Shobi sat in a silent corner holding a glass of orange juice, more to have something to hold than to have a drink. She was tired of the never-ending tide of dance followed by music. She was about to leave when Jai took a seat near her.
‘Not so soon Shobi. At least stay until you hear Manu deliver your script,’ he said pulling her hand towards the chair.
‘No Jai, I am exhausted. It’s already past nine. I have to go to work tomorrow,’ said Shobi genuinely sounding tired.
‘You haven’t changed a bit Shobi,’ Jai smiled nodding his head. ‘Now come on, give your old friend the pleasure of listening to you.’
Shobi found least pleasure in having to staying longer. She couldn’t care less about how her script was going to be delivered. Besides, it was an Alumni Meet, the function that she disliked the most but kept attending as an obligation. But she also had a soft corner for Jai. After all, he was one of the few people whose judgement she trusted.
Acquiescing to Jai, she sat once again only to regret immediately as a veritably loud bang of electric keys erupted from the speakers.
‘It’s alright Shobi, I won’t hold you long,’ said Jai. ‘You see, I have a very good reason for holding you up.’
‘It’s about “Free Falling Pens” Shobi. We are expanding.’
‘Well, I must say I am pleased to hear it, but how does it help me?’ asked Shobi, rolling her eyes.
Jai laughed mockingly. ‘Really, you are such an open book Shobi! You don’t even try to hide you displeasure.’
She grimaced and fiddled with the glass she was holding. The music caused her teeth to itch and she seemed ready to pour the juice on Jai’s face if he delayed any further.
Jai seemed to have caught her intention for he began to speak before she could grab the opportunity to paint his face orange. ‘I want you to join the club Shobi.’
Shobi grabbed her purse and got ready to leave once again. ‘It’s dead talk Jai. We have already discussed this. You know my answer.’
‘But Shobi, this time I want you to join as a full-time content writer. Not just as a hobbyist.’
Shobi starred at Jai for a few seconds, trying to make sense of what he said. If she did not jibe at him, it was only because of the high credibility with which she regarded his words. She concluded that it was the music that made him stupid.
‘Jai, I am very surprised that you didn’t catch it earlier, but tomorrow is a Sunday and I am free. Feel free to visit my home. I believe you miss my esteemed tea.’ Perhaps the tea shall knock some sense into you, she thought.
Jai agreed for the meeting and left her free to leave. ‘Damn music!’ he muttered and left the table.
Next day, when the clock indicated eleven, Jai was sitting on the cushion sofa and sipping the elaichi tea that Shobi offered. Jai smacked his lips after every sip Shobi waited with a determined face until Jai emptied his cup.
‘That was heavenly - undeniably refreshing,’ said Jai as he placed the cup on the table.
‘What’s on your mind Jai?’
Jai reclined on the sofa, gesturing Shobi to sit beside. ‘I believe you have heard about the “Independent Hobbyist’s Award”.’
‘Well, the winner of the award will be announced in a grand ceremony two months from now.’
Shobi looked confused.
‘Our club is the most eligible candidate for the award, but there is just one drawback- we are short of one member in our club to satisfy the registration criteria.’
Shobi didn’t waste any time in thinking. ‘Jai…I know it really matters to you and how helpful it would be to you if I joined. But I am not ready to leave my lucrative job for the sake of something uncertain - I mean - You can’t be sure that your club would win the award-’
‘I have done some digging and I am certain that it would be our club in the first place,’ said Jai.
‘I do know that you wouldn’t ask me for something that would prove to be a waste of effort. But it’s a big move that you are asking for.’
At that moment, Shobi’s husband entered the hall. He had just woken after his work extended into late night the previous night. ‘And what exactly are you worried about Sho?’ he asked.
‘Jeetu, you do know that we depend on a large portion of my salary to repay our loans, don’t you?’
Jeetendar smiled at Jai and waved a Good Morning. ‘But you hate your job Sho,’ he said, still waving at Jai.
‘But it pays!’
Jai continued, ‘Shobi, once we win the award, our coffers are going to be flooded with funds from all organisations. Every organisation struggles to get a good content writer for their websites. Within few months, you can make double the current salary. Forget about repaying loans, you can build a new beach-side resort.’
Jeetendar laughed. He put his arm around Shobi and patted her shoulder. ‘Go for it Sho. I know you need it.’
‘No Jeetu… I don’t think I can do justice to it as a professional. I will only invite mockery. You don’t want that Jai, do you?’
Jeetendar shrugged and passed a look of defeat to Jai.
‘Don’t be ridiculous Shobi. No one can take away the skills you have. You have been proving your ability year after year when you write the speech for our Alumni celebration. You have always been doing it and you can definitely do it as a profession.’
Shobi was confounded. On one hand was a tempting offer - a life that she always wanted, a life that would provide her the stadium on which she could play her own game. On the other hand, was a secure job that never let her fall. She had made many decisions her life, some pragmatic, some ignorant. And now she was facing another choice that was going to shape her future.
‘Don’t be scared Shobi. You will always find the help you need; I can assure you that. Let’s do it!’
Shobi crossed her fingers. ‘I need some time Jai.’
‘Sure. Take all the time you need. Just remember, the ceremony is just two months away.’
Exactly a week later, a text on Jai’s phone made him smile.
Shobi read her message for the fifth time, after pressing the send button. I am in boss. Clean.
The reply from Jai assured her that she had chosen the best for her. Let’s do it!