Saturday, September 29, 2012

IFW Edition 1: Lasting Impressions

You can’t be serious Meg!! How much do you even know the guy? I have heard people talk such nonsense before, but I hardly expected you to be a part of those who have lost their mind! You know better than anyone the perils of trusting someone online!” Rachel’s words of admonition kept ringing in Meghna’s ears. After all, whatever Rachel had said did have a modicum of truth to it. Here she was; an MBA graduate, the vice president of her company, reporting directly to the CEO and yet hopelessly falling head over heels in love with a dude she had met through an online game. Meghna had almost fallen victim once to the dangers that lurked behind the shadows of cyberspace but that had been years ago, when just as any adolescent teenager, she had been smitten by technology and chat rooms almost agreeing to meet a 36-year man posing as a 15-year old boy but thankfully her parents had found out in time.

In the years that had passed by, she had grown to be more mature, slowly winning back her parents’ confidence in her and her decisions. It wasn’t a surprise then that being single at 33, her parents weren’t too worried. They had faith in her judgement and held on to hope that in time, she would find her perfect match too. Meghna felt a pang of endearment in her heart, she had met many parents who would push their children to settle down soon rather than later and she thanked her stars that her parents were nothing like them. She wondered how they would react though if they knew who she was harboring romantic feelings for. She chuckled as the thought crossed her mind, even she didn’t know who really she was falling for.

The sharp raps against the door to her cabin jerked her out of her musings. Quickly minimizing the active window on her computer screen, she looked up to see Arup standing by, an apologetic look on his face. A wave of irritation took over her, she hated being troubled for petty IT infrastructure issues but Arup had this exasperating habit of running everything past her.

What?!” Meghna called out.
I .. I.. “Arup stammered. That was one more thing Meghna hated in this guy, the seemingly lack of confidence that showed up every time he talked to her. She had observed him unintentionally plenty of times, sometimes in the lobby or the hallways or conference rooms, talking to others of his own department and he always seemed to be completely in charge, knowing exactly what he was talking about. Yet, here he was, muttering indecipherable gibberish under his breath.
Speak up. How am I supposed to know what you want unless you talk clear and loud.” She said in a condescending tone.

Just as others in the organization, she knew a little about him through idle talk over coffee and lunch. When she had learnt that had earned his degree and IT qualifications through a correspondence course, she had made up her mind that he wasn’t intelligent or qualified enough. In her mind, only losers went the correspondence route. The fact that he had done that because he had had to give up his education to help his family during difficult times had no bearing in her mind. She overlooked the fact that despite those pressures, he had not thought twice about joining a company as an office boy slowly working his way upward, studying and working at the same time. In her mind, he was just not good enough. Despite her attempts to keep her personal opinions away from her professional ones, such misgivings in the back of her mind would creep their way into her attitude towards people.

Now she fretted and fumed, communicating her displeasure clearly as she signed the multiple approval forms required to purchase new servers and cloud space.
Why couldn’t you talk to Mr. Sharma for such things?” She asked him again.
Mr. Sharma is only allowed to approve up to a certain amount Ma’am. I could have split up the invoices into different quarters but then that would only slow down work. Plus it would add up installation charges because we would need someone to come in every time we need a machine set up. As we make the switch from the low capacity servers to the high capacity ones, we would need downtime too when no one can work. This way we would be saving on installation charges, avoid multiple downtimes and also have everything ready in time so work doesn’t get affected.

His clear explanation showed that he had thought this through, analyzed different possibilities sincerely and yet all Meghna did was mumble a ‘Hmm’ in response. Once Arup left with the signed approvals, she redirected her attention to the computer screen. Strider was still offline. As she sat twiddling her thumbs waiting for him to, she reflected on her addiction to ‘Thorvaders’, the medieval war game she had been hooked to since the past year.  It had started out as a way to pass her time, but in the recent couple of months she had not been able to stay away. Thorvaders was a massive multiplayer online role playing game based on a medieval warring era. Multiple clans fought against each other to win the title, each member playing out their designated roles and responsibilities, and the game required a lot of strategic thinking and intellect. Meghna had started out as just another newbie, learning the ropes as she worked as part of a team. But her aggressiveness and passion helped her climb the ranks and in a few months, she had clinched the role of a faction leader. In her new role, she had been required to interact quite a bit with the clan leader, a man who went by the name Strider.

From her first online interaction itself, she had been impressed by his clear concise thinking, his quick wit, his decision making abilities and the fact that he was ready to act as a sounding board for all his faction leaders. Sometimes she faced trouble even pitching her ideas to the CEO, yet here was someone she didn’t even know, willing to give her ideas a shot. She was positive that in real life, Strider would probably be a corporate hotshot too. Day by day, she got the feeling that of all the faction leaders, she was able to connect with him the best. Together they worked on new strategies and improvements, learning from their previous mistakes, recognizing key players and critical weakness in their opponents. Before she could realize, she had made Strider a part of her daily life and somewhere deep down, she hoped she was becoming a part of his. She wished she could meet him in person, get to know him more. A generally stable rooted person, this was all very exciting for her. There was a feeling of understanding, admiration and deep respect for this unseen man which she had never felt with anyone else before. Painfully aware that her infatuations were slowly giving way to romantic feelings, she wasn’t sure whether to act on it.

