SURESH RAMPHUL

The news fell on Anup’s head like a bombshell. He was no longer needed. His services were no longer required.

They didn’t give him any explanations. It appeared that the company was undergoing some financial crisis. Despite all their efforts, they said, they couldn’t prevent it from collapsing. They had prepared a list of those they could no more afford to keep. Anup’s name was on this list. In the blink of an eye, he had become redundant.

He had joined the company when he was 21. Now he was 38. He had devoted all his energy to this company. There had never been any complaint against him. His salary had been reasonable. This had made it possible for him to add a storey to his modest house and also to buy some items of furniture. In May he was to get married. It was going to be a red-letter day in his life. He was to marry the girl of his choice. Fortunately for him the parents had no objections. It was to be a simple wedding. His friends and his colleagues were happy for him. Anup had never felt happier. Everyone was looking forward to the wedding.

The dismissal letter came towards the end of March. It was like someone had punched him in the face. How was he going to inform his parents? It took him a lot of courage to tell his mother. She was shattered. She couldn’t believe her ears. How was it possible? Had he done anything wrong? Had he fallen out with someone at work? Had he vexed the administration in one way or another?

In a month’s time, the wedding was to take place. Invitation cards had already been printed and had yet to be distributed. What was he going to tell his in-laws?

He didn’t know.

Somehow they had got the information. They had lost no time in calling Anup and his family home. Anup awkwardly explained that losing the job wasn’t his fault at all and he felt sure he would obtain another one sooner or later. But Shivani’s father had a mind of his own. The question of going ahead with the marriage no longer arose.

Anup felt his throat going dry.

“It might take you years to find a decent job,” said the girl’s father. Anup’s mother explained that her son had gained valuable experience and this, God willing, would certainly help him to obtain a job somewhere. There was no point in stopping the marriage.

Shivani’s father was adamant.

And what did Shivani herself think about it? Anup was waiting for an answer from her. He was sure she would be willing to marry him despite the moment of crisis. He believed in her love for him. Her silence surprised him. Her father said that it was for him to decide. He couldn’t compromise his only daughter’s future. She was working in a Ministry. Surely she deserved better than a man out of work.

Anup proposed to start job-hunting immediately. He knew very well that there was no guarantee that he would lay hands on a job before the wedding. He felt a strange kind of emptiness inside himself. He felt useless. He had never imagined that one day he would lose his work. He shuddered at the thought of losing the girl he loved. He didn’t blame her father. No father would play with his daughter’s future.

Shivani’s mother was sitting there holding her forefront in her hand. Her brother’s tightened lips said it all. Anup didn’t know from where he got the guts but he managed to say he loved Shivani and that he had never dreamed of having someone else in his life. The father looked at him straight in the eyes and retorted that love isn’t enough in a marriage. Money matters, too. Tomorrow there’ll be children. How will he manage?

As long as he had a job, Anup had taken it for granted. Now that it was gone for good, he realised what a job represented in a person’s life.

Without a work, he was next to nothing. His only consolation was that other colleagues had lost their jobs too. He wasn’t the only one. But he told himself that his situation was different. Theirs was not.

There was little chance of his getting a job in so short a time. All the preparations the family had made for the marriage were now going up in the air like smoke.

He felt helpless. It seemed to him that all the doors were closing on him. At 38, to go begging for a job… suddenly, life seemed absurd. Maybe it was a good thing that he had lost his job before the wedding, he told himself, rather than after. It would have been painful to be fed and clothed on the salary of his wife. He would have felt embarrassed and guilty.

The right to work is a sacred one. No one has the right to treat you like a bag of scum. What hadn’t he done for the company? There were times when he had worked overtime without being paid for it. There were times when he had to take certain assignments home in order to complete them. They all said that he was a devoted worker. A man’s work is his livelihood. Do managements realise that by cutting the ground from under the feet of a worker, they are hitting hard at not just the worker but at his family as a whole? Such were the thoughts running through his mind.

And now, what had he got for his faithfulness?

Anup continued to apply for jobs. For the most part, they just ignored his applications. One or two companies said they would contact him as and when necessary. Time was running out. Then, one day, an idea crossed his mind. He thought he might meet the Manager and have a talk with him. He would surely understand. He would tell him that he was about to get married, he badly needed a job, if not, he was finished. On humanitarian grounds, they might reconsider their decision and give him back his post. So, he dropped at the office, almost sure he would see things from his point of view. The company hadn’t shut down. Others were still working there. Why couldn’t he?

The manager was just finishing his cup of tea when Anup entered the office. He showed him the dismissal letter but the manager gave it a perfunctory glance and handed it to him. Arup began by saying that he was still willing to serve the company even if it meant in a different capacity. The manager cut him short. Once a decision is reached, there’s no going back. He couldn’t do anything.

He pointed towards the door with his pen.

As he walked out of the office, Anup reflected that, contrary to the Bhagavad Gita, what had happened, had not happened for the good; what was happening, was not happening for the good; and what was going to happen, was not going to happen for the good.