Her parents called her Meghana. Her friends shortened it to Mega. Was there any reason to it? Yes. They tell everyone who cared to listen that once in class, the teacher asked, “I need only two volunteers to help me set the new PCs in the lab. Up went Meghana’s hands… yes, both her hands… and she shouted, ‘A mega yes, Ma’am’… and as there were no other volunteers, she was asked to go. She went and single-handedly set up all the PCs in the lab.”

“Some job,” most listeners tend to mutter, and then add, “a puny, short girl who wears glasses did this. A mega job done indeed!”

Her friends add hurriedly that this wasn’t the complete story. “There was a time when the principal wanted the opinion of the House Captains on how to deal with truancy,” they are grim as they tell this story, “Most said, ‘They are kids, Ma’am, given them another chance.’ But Meghana just spoke with a firm resolution, ‘A mega no for the suggestion. Punish them and set the right precedence.’ The principal did what she said and the school has had less truancy ever since.”

The listeners had no choice but to nod their head in agreement and quietly resolve to fall in queue of people who called her Mega. She was indeed a mega success wherever she was.

After completing her degree in metallurgy, she decided to get into software development as all through her student years she had been the uncrowned queen of the computer department. She was the one who was called whenever there was a problem with both hardware and software. In her room, she always had one eye on her subject books while the other eye roved restlessly on the PC screen where she would invariably be trying to find her way around software issues and solutions.

Thus Mega became a mega source of inspiration to the CS students. When it was time for the placement interviews, she simply walked in the CS department, and asked to be allowed to be interviewed by the top companies there. the company executives were not told anything but were mildly surprised to find a metallurgy student barging into a software interview… but her answers made them sit back with a respectful awe. She got into a top job with an MNC into a technology that would be all geeky Greek to anyone not a part of them!

In less than five years, she had proved that strategy was oozing out of her in wholesome quantity. One day she walked in the room of the CMD and said, “I’ve cracked CAT and will be joining IBS here in this city of Paradise biryanis and Karachi biscuits, sir. But I need to keep this job as well.”

With an expression of mild tolerance, the CMD asked, “How can that be managed? You’re good, we’ll hire you back when you’ve completed your MBA. Don’t worry.”

“I’ll be here for six hours every evening and on Saturdays as well as Sundays,” she insisted, and went on, “Can’t afford to let my mind be without the issues that it needs and can’t afford to study in peace without the salary. Try this system and you will see that my productivity will only increase.”

Now, the best part about a sound professional company is that sound professional ideas are never summarily executed. She was permitted to follow her dreams. She did and was soon the VP in the development section and hurtling ahead in full speed… well, she was moving fast in age too and was in her thirties by the time she was able to have a plush cabin of her own.

Mega was known as the person who did two things with two eyes… you see, she had kept her job and also completed her MBA… and now she had this uncontrollable urge to follow this logic even in her evenings. She had one eye on the multi-player online game that she was fond of playing and the other eye was always on some or the other book of poems. Her daytime was full of harsh management decision-making and tough software strategic thinking… and her evenings had gaming and poetry. It was strategy and romanticism converging seamlessly after a day of blunt and point-blank rasping of instructions, orders, and warnings!

One of her team members in the organisation was Arup Balakrishna Chopsey. His friends thought they will get away by calling him chopsuey but he was always smart enough and never ordered one, saying, “I prefer having something Indian than Chinese.” Then he went on to tell them all about the merits and demerits of ajinomoto and the other ingredients, and added, “Healthy food is what will make you stay active longer. Junk food can make things quite messy and unmanageable.” And then seeing everyone go quiet with some unseen apprehension, he generally smiled and said, “Don’t worry though. ABC is here and will make sure that you get the best care!”

Well, this is how Arup came to be called ABC… and he did know his basics well, though he was only a diploma holder in CS. Almost like Mega, ABC too had shuffled his way through a maze of recruitment rules and was now at a supervisory level in the organisation despite his diploma. His mates were all degree holders though much younger. The general buzz was always, “ABC is the walking encyclopaedia around. Ask him if you can’t find it all in the books!” ABC also loved to hop from one desk to another, helping people sort out their problems.

ABC also played the same strategy game in his evenings… and progressed up because he strategized his movements by including empathy, compassion, sharing, and teamwork. He always seemed to stride confidently into strange worlds… therefore even he wasn’t surprised to find himself choosing the name ‘outlander’ for himself once he was inside the game.

That morning began in a rather usual note. Mega strode in taking short, fast, and sure steps. Everyone was on their alert. ABC, however, was standing right in the centre of the aisle in some deep thoughts. Mega came close, stopped, and asked, “Waiting for you job to get completed on its own?” There was a very slight cynical smile on her face as she said this. This cynical posture could have been more severe had it been someone else, But Mega knew that ABC had a mind of his own and was quite capable. But the way she had moulded herself all these years always manifested themselves, though immensely controlled when confronting ABC.

“I have a thought that needs some discussion,” he said calmly.

“Come with me.”

They entered her cabin and the hall buzzed normally again. “Yes, what is it that needs a discussion?” asked Mega as she sat on her chair and waved him to sit opposite.

“We’re including all the logic parameters in the software we’re developing. What it needs is an extra dimension,” said ABC.

“An extra dimension?” asked Mega, thinking frantically about something crucial that she may have either overlooked or forgotten to include, and finding nothing of relevance coming to her, added, “tell me about this and I’ll think if it can be included or not.”

ABC stood quietly for a while as if arranging his thoughts and words, which he was actually doing, and began, “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent. This is why we need to have warning pop-ups at ten critical spots that I have spotted…”

“Wait,” said Mega, “Do you know you’ve just quoted Bob Dylan when you said ’People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.’ You like his music?”

ABC blinked at her and said, “I don’t know Bon Dylan. I don’t listen to his music. But these words were what I read yesterday. You see I play this strategy game where people celebrate their entry into a stage by writing their thoughts. I was the second one to reach the socio-political stage and read what the first person had written.”

“Right,” said Mega, suddenly going weak in her knees, but managed to control her impulses, listened to what Outlander… Oops! ABC had to say, and then sat down slowly, thinking, “I was the one who reached the socio-political stage first and I was the one who quoted Bob Dylan there. I am the one who admires the help-them-all and plod-together strategy of ‘Outlander’ even though I myself generally move faster with my think-hard-and-think-without-emotions approach. So ABC is Outlander?”

She looked down on her table and opened the day’s newspaper and read this headline:

Will it be a take-a-decision-and-move or a debate-and-wait approach? The nation waits for the ruling party’s decision.

Short-story cover

Short-story cover


Note: This story is inspired by the plot offered by The Fool… and is a part of the writing program on Indian Fiction Workshop. The story can also be read on this link on the Indifiction site.

Author intro: Words fascinate me. Spent my years in the OGs, then in sales and then heading corporate communications… and now discovering myself through blogging. Words, obviously, have always mattered everywhere — yes, even in the Army, where even a firing command needs words spoken loud and clear and from the head! However, my journey is now taking me into a different world where words get written but emerge from the heart. I don’t know yet if they do visit the head before tumbling out to disperse themselves into the dustbin of eternity.


Arvind Passey
01 October 2012