“Abha, get me a helper just like yours, no. Does Ravi have a twin?”
Abha was used to this good humoured ragging. Her domestic help invited multitudinous reactions, part envy, some pity but always an unfailing and uniform admiration. It was hard to pick Ravi’s strength. His loyalty rivalled an ox like stamina, a time efficient output and some honest-to-goodness, steely integrity. What put him in a different league however, was his quiet DNA. He barely spoke when necessary and did not like wasting time listening to words of appreciation.
“I could learn from him,” had become one of Abha’s recurrent self-berating note. She banked on him, trusted him, overworked him but also wondered about him. “Where does he get his Spartan habits, there is something almost noble about his self-containment?” His lack of wants lent him a peculiar stature in her eyes. She found his authenticity liberating. He was a star performer who neither knew his status or better still did not care.
“Mami Ji, can I take him home with me to Spain?” the NRI nephew would ask. “Look after Ravi bête, he is your old faithful,” her father intoned intermittently. “Abha honey, you are becoming too dependent on him,” cautioned the man in her life with unfailing regularity. “Oh, you have Ravi, why would overtime and hosting parties bother you?” her colleagues made a habit of giving her the reality check.
Ravi remembered where in the boxes lay her Flamenco red flower. He had a talent for retracing long forgotten addresses. Tasks that Abha quaked at giving him were habitually made short shrift of. Dictate him a recipe, explain a delivery or collection process, outline a critical day’s proceedings and it would all stayed locked and executed, no repetition needed. To her refrain of “Will you be able to do this,” his standard response would be, “Done!”
It was the annual conference of the Merit Systems Protection Board at her company. Having gone over the principles with reference to management of the executive branch workforce, Abha was about to strike the gavel to call adjournment of the proceedings. There was a flutter at the table, four heads down the oval to her right. She held the gavel mid-air, her eyes expectantly following a paper being passed at her. Placing the wood back, she reached out, pushing back her glasses with the other hand. She knit her brow at the company’s peon recruitment form, bringing her eyes to focus on the yellow post- it in her personal assistant’s handwriting. It read “For Ravi.” Turning her head sideways, she locked eyes with him down the flank, reached for her Waterman Expert Green and scribbled firmly below his note. The gavel came down with more force than usual!
Oblivious to the sound of scraping chairs, the self-satisfied din of power and privilege and a departure protocol of his impatient boss, the PA sat stunned in his chair,
The green ink winked at him, “Too good to promote!”