A metallic ping from the computer indicated that someone had come online. Her heartbeat accelerated as she saw that it was Strider. Not wanting to seem clingy, she waited for him to initiate the conversation. However her joy was short-lived as her phone rang, the shrill sound seeming jarring to her ears. The caller ID indicated Shree from the purchasing department.

Meghna here.
Hi Meghna. Shree here. I just received the approval forms for the invoices of those new servers...
Yes, is there anything else that you need?
Actually, there’s one form that you seem to have missed signing.
Did you not send that with Arup?
We did. Arup just got the whole binder back, one’s missing your signature. Do you want me to send it back?
I’ll be right there.” She sighed, ending the call. To and fro would cost more time, it would be easier to walk over and do what was needed. She hated re-work. Just like Strider did too, she thought, realizing that she wanted to get back online to talk to him. She decided to stop by Arup’s cube on the way to give him a piece of her mind. She had simply signed everything that he had put in front of her, skimming through the pages. It was his responsibility to double check the requirements of the purchasing department.

From a distance, she could see that Arup’s cube was empty. The blue screen of his computer was flickering. Not locking his computer while he was away was a security issue, but the breach hardly registered in her mind as she recognized the all too familiar images on the screen. The hutments, the tall brick walls, the heavy metal vested guards. Thorvaders!! Arup hardly seemed to be the kind of person who would be a part of such a strategic game. She wondered if he was the enemy or part of her clan, and if so, who would he be. Unable to resist, she peeked closer to the screen where his username would show. She gasped as she realized with a start, that it was none other than Strider. Questions clouded her mind, how was it even possible? How could meek, confused, unsure Arup be the confident, decisive, intelligent Strider she had been smitten with? Her mind refused to blend the two identities together as she struggled to grasp the reality of how she had completely misjudged someone based on her initial assessment without bothering to interact with him at a more molecular level or give him the time of day. Shame clouded her mind as she recollected snippets of information and advice that Strider, no scratch that, Arup had shared with her. She thought back of the umpteen decisions that they had agreed upon, how she had always appreciated him online yet had only thought of him in real as unworthy.

Mm .. Did you need anything?“ Arup’s voice brought her back to the present.
Is this? Do you?..” She wavered, unsure of what to say or do. “You play Thorvaders?
Arup shrugged. “You know about it? ” He asked, not waiting for an answer as he continued. “Its not the game I love so much as the experience, the expectations, the people, my team. Its a part of me.” Meghna stood rooted as she observed the usually shy flustered Arup transform into this passionate, sophisticated person. She noted the spark in his eyes that came from the mention of Thorvaders and she realized he was just like her. Passion brought out his confidence.

He blushed suddenly realizing he had spoken much more than he used to with this lady.
Did you need anything?” He asked again.
She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. An online personality couldn’t be so completely off compared to a real one could it? There’s only so much one can fake, like addresses and phone numbers, names and age. But a personality is something that you cannot invent. She had been completely wrong in judging him, she owed it to him to give him a fair chance.
Shree called from purchasing, I missed a signature somewhere.” She said.
Oh! I am sorry, I should have..” He started, as she interrupted him.
Don’t be, I could have checked too. Do you want to walk over to purchasing so we can double check everything that’s needed?” She asked softly.
Her soft demeanour must have stumbled him, she noted as she saw the surprise on his face. She had always been snobbish with him. Just like everything she had learned from Strider, this was a learning too. To not be too opinionated and quick in judging people, to give them a chance and to be fair.

As the sounds of their shoes clicked on the hallway in perfect symphony, she decided she might come clean with him one day. But for now, this was enough.


Note: The above piece is an entry to the Indifiction Workshop, a workshop for bloggers interested in writing fiction. The concept creators are two popular bloggers themselves, The Fool and C. Suresh. Every month would be a new plot, this month's plot credit goes to The Fool. The plot details can be found here. My workshop entry can also be accessed here. Proud to announce that this post, Lasting Impressions, was one of the three winners at the Indifiction workshop!

I would love to hear your views!

12 comments:

  1. Nice one, Deepa. Will give detailed feedback on the other website.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Ravi! Do keep stopping by!

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  3. That was brilliant, not too much not too little just right. Nicely written Deepa.
    HARRY

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    1. Thanks much Harry! A very encouraging comment!

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  4. Replies
    1. Nice to see you here again Indu, seems like its been a while since we interacted, I got to stop by more! :)

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  5. Oh pretty good writing. Enjoyed reading.Wasn't the Hindi movie Mitr on a similar theme?

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    1. Now you've got me curious about the movie. I haven't watched it but I will. Thanks for coming by and do keep coming back!

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