚ÄĚ The Southern RSM was asked to be like a swan, which, as legend has it, can discard water and ingest milk from a mixture of the two!
The meeting was held on the first Friday after Mike‚Äôs arrival in India. Mike was quite upset that the sales meet had not analysed issues threadbare and developed action plans for further follow up. After all how do you drive a sales team without clear-cut plans? The two-day weekend was approaching and Mike felt he must confront Esh with what was bothering him.
‚Äú I must say you did display the proverbial calm before the storm;‚ÄĚ Esh laughed as Mike asked in a circumspect way whether they should have drawn up an action plan with each RSM. As Mike showed the slightest of irritation on his face at this obtuse response, Esh put up his hands in a gesture of mock surrender and said, ‚ÄúAlright! I won‚Äôt test your patience anymore. Let me become for a moment the ‚ÄėManchester‚Äô Ish that you are familiar and comfortable with‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúFor most people of the world, a job is never divorced from life, society and culture. For this reason employees do not like to lose face among business associates by their shortcomings being openly discussed. They themselves ascribe failure to causes other than themselves. Secondly for most employees, the easiest thing is to fall in line with the superior‚Äôs thinking, however foolish it may be. So it is better that the superior‚Äôs statements are subject to some degree of interpretation as it stimulates thinking.
Esh went on to explain how he was dealing with each region, ‚ÄúThe West RSM has not studied the competition in his region. I could have exposed him in front of his colleagues but that would have caused him to lose face and become argumentative. Now I have explained things to him in private and I know things in that region will change. In the other three cases I had to deliver some common messages. The North RSM is getting sales credit for clandestine movement of goods from his region into neighbouring regions. I have delivered a warning to him and he has to mend his ways. Having delivered the warning during the meeting I have assured others that I am taking care of their interests. In the East, traditional floorings are still the norm and we need to do a lot of market development. Such underdeveloped pockets exist in other regions as well. So the message is applicable to all. The problem with the south is one of segmentation and targeting. The RSM tends to yield to the customers who protest most loudly, thereby throwing away his spending budgets in unproductive ways. My message to South RSM is somewhat relevant to others as well. Now, as against what we have done, we could have asked them to prepare action plans, which would have simply reproduced our own pronouncements for our own consumption. Please do not think I am against plans. Plans can be collected through e-mail after the meetings and monitored by our brand managers, but, in the meeting, our input should deal with core issues.‚ÄĚ
What Esh said made sense to Mike. As he left office he was in a contemplative mood.
‚ÄúBoss, you seem be thinking a lot today,‚ÄĚ Sandra said playfully as they waited for a signal to turn green. Mike smiled at her and said he had been thinking of Esh and the thoughtful way in which he ran the Indian operations. He asked her for her opinion of Ish.
‚ÄúBoss, between us I will ask you something ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Sandra started rather mysteriously, ‚ÄúHave you wondered why there are not many women and no good looking ones in your marketing department?‚ÄĚ
It took a few moments for Mike to understand what Sandra was trying to say. The signal turned green and the car moved forward.
Almost a month had passed since the Mike‚Äôs arrival in India. His weekdays were spent in a great rush. Considerable amount of his time was spent on travelling to and from his office. He started looking forward to the weekends to recoup himself. He had forbidden his colleagues from getting in touch with him during the weekends. Though it was considered unusual for a top man of the company to take such a position, they accepted this restriction making allowance for his foreign origins.
One of the things, which Mike loved to do on weekends, was to go on long runs on the beach. Fortunately the long beach was almost abutting his backyard. He could easily reach it if he went through a workmen‚Äôs hutment.
It was one such Saturday. The evening sun had disappeared behind thick clouds and it was threatening to rain. Mike was sweating profusely after his run more on account of the heat and humidity than on account of the physical effort of the exercise. He had just crossed the hutment. There was some open space between him and the road, which he had to cross to reach the guesthouse. He noticed that three young men, apparently from the hutments, had surrounded a girl who was dressed in a tracksuit. It was clear to Mike that they were harassing her.
