By Shobha Diwakar
She always had an air about her no matter what happened around her. It so happened that Neeta met her at a party to which Mrs. Aandhi was also invited. There she was surrounded with all the flatterers of the world you could find. They all cooed and almost bent down to touch her feet. Neeta was taken aback, she had never seen such a conceited person all decked up and being applauded for her choice of sari, her bangles, her purse with a big, big grin spreading into a smile that reached her ears, laughing and coyly acknowledging the buttery compliments.
Neeta moved out of sight. She knew Mrs. Aandhi who was like the shrewd gust of the wind that touched you and there you were shaking with uneasiness as to what was going to come next. Thunder, lightning, or perhaps a sly craven, crusty, chicanery, twist of a sliding grin that would simply gorge and ram you up.
“Neeta,” someone called. She swung around to find her boss Mrs. Aandhi staring at her with a cool detached, yet deep intent. “I suppose she will give me a subtle peace of her mind for not complementing her on her generous deck like the others did,” muttered Neeta to herself as she turned to face her majesty. “Oh, I beg your pardon Ma’am I did not notice you,” she fumbled. “How are you Neeta? I saw you as you entered but you appeared engrossed in your own affair, so I thought it best not to call you. All the others were there and I am sure you would have liked to meet them too,” she cuckooed.
That was what Mrs. Aandhi was like. She would compel you to take notice of her and if you did not, that was the end of everything.
This continued for years together. It was her/ their word against Neeta’s. She remembered how she was caught unawares at the office one day where they worked together, and found her (Mrs. Aandhi), scheming against her with the others. There was pin drop silence immediately as the gang spied her and passed a sly look at one another. Neeta knew something was cooking against her or else why was she the only one left out?
The next morn when Neeta reached the office she was stunned to see that the office had disappeared and in its place, benches were arranged diametrically. I gathered there was a secret mission of which I was quite ignorant. There was an air of blissful pretence as the others maliciously masked themselves and eyed Neeta with cool dislike, which apparently lit their faces. “What can the matter be?” wondered Neeta. Her curiosity was soon silenced as the management cars rolled in and all were ushered into the office. Then began the trial
“Yes Neeta why is it you disobey and backchat with Mrs. Aandhi? We have received complaints against you. You are rude, in disciplined and avoid doing your work. Do you have anything to say?”
Neeta was taken aback. Never in her life had she disobeyed her senior (s), nor neglected her work nor back chatted or carried tales against anyone and never ever disrespected anyone. She was at a loss of words. There was so much she could have spilled out about the work place and the mess that the office was in. That everyone was coming late and sitting down to gossip in the office or sit and knit in the sun in winters. That this group of people was hand in gloves against anyone who did not join their perverted sport of woolgathering, and dared to work sincerely. As Neeta had not joined these miscreants, they were afraid they might get into trouble someday so the plan to stab her was secretly hatched.
Neeta’s head swirled at the lies that were hurled, carried and drilled into the management’s head; they now reverberated in her head as boulders thrust. She came back to her senses when a deep gruff voice harped, “Yes Neeta, why are you arrogant? Now say sorry to Mrs. Aandhi, she is not only your senior but she is also head of the institution. Neeta retaliated. She said, “No, I have not done anything wrong and will not apologize.”
A dark cloud of disapproval settled on the grim, dull, baffled faces while the other imposters stared… if looks could kill…. Neeta stood her ground she was adamant she would not bend down before these deceitful schemers. Her father had taught her if she was right and honest she had nothing to be afraid of, so she held on. Now there was pin drop silence; the heads stared at each other, waited awhile, then suddenly stood up saying, “Ok, from tomorrow, all shall be present by 8 am in the premises; that’s a standing order.” The gulling faces fell and Neeta noticed their bickering had resumed.
The next morn all were present however, there was one commandant who could be twisted round a particular Mrs. Mandal’s finger so she cooed and lo! The order was instantly reversed. So much for being a popularly dressed gender. Nevertheless, another game soon began. Neeta was sent a message to meet Mrs. Aandhi for some important work. When Neeta stepped into the office, she was told that others had given her wrong information and she was in no way involved in the whole affair, and she spilled out many issues she had kept mum over. Neeta said, “Ok, I am giving this information to the management heads and they will now decide what is to be done for making false complaints against me.”
Mrs Aandhi almost collapsed in her chair. She knew if the truth spilled out she too would be in gross trouble. She literally begged Neeta not to do so, and unfortunately she (Neeta) agreed. Bad luck. It would have been a roller coaster ride for all if … if… only Neeta had not responded in good will for all the wrongs she had suffered under the regime of Mrs. Aandhi.
Friends always remember a colleague is never a friend but can be your worst enemy.
This is not just a fictional story it is based on a true incident.
About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar servers on the Advisory Board of www.writerslifeline.ca and editorial board of CLRI (contemporary literary journal India) for poetry and short story section.