‘You’re going to need a new business card.’
That was how my boss, Dhruv Batra, announced to me that I was finally getting promoted. He handed over one of my business cards and I saw that he had crossed out my title and replaced it with a new one he had scrawled in his barely legible handwriting.
Later that evening, just before we headed out for the celebrations, Dhruv leaned across his table and handed me a box of my new business cards.
‘You’re the boss now, Aadi. Well done.’
I looked at the card I held in my hands. At my embossed name and the new title below it.
I had been with Excel Ventures for eight years, ever since I graduated from business school, talked into it by Dhruv, who had been an alumnus. Dhruv had held forth with me on how private equity was the future, about how I could really shine without having to crawl up a conventional corporate ladder. It had been a long journey, and I had dreamed of this day for many years, and now, finally, it was mine. I sat back in my chair and exhaled gently.
I watched Dhruv as he headed back to his cabin. He was leaving for another job, which he had not yet revealed to us, but it had been announced the usual way, that he had decided to ‘pursue alternate interests’. I was pretty sure I could get him to tell me all about his new job over drinks. I saw him packing up his things in his cabin—the cabin that was going to be mine when I stepped into office on Monday morning.
‘Dude, it’s a Saturday and you’re the boss now. We would never have come into office today if it hadn’t been to close the Ventura deal. The only reason we weren’t grumbling about coming into office today was that we heard from the grapevine that you would get announced today. So, can we head out for a drink now?’
I looked up to see Kartik, who had joined a couple of years after me. He never needed more than the slightest of excuses to grab a drink, but four in the evening was pushing it even by his standards. Of course, this time my promotion was the excuse.
‘My promotion is not effective till Monday. See you at six.’
‘You are a crusher of souls and a depriver of drink.’
With that dramatic pronouncement, Kartik slunk back to his cubicle and I, crusher of souls and newly promoted VP, got up to get some printouts I had just fired. Stella, Dhruv’s secretary was there, and she handed me a sheaf of papers as I approached the communal printer.
‘Here you go, Boss.’
What was it with everyone calling me ‘boss’?
‘Stella, come on. Don’t you get started with this “boss” business, please.’
She smiled and said, ‘Aadi, I am so happy to see you get this job. I know how hard you worked for it. Now you should find a nice girl, settle down and get on with the rest of your life.’
Stella had been with the firm for close to twenty years, and had a son who was probably just a few years younger than me. Ever since I joined, we had become friends, regular members of a lunch group whose primary purpose had been to take a break from the manic tempo of work to catch up on gossip and bitch about the boss.
Would they bitch about me now?
I walked back to my cubicle and began to go through the slides I had printed out, making notations on the edges. Once one of my college friends had talked about how one needed some balance in life and how he appreciated it now that he was married and had a young kid. I didn’t get it then, and I didn’t get it now. Sure, at an abstract level, I supposed I would one day get married, but that was in the distant future somewhere. I was perfectly happy with my life, and with the balance I had. Work was not drudgery or something that kept me from other things in my life. It was an important part of my life, something that allowed me to use all the skills and education I had, and something that gave me a sense of achievement.
As I walked to the bathroom to freshen up before I packed up, I took a look in the mirror. At the age of thirty, I was perhaps a bit heavier than I had been when I passed out of campus eight years ago, but not by much. The hair was still all there, an unruly mop which I used to try and make behave but long given up on. I had put on only an inch around my waist, and was secretly proud that all my old jeans still fit. That came from working out every morning in the gym and keeping up my karate practice twice a week. I went to the local club to practice and help the sensei with teaching young kids. I did not stay in shape for vanity, not even for fitness, but perhaps to remind myself of what I had once been.
A reminder of that life was buzzing in my pocket. I took out my phone to see that it was my father calling. I had sent him a text message telling him about my promotion, promising him that I would call in the evening to chat in more detail.