‚ÄúHey! Stop that‚ÄĚ he shouted as he approached the group. He thought he saw fear in the eyes of the boys. One of them spoke up in his Pidgin English, ‚ÄúOur girl, we have fun. What is to you?‚ÄĚ
Even before Mike could answer, he realised he was now encircled. The girl made no attempt to escape. Suddenly he felt nimble fingers make their way into the pocket of his shorts. But for the sweat, which had glued his shorts to his skin, he may not have felt the fingers. He hit the hand, which was reaching into his pockets. As he did that he felt the girl upon his chest. He could not make out if someone had pushed her on or she had moved herself to him. He heard the spokesperson say in an angry tone, ‚ÄúWhy you touch our girl?‚ÄĚ Mike knew he was in trouble, but did not know how to respond. He pushed off the girl and stood his ground silently. The boys were glaring at him and talking to themselves. The girl was casting lewd glances at him.
After a few minutes, boys seemed to have reached a decision, ‚Äú You give watch for touching.‚ÄĚ Mike knew he could fight off the boys but was worried about doing it on foreign soil. He glared at them.
Suddenly there was excited conversation among his captors. They were looking towards the road where a jeep was speeding towards them. Even before the jeep came to screeching halt on the road near them, the group had run off leaving Mike standing by himself.
The policewoman who reached Mike asked him if he was ok. When he narrated what had happened she asked him if he wanted to file charges. He declined as they walked back towards the jeep.
Mike started laughing as they reached the jeep. The policewoman smiled and said, ‚ÄúAs a foreigner you should be careful. I am Vandana Pande; Inspector of Police for this area.‚ÄĚ
‚Äú I am Michael Findley. I live in the guest house across the road.‚ÄĚ
They shook hands.
‚ÄúOh! So you are with the Harrisons. I think I will walk with you to the guesthouse. I could say hello to Joseph as well.‚ÄĚ
Julie was devastated when she heard about Mike‚Äôs encounter. Joseph was livid. Sandra asked Vandana what would have happened if she had not turned up.
‚ÄúIf Mike had become aggressive, they would have run off and waited for a opportunity to take it out on him. If he had yielded they would got the watch off him as that is the only worthwhile thing on his person now.
‚ÄúWould you say I was wrong to have got involved, ‚Äú Mike wanted to know.
‚ÄúNot wrong, but you should observe the scene from a distance for a while, unless of course you have other people along with you, who can stand by you in case the whole incident is a con job.‚ÄĚ
As Vandana took leave of them, Mike thought to himself that it might be nice if he could get to know the policewoman a bit better.
The name Vandana was a tongue twister for Mike so he settled for the diminutive of Dana. When they were driving down to meet her the following Sunday, Sandra briefed Mike on the code of conduct in a middle class Hindu household.
‚ÄúMost people now do not mind your wearing shoes in their parlour but street shoes are a strict no-no if you happen to step into their kitchen. People will offer you cutlery but eating with hands is the common practice. The custom demands that you should be offered a lot of food of many varieties but no one would misunderstand if you refuse nicely and firmly.‚ÄĚ
When their Mercedes entered the narrow lanes of he upper caste Hindu locality the residents turned towards the receding car to determine where it was headed. When it did not stop anywhere within their field of vision, they lost interest in the matter and proceeded with their own lives.
Where it did finally stop, was a narrow lane off the main street. Vandana‚Äôs house was two storied brick affair weathered with time but essentially strong. For Mike it was a pleasant departure in a city of high-rise buildings made of concrete and steel. There was a quaint silence about the place. One could still hear the low rumble of faraway traffic but that seemed as muted as forest sounds.
Mike took off his seat belt and stepped out of the car as Vandana came out of the house to greet him. She was dressed in a two-piece Indian suit with a green floral-print top and deep green monochrome pants. Her hair was done in a ponytail and bobbed on both sides of her head as she moved briskly to the gate of the small compound.
