The interview was supposed to happen in one of the posh neighbourhoods of Bangalore, Lavelle Road. Arjun had to get his white shirt ironed. It was the only shirt he owned, and it was strictly meant for job interviews. After completing his graduation in journalism, there was no job that met his subject of interest. He had fared well in his graduation. In fact, he secured a gold medal in his final semester project. The project was about the harsh realities faced by the people in the slums of Bangalore. It vastly covered the cruel side of politicians and how they live a luxurious reality by luring the poor into a world of deceptive dreams. It was an honest account of how the power-hungry ones try to entice, enchant, and entrap the gullible.
Hailing from one of the slums, Arjun realised only he could do justice by covering such issues, especially when he had experienced it himself. However, the fruits of his success didn’t last long. It only managed to cover his expenses for a few months and the medal he secured was just gold in colour. It wasn’t real gold. At times, he would wish to scratch it and turn it into something valuable. But that feared him as it would lose its real value – his hard work.
Coming back to the shirt, Arjun was already late for the interview and the only white shirt in his wardrobe looked pale. Though it was wrinkled all over, it still had an upper hand over the other torn clothes. With no time in hand and no steam iron to the rescue, Arjun banked on an idea he borrowed from his father. He took the shirt, sprinkled some hot water on it, folded it with perfection, placed it underneath his mattress and started applying pressure by constantly jumping on it. After ten minutes of continuous effort, the shirt was ready and wrinkle-free. He got ready and managed to reach the location earlier than the mentioned time.
The company was a media firm, and it was based amidst the luxurious locales of Bangalore. The buildings stood tall, the roads were flooded with cafes, multicuisine restaurants, start-ups and automobile outlets that sold only premium cars. For Arjun, this world was alien. However, for now, all that mattered to him was to bag this job.
He waited for his turn hoping someone would call him. Anxiety began to hit him after a while when he saw the room being filled with other interviewees. He was never this anxious even when he had to receive a gold medal on the stage. Somehow, this time it was different. He mustered some courage and stayed calm.
After a while, a lady walked inside the room and started inviting them one by one. When Arjun entered, he was surprised to see candidates sitting in two batches. He was asked to sit in of those and he immediately obliged. A couple of minutes later, one of the recruiters called out his name at the top of her voice – Arjun Athreya! The last time, he heard his name being called out that loud was when he bagged a gold medal. He stood up and walked past all the candidates and silently entered the room.
The room was filled with two huge LED televisions, a long table and water bottles allotted to each chair which was perfectly placed. Before the recruiter could begin, Arjun picked the water bottle and quenched his thirst.
“So, Arjun, you have a secured a gold medal in your graduation. That’s interesting”, the recruiter asked.
It was surprising for Arjun. He never expected she would shoot him such a direct question without asking anything about him. Assuming he was not her first candidature for the day, he instantly nodded his head with a smile.
“Yes, Mam. It was for my final year project, and I’ve also attached a copy of it in my resume.”
“That’s great to know, Arjun. But let’s get straight to the point. I see you have a great interest into writing, and I’ve also gone through your work samples in the mail. We have liked it. However, we are looking for someone who has expertise from the media background or someone who carry a rich work experience in the same field. I see your interest lies in telling stories; but we do have certain rules to follow while recruiting for such a creative role. I hope I’m clear so far.”
Arjun had no clue what to say. He wanted to prove his worth. He just wanted to scream out loud and say, “Just give me an opportunity so I can prove myself”. Unfortunately, he couldn’t utter a word. He was so tired. He realised how could his convincing words work when all the sleepless nights he had ventured into his award-winning project had no value at all.
“Yes, Mam. I got it. I’d also like to thank you so much for reading my works and I’m glad you liked it. However, I would like to know if there’s some opportunity that I can fit into or something that’s remotely close to writing.”
It was one of those times, where Arjun tried to hold back his tears and went past his inhibitions to ask for something. At this point of time, he just wanted a job to make his ends meet, even if it costs his most favourite thing to do – writing. Never in his wildest dreams, he thought there would be a day where his writing would take a backseat.
“I’m sorry, Arjun. We don’t have a vacancy for any other creative role. However, we do have internship opportunities in the writing department. Though, most of them are unpaid, we cover travel expenses and offer free food for all our employees. Since, most of these come under the same unit, there shall be a writing test for all the roles. Let me know if this sounds okay with you.”
Irony had taken a 360 degree and turned Arjun’s life upside down. The opportunity offered to him was quite like the one offered to the poverty-stricken people in his neighbourhood. In his case, it was the affluent corporate and back in the slums, it was the greedy politicians. Arjun finally realised even he was about to enter the world of freebies that wouldn’t pay his bills but disrespect his worth. Without wasting any time, he agreed to the recruiter’s offer.
“I’m okay with the opportunity and I’d like to take the test, Mam. Kindly let me know how we can take this forward.”
“That’s good to know, Arjun. I hope you have taken the right decision. Here’s the test paper. You can step out and finish it within the time mentioned. I wish you all the best.”
With a heavy heart and a fake smile, Arjun stood up and thanked her. But, soon after that, one of Arjun’s shirt buttons had fallen on the floor. It was an embarrassing moment to step out without the button. It would reveal his agonising state to the world. He gathered some courage and leaned down to find the button that was missing. After a brief silence, he found it next to the shoes of the recruiter. He silently picked it and walked out.
Facing such situations was an everyday thing to Arjun. It never surprised him. At times, it would make him teary-eyed, especially when there are people who get to witness his state. So, he got back to the test and went through it. The topic was to write a story that’s set in an unfiltered world, where people are always honest about how they feel.
I’m Arjun Athreya. I came here hoping I could get a job on my own merit. But things are different here. You are asking me if I carry a vast experience in writing about various issues. Who else apart from me would be the right choice for this role? You talk about frequent power outage in the city and how it affects the common man. Well, not everyone has to depend on a candle, right? You talk about hunger after having a meal and I don’t have enough money for my next meal. You talk about expertise and conveniently ignore my medals. I agree it’s not made of pure gold. But it still has a price, which I bet you can’t buy with all the money you have. So, thanks for at least giving me an opportunity to write and I hope I’ve been as honest as possible.