The book launch was in a couple of days. Invitation cards were sent. The office was decorated like Christmas celebration. Yuvika’s anxiousness seemed no boundaries. To keep her out of the anxiety, she indulged herself more into routine office work. But one thing got clearer by now; now she could push the Dalal’s story into the publishing.
Yuvika was into some paperwork when the door of her cabin was banged open. She looked up and found Dev standing on the opposite side of the table, resting on the table with both the hands. He was already lost in thoughts. Yuvika waited for a second to hear something from him but he didn’t move his eyeballs.
“What?” asked Yuvika. Dev shifted his gaze to her. He pulled the chair and sat. He began, “All right. Now we seem to be having a slight problem in publishing the upcoming story,” said Dev in just one breath. It was a relief that he said it. But he was not sure about the reaction from her.
“What?” asked Yuvika and went back to her papers.
Noticing her ignorance, Dev leant forward to Yuvika and said again, with a more dense voice this time, “Yuvika, we are having a real problem.”
Yuvika looked at Dev and asked, “What do you mean?’”
“Dad is willing to see you,” informed Dev.
She put down the pen and got up. “Let me go and see him now. I really need to finish this work by evening.”
They were in the office, sitting in front of Mr Dixit who was about to finish his phone call. Yuvika observed some official documents with government stamps on them. They were half out of the big khaki envelope. It seemed like they were supposed to be put back in the envelope but Mr Dixit had got call meanwhile.
As soon as he put the phone down, he looked at Yuvika and began to talk in explaining manner. It seemed strange to her. She didn’t expect this.
Mr Dixit said, “So Yuvika,”
Yuvika adjusted herself on the chair to pay more attention. Dev was sitting on her right, leaning back. He continued, “We are having a slight problem in the publishing procedure of the story on Sidhu Dalal’s party. They had come to talk to us. They sent their most eligible candidates to our office to discuss the issue. And we know that if they were elected, it would benefit us in many ways.”
Sensing the real smell of the situation, Yuvika tried to look straight without any hint of her disappointment. She had been working on this story for years. She had also let go a couple of promotions and rise in salary to maintain the position where she could directly deal with the sources.
Realising that it was her chance to speak, Yuvika tried to put words in a proper manner and said, “Sir, I am trying to understand your situation. But the fact is the Dalals have been always on the defending side. Even while our research works, we have gone through so much unnecessary delay due to it. But now the story is all set to be on the pages of the magazine. And of course, they will say to put it on hold or cancel it. First, they will just talk to us, and after that, they will show their true colours by breaking the furniture of the office. We all have always known this, haven’t we?”
Seeing ease in her words and confidence on her face sent out a clear message that she was not interested in stopping the publishing. Neither Mr Dixit nor Dev was surprised by her gesture. She could do it very easily; not hurting one’s ego, she could make her point as well.
Mr Dixit said, “Yes we are aware of it. But things are getting worse than we had anticipated it to be. And it warns us. So I am afraid we are supposed to turn the story down. I am sure you will consider it as a command.”
For Dev, the situation was familiar. He was stuck in this situation earlier. He could never interfere. He was hoping for Yuvika’s cooperation. But asking for her cooperation this time meant asking to compromise with her hard work.
She nodded with as easier face as she could manage and rose from her chair holding both the hands of the chair. She went out of the office, walked through lobbies, not interacting with anyone on her way. She went to her cabin.
After a few seconds, Dev also left his father’s office and went to see Yuvika. He went inside the cabin and stood at the door. He thought he would talk to her but her face answered everything. She sat leaning back to the seat with folded hands and straight look. This was something he was extremely scared of; fierce eyes full of disappointments. He cared for her. He could feel when she was hurt and he hated to see it. The anger in her eyes was giving her more pain; he could feel it. And the fact that he could not help her made him crazier.
Breaking the silence, Dev spoke, “So are you going to..”
Even before Dev finished the sentence, she said, “No. Not at all!”
She went back to the pile of papers as if nothing happened. She was clearly going to go ahead with the story. Hope nothing gets worse, thought Dev. He had to convey this to his father.
Yuvika chose to go ahead with the story. She tried to avoid any kind of interaction with people at the office for that day. She did not want to disturb the pace of work.
The next day, she was again in Mr Dixit’s cabin. This time Dev was not there.