Gone was the plain looking policewoman! A lovely young lady had taken her place. Mike was once again amazed by how women can look very different at different times. Though Mike himself was wearing very casual clothes, he was sure he was not as altered as Vandana.
‚ÄúWelcome Mike!‚ÄĚ Vandana was all smiles and her lips parted to reveal a bit of her fine teeth. For the first time after landing in India Mike felt turned on so much by a woman. He almost felt like a teenager out on his first date.
Mike and Vandana continued to see a lot of each other over the next month. She never again met him in her police uniform- not that he regretted it! The uniform had, in a strange way, de-feminized her. Now that she appeared in front of him in all kinds of dresses, he became fully conscious of how beautiful a woman she was.
Often Mike wondered if he would like to go to bed with Dana. He could not make up his mind about it. First of all he was not sure whether Vandana already had a special man in her life. As for himself, while he was with Dana, he was constantly getting reminded of Cathy, his own girlfriend back home.
Dana and Mike were seen at many places frequented by young singles. As Dana was involved with local amateur theatre, he often ended up meeting her after her rehearsals. Once, after she started rehearsing for an English play, she asked him to join her for the readings.
It was a small amphitheater by the seashore where the rehearsals took place. When Mike walked in, the rehearsal had already started. The play had only two actors who were lovers. They were reading out letters to each other in a serialized way. The lights would focus on the one reading the lines while the other seated not far away will be barely visible in a mild glow.
As Mike walked in Dana was saying her lines, ‚Äú‚Ä¶ But then you had nothing to say about my new ring. I kept putting out my hands so that you would notice it. ‚ÄėOh men, you are all so cruel. You take us for granted.‚Äô I was saying all kinds of rubbish about you in my mind: little knowing that you have had a tough day. No my dear, I am sorry I thought of you so badly. I did not have the heart to tell you what I had thought of, after I came to know of your day. It was not you but I who was being selfish. My new ring was so unimportant compared to your worries. Oh! Do forgive my sweetheart‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
The lights on Dana dimmed and the ones on male actor brightened up. Mike was vaguely listening to what was being said. The tone of Dana‚Äôs voice and the sweetness of her face played itself upon his mind‚Äôs eye. He was so lost that he did not realize it when the reading was over.
Dana came up to him and shook him up.
‚ÄúHey! What is wrong? You seem to be lost. What is up? Thinking of someone?‚ÄĚ
Mike felt embarrassed by his distractedness. He got up hurriedly, smiled without replying and accompanied Dana out of the theatre.
Compared to cool interiors, the weather outside was warm but pleasant. Mike could hear the sea at a distance. The sun had set but still the sky was lit in an afterglow. As usual, they walked to the little open-air restaurant attached to the amphitheatre.
It was a favorite haunt of the theater people. Trunks of trees were set on the ground with highly polished wood serving as tabletops. There were enough flowering plants around. A small band played by a gurgling fountain.
They found a table far away from the band. As they made their way among the closely set tables, constantly bumping into each other, Mike could sense the fragrance of Dana‚Äôs perfume. She was wearing a fawn colored pinafore along with checked shirt. Her hair was done in two plaits giving her the little girl look. Her heels clicked rhythmically on the cobblestone floor of the restaurant.
As they sat down, Dana smiled at Mike and said, ‚ÄúLooks like something is on your mind.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNot really‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Mike said inconclusively and moved forward to take her hands into his own.
Sit back for a moment and take a realistic view of how a modern newspaper works. News is still an important component of a newspaper, but the owners of these papers expect readers of today to function like workmen. You are expected to read the advertisements carried in the newspapers sincerely. For that, you are compensated either in terms of intrinsically interesting news or sensationally presented information. Advertisers are the real customers of the modern newspaper who pay for the ‚Äėeyeballs‚Äô of the readers. Like all good modern organisations, newspaper managements have to keep their employees (meaning readers) happy so that their paying customers are well served. That the price of the newspaper pays the bills of running a paper is a laughable premise. All our newspapers occasionally, and some of them regularly, indulge in sensationalising ordinary events to keep their readership faithfully hooked on to them.
