I worked at a radio station in Delhi then. She worked at an advertising agency. We met at an event. And it wasn’t love at first sight. Pleasantries were exchanged. So were cards that went to my laundry the next day. But we did become ‘friends’ on Facebook, and with every like, comment and share, we got better insight into each other and realised we were quite similar. Birds of a feather flock together and so we did, over coffee, lunch and dinner.
We spoke at length. About politics, Bollywood, music, food, life, the universe and everything in between. About relationships, career, office and heartbreaks, hers not mine.
I liked that about her, the ability to just share, without inhibition, especially after downing some white wine. I would listen in rapt attention, wondering at the beauty of human connections and the power of a couple of drinks.
But soon the symbiotic relationship became too one-sided. Our friendship was imbalanced. Though blaming her entirely would not be fair. I have trust issues. I rarely share. I guard my vulnerability with stern vigilance. She once pointed it out.
“You are very sly, you dig deep, smile, lend a non-judgmental patient ear and before I know it, I have shared my deepest fears and insecurities with you. You are very dangerous, Lokesh.” She masked her complaint with a smile, “How come I don’t know anything about you?”
“Because you never ask.” I smiled back.
“Because you never tell. You are very closed.”
She was right. I was. So I decided to ‘open’ up, slowly, a few days later when we met for lunch.
“My boss has been way too unfair in the last few days. I haven’t had a break in two months including the weekends and recognition eludes me. I am extremely demotivated,” I bared my soul to her.
“Yeah, if you are not happy at your radio station, why don’t you quit and join my office? You write well. You can be a copywriter.”
“But I have been an RJ all my life. Sure I have done a few freelance assignments as a copywriter, but I would rather grow in my industry,” I argued.
“Yeah, it could mean starting anew, less salary, but imagine, we would be together…
“You know I don’t have too many friends at work…” she continued, “With you around, life will be much easier. Last week my boss also acted rather strange. I work 24 hours and there is no recognition in this organisation…” She went on and on and before I knew it, we had moved from my problems to hers.
With time things did get better. She lent a patient ear and I spoke with fewer filters, baring and sharing, with trust, without fear. It was a good phase. Alas, it didn’t end so happily.
“No bonus this year as well,” she declared. “I also feel I am being exploited at work. Unrealistic deadlines, crazy work pressure, peanuts as salary and now they expect us to manage multiple roles because the company is on a lay-off spree.”
“At least we have a job,” I showed her the brighter side.
“F**k that s**t, dude.”
She was evidently upset. I decided to keep my gems to myself.
After she had offloaded, she looked at me expecting a reaction. I smiled.
“Listen, I know you are hurt and it indeed is very unfair.” I chose my words carefully, “And I don’t mean to preach but we get exploited only because we let the world to do so… Our insecurity feeds their unjust ways…”
“I can’t mess with them.”
“No, that’s not what I meant…be assertive…”
“Look, I know your amazing PR skills. I am also aware of your relationship with your boss and your management. You should be the last person to give me public relations advice.”
I sat there gobsmacked.
She spoke after a brief moment with a deep sigh. “I know you were trying to help, but I am not as egotistic as you are. Your ego prevents you from having a good rapport with your boss and we are different people. Besides, assertion is really not your best quality, so don’t preach it if you can’t practice it.”
She didn’t stop. She called me egotistic, unprofessional, sulky and a loner, without reasoning it out even once. One by one, she attacked all the vulnerabilities that I had shared with her. I thought of giving her the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of a bad day, but it also revealed what she thought of me deep down.
A few months later, I switched stations and cities. And my job was not the only thing I quit.