“So, I can see that you are not going to stop the publishing of the story, are you?” asked Mr Dixit.
She said with a smile, “Sir, I am just doing what I am supposed to do.”
Though she was sitting facing Mr Dixit, she avoided the eye contact because she knew that she was angry and she was not supposed to show that.
“Are you supposed to go against my suggestion too?”
She shifted her gaze to Mr Dixit. “I thought it was a command.” He starred at her. There was nothing that could change her mind, and there was no way he wanted to let it happen.
“Somebody wants to meet you today,” Mr Dixit informed. But before she could understand, the door of the cabin opened. She turned back and saw over her shoulder. There was Sidhu Dalal. She rose from her chair and stood to face her.
Sidhu Dalal was a lady who was in her mid-fifties, wearing a green plain cotton sari with a shining black border. She had worn a red dot on the centre of her forehead and vermilion red cosmetic powder along the parting of her untied long, black hair. She had put on a folded Pashmina on her right shoulder. It was matching the colour of her sari. She almost matched Yuvika’s height. Her skin looked younger for her age.
Yuvika greeted with a Namaste and nodded. Sidhu did the same.
Yuvika pulled the chair for Sidhu to sit, but she did not sit. She did not move from where she was standing. Yuvika also did not sit. Mr Dixit rose and greeted Sidhu. After the exchange of formalities, Sidhu again faced Yuvika and said, “Please leave the story.”
This sudden statement from Sidhu shocked her. She knew that she would be told via Mr Dixit but Sidhu had come in person to tell her that. Yuvika looked at her.
“Surprised?” asked Sidhu.
“Yes, Ma’am. In fact, I am surprised by your request more than your visit. Such a request from a woman makes me surprised for sure.” Yuvika had a mild smile which was about to fade away.
“Lalit has got his part of the punishment. What else do you expect?”
“Much more than that, certainly! He raped a woman and was out of the jail in just four days. That’s it? That’s all should we expect? And nothing was proven against him thanks to your powerful party and its contacts.”
“Let’s not get emotional here, Yuvika. It is time to get practical. We are going to get sympathy votes based on Lalit’s case. We need to stop the story. We can’t afford to let it affect our vote bank,” said Sidhu.
It struck Yuvika, “Sympathy? For whom? Lalit? Oh wow. That’s the most outrageous thing to say. You know what Ma’am; you are one of those leaders who enjoy extravagant hospitality, people kneeling in front of you for no reason, millions of rupees are wasted for those functions or events which you are attending, roads are blocked where you are going to pass by no matter if the ambulances are stuck there and people are dying. You make people think that they owe you because you promise to them that you would serve them. And those poor people don’t even realise that it is your god damn duty which is never fulfilled. You are one of them for whom leadership is making people your servants and having security guards around you. If you were a true leader, you would have stood with the truth and nothing else. But to expect this from you and many like you are nothing but falling flat on the face. You know what; I don’t believe you and any of your statements. So it is a clear dismissal from my side.” Yuvika finished piercing into her eyes.
Sidhu was taken aback. No one had ever spoken to her like that on her face.
Mr Dixit chided, “Yuvika. Are you out of your mind? Do you even realise who are you talking to?”
Yuvika turned to him and said, “Yes sir. I am totally aware of it. She is Sidhu Dalal who is the leader of Dalal’s party. She wants to get elected this time too. So she is begging to stop the story on one of her trained mafias who had raped a woman.” She spoke in just one go and turned to her. “But I am not afraid of her. If I get scared of some people like her, nothing can be a bigger shit of my life. I would rather spit on myself.”
Sidhu’s blood was boiling now. But stopping the story was her only focus. So without losing temper, she maintained to get a mild smile on her face.
Mr Dixit said with an urge of anger, “Yuvika, you are supposed to obey my decisions.”
“Sir, all these years, I have been working on the story considering every minute detail. You know that. I really don’t think we have left any stone unturned. Nothing is there which would be unfair. We have tested all the facts more than once. I have put many years in it and have let go many promotions. Now just for the sake of one political party’s benefits, I am not going to let it go off our hands. And definitely not for someone like Lalit and the people who support him.” She glared at Sidhu. Sidhu had to look away.