Looked at from this perspective, it was not at all surprising that, the morning after Mike and Dana met at the theatre, one such tabloid which called itself ‚ÄėDaily Images‚Äô carried a picture of Mike holding Dana‚Äôs hands. The picture had the by-line ‚ÄúForeigner‚Ä¶ recruiting police officer for his country‚ÄĚ? No reader could miss the multiple implications of the caption. Since the picture was of a good-looking woman and a handsome foreigner it had sufficient titillation value. Despite the sensational caption, the actual news item merely said that the police officer belonging to such and such police station was seen at the local theatre along with a friend. It went on to talk about Dana‚Äôs abilities as an amateur artist in addition to the fact that she was a popular police officer.
The matter would probably have ended there with a few sniggers from friendly readers and smirks from Dana‚Äôs enemies. But fate intervened in the form a newshound of an evening paper, which needed something to fill its pages. The story, which was carried by the paper that evening was full of innuendos, which though not really damaging to the reputations of Dana and Mike, was enough to make it socially embarrassing for them.
Foreigner seeks hutment girl?: It is against the journalistic ethics of your paper to report on the personal lives of public servants as long as such things do not interfere with the discharge of their official duties. But we make it a point to investigate officials making it to our competitive papers for whatever reasons, to make sure we give you all that is newsworthy. For sometime now, we have been observing a lady police officer and her foreign friend. As we investigated, a startling story came to light. It appears that the said gentleman loves to jog by the seashore. According to the hutment dwellers that live on his jogging route, once they had challenged him for trying to proposition a young girl known to them. Just as the foreigner was about to make amends for his lapse, the said police officer had come charging in. Assuming the police would support a foreigner rather than them, they had fled the scene. We tried to contact the concerned police officer, but she was not available to give her comments until we went to print. It is quite possible that the version of the hutment dwellers is not totally correct. We will keep you posted as the story unfolds.
That night Dana called up Mike and briefed him about what had happened. As she suspected, he had seen neither the morning nor the evening papers. He was livid as she described what the papers had said. Dana tried to calm him down and pointed out they had not really said much that cannot be legally challenged and he should try to live it down. She told him that the evening paper would publish a clarification from her but still Mike may face some embarrassing situation at his workplace. She did not think the press would try to contact him, as that would complicate the situation for them.
Mike tried hard to remain calm. He tossed around his bed for quite a while that night and ended up sleeping badly. Next morning as they drove to office, he confided in Sandra what had happened. She just laughed and asked him to ignore it. But somehow Mike could not get the matter out of his head and decided to discuss it with Esh.
Esh gave him a patient hearing. He advised him to proceed on an up-country tour for a few days to meet the company‚Äôs dealers and customers till the whole issue blows over. Esh also sent an email to all employees outlining what had happened and suggested they discuss the matter with Mike or him instead of talking among themselves.
Mike contacted Dana and informed her that he was leaving town for a few days. He almost felt sheepish about it. But she assured him that it was the correct thing to do. If he remained in town some other journalists were likely to go sniffing after him. Her own bosses had given her a similar advice. She was being sent to a long pending departmental training program.
As Mike eased himself into the passenger seat of the car next morning, Sandra found him to be in a contemplative mood. She drove out of the town and quickly hit the highway leading to the north of the country.
Mike was trying to sort out his feelings about Dana. There was no doubt he felt attracted by her. But he was not sure whether he was really in love with Dana. He was even less sure of her feelings about him. But the events of last two days had created a chasm between them and he did not believe they would ever verbalise their deeper feelings for each other. He felt both a bit of relief and a bit of sadness. Dana was a friend and would remain one for life. He turned and smiled at Sandra as if to say, let us get on with life. Sandra smiled back as she put the car into overdrive. Their destination was the company guesthouse in a town five hours away.
Next installment should be in by mid-April. Sorry for this delay.