It seemed impossible to convince Yuvika. And it was clear on Sidhu’s side that she would shut the story down at any cost. Knowing the facts, Mr Dixit took the matter in his hand and said, “Now Yuvika, you have to take it as an order. Shut the story down. We don’t need to have any conflict between two groups. Just leave the topic here. Move on and start another story.”
Mr Dixti was the businessman who knew how to keep enemies closer. He was the perfect opportunist. At one point, he would let a friend go, but he would take care of his rivals. And today, that opportunist was speaking who knew whom to please for a long term benefit.
“I am sorry, Sir. But I cannot do that.”
Both, Mr Dixit and Sidhu loured at her, disbelieving her straight dismissal. She could not make it sound any humble now. She was firm in her voice. Neither request nor command was going to affect her.
“I am sorry but this is not going to happen,” said Mr Dixit in the coldest tone.
Yuvika was well aware of the fact that Sidhu would never let the story happen and Mr Dixit made himself clear with the enough show of his support for Sidhu. It was the time for her decision; could she leave the story and move on ignoring self-respect? The answer was a NO.
The only choice was left for her, “I am sorry for being rude sir. But you left me no choice. I think I will have to leave the story along with the magazine.”
Dev’s car was parked near Yuvika’s SUV in front of her house. He burst opened the door and called for her. She came out. She was still in her office clothes.
“You left?” this was all he could ask. She stood in front of her. She could not speak anything. He was panting.
He again asked, “You just left?”
There were mixed emotions running through his mind. He was angry and guilty at the same time. She said nothing and turned around and walked to the chair. He followed her and reached to her hand and grabbed it. He turned her to face him again with a jerk.
“You are hurting me Dev.” That was the first time she spoke. Dev realised and let her hand go. He looked into her eyes. Gosh! They are hurt. He thought. He sighed and sat on the chair.
He again spoke but this time, his voice was lower, “What Yuvika?” He threw his hands in the air. “You can’t leave the magazine. You just can’t leave me. We have a dream for the magazine, you remember?” Seeing no response from her, he said, “Come on. Say something.”
She folded her hands and looked at him, “You saw it coming right?”
Yes. She nailed it in one go. She moved and started walking with hands gesturing, “You have been very well aware of every single thing that was happening. All those days when I spoke about the Dalal Story and you and your father were smartly avoiding. At that time too,” she turned to him; her eyes were wet by now, “at that time too you knew all I was babbling was a trash. Nothing was going to happen. I was clearly wasting my time and effort.”
“Yes I knew,” he tried to say.
But she interrupted, “Of course you knew. God damn it! You know your father. You know his every move and the reason behind his every decision. Everything was calculated. And trust me, the magazine is also going to run well; with me or without me. All that matters is the business after all. My principles and ethics are limited to me. That’s the harsh reality. Otherwise, I would not have been asked to agree with Sidhu. Who is she? Do you really think that I would care for her or get afraid of her? Do you think that my career is dependent on some bullshit so-called political leader like her? And you know what has hurt me the most? You; you really could have told me, at least once. You could have said that anything I am doing is worthless. You could have warned me, ‘Yuvika, stop it. Don’t get involved in it so much because one day you are going to get nothing out of it. One day, they are going to trash it. And that you would not be able to cope with.’ You know me. Or at least you said you knew me. So how did you not think of the effects it would be having on me?”
“I knew it. I knew it. I really wanted to inform you about it but then the book happened. And I thought that you would be busy with it. I got more time to think about how to break the news to you. Trust me; I never wanted it to happen this way.”
“Well, it just happened. There could never be any other way, Dev. Asking for letting go years of hard work can never have an excuse. You can’t offer me an option to compromise on the time I have given and the efforts I have put in. Stop fooling me and yourself,” said Yuvika.
“We started our career together. We saw a dream together. We wanted to reach the summit of the career together.”
“Do you really think so much? Why did you forget about me then?”
That was the last time they spoke. Yuvika left the @ink Magazine. The book launch was conducted without the writer. She was missed terribly. But no one could speak about it. Why did she leave was the question which Mr Dixit wanted to avoid consciously.
Dev tried to reach her but failed. After few weeks, Mr Dixit gave him one of the biggest projects. It made him extremely busy.
It was a new beginning of @ink and Yuvika’s life.
Read the consecutive story here: https://faceoffiction.wordpress.com/consecutive-story/
The story is a complete fiction. Any resemblance to the real world is a pure coincidence.