Keval stood at a corner, lost in thoughts, trying to shut-off the noise and pandemonium around him. He recalled his college days, when he, Amit, Anita and Chaya were a gang. He remembered how his modest background and a lack of family came in way, when he proposed to Chaya, who later married an NRI and moved to the US. Anita and Amit however did not let the difference in their backgrounds come in the way of their love. Soon after their marriage, Anita’s father financed an IT services venture, which Keval and Amit had jointly started off. Last year their organization recorded a revenue of 30 crores. They recently acquired a small dying firm.
Keval’s thoughts came back to the present, Things were going great for Amit and Anita, till a couple of years ago, when they lost a baby, conceived through IVF, at birth. Since then, their personal life had become a series of visits to doctors and therapists. In the last three months, after a failed attempt at surrogacy, Anita had been fixated on adopting a baby. She wanted a baby to ‘flaunt’ at Amit’s family get together, the coming month. She forced Amit and Keval to accompany her to the well-known orphanage he currently stood in, as it excelled in quick and clean adoptions.
“Thank god I never got married”, Keval thought aloud, before his thoughts were interrupted by a loud argument. When he looked up, a strange scene assailed his eyes; after sifting through many kids, whom she had found too big for her tastes, Anita had zeroed in on a six day old infant. She had picked him up and was checking him out, when the baby began wailing loudly, attracting the attention of a lady, who had come running and begun admonishing Anita.
“You are hurting the baby; give him to me now”, she shouted in an authoritative voice. Instead of complying, Anita pulled the wailing baby further towards herself, yelling crazily, “I am adopting the baby. He is mine”!! Amit and Keval, along with the ‘Father’ who was in charge of the orphanage, quickly pacified Anita and handed the baby over to the lady.
Watching the lady holding the bawling infant close to her bosom, rocking and cooing, while in parallel checking him out for damage, Keval instinctively rushed over to her, his heart filled with concern for the tiny wailing infant. Thankfully, nothing seemed seriously amiss, except for a tiny bruise formed by the rubbing of Anita’s ring on the baby’s sensitive skin. Within moments of reaching the sanctuary of the lady’s arms, the baby quietened down. After pacifying the baby, and settling him back in his crib, the lady pointed the bruise out to him and said, “Jewellery and motherhood don’t go well; see, neither I, nor any of the workers wear any such nonsense here”.
Keval glanced at the heavily bejewelled Anita, who was busy arguing with the father and turned back towards the lady with an apologetic smile. When the lady smiled back in return, his heart went fluttering. He quickly lowered his gaze and apologized on behalf of his friends. She smiled and held out her hand in a gesture of acceptance and said, “I am Renu, I volunteer at the orphanage over the weekends. Someone, who probably knew that I work at this orphanage, left this baby at the doorstep of my apartment. I named him Shamu; you can take it as an anagram of Musha – Moses, or as a rustic way of pronouncing Shyam; both were given up for adoption in baskets”.
Before Keval could respond, his friend Amit called out to him; just as he turned to leave with a grimace, Renu told him flippantly, “Don’t worry, I will not let that horrible woman touch baby Shamu again, even if it means that I have to take him away from here”.
During the gruelling ride back home, where Anita kept wailing to Amit that he should pay whatever was needed and ‘buy’ the child for her as soon as possible, Keval barely managed to maintain his sanity. The soulful eyes of the lady Renu kept haunting his thoughts; to shut them off, he concentrated instead on the activities he needed to complete, to ensure a smooth takeover at the newly acquired organization, which was due, on the upcoming Monday.
Monday started off as Keval planned, with a round of formal handshakes and introductions. Keval assessed each one in silence, noting their respective weaknesses. The introduction session was followed by a stand-up. Keval’s eyes that went sweeping across the new team, gathering expressions, stopped with a start – Renu, the lady from the orphanage was there, looking equally surprised and shocked.
After the stand-up formality got over, Keval was shown his new office by the outgoing team. After spending a few minutes in the quiet sanctuary of his cabin, Keval took his laptop to one of the corner desks and began chalking out the strategy, when a strange conversation caught his attention. The delivery head, apparently trying to impress Keval, was telling his team that they should do a roll-out of the new product that weekend. Renu was arguing with him. She was trying to tell him that though her component was done, others’ were not; moreover, one round of end-to-end integration and testing was needed before any roll-out. The delivery head along with another chap, whom the lady from the orphanage was addressing as Sumit, closed the topic that it was necessary for them to finish to roll-out by the weekend, at all costs. Making a mental note of meeting Renu offline that evening, Keval went back to his work.
That evening, thanks to an official dinner hosted by the outgoing team, his plans of meeting Renu did not materialize. The next morning, when he reached the office at nine, he found that there was no one. The guard told him that other than ‘Renu madam’, who landed up every morning at 8:45, nobody came before eleven; Shaking his head at the lack of office discipline and resolving to meet Renu for sure, that afternoon, Keval went to his cabin, hung his coat, went to the same corner seat of the previous day, and began his day’s work.
Keval watched stoically as the folks strolled in lackadaisically, roamed around having coffee and kept chatting till lunch time and only sat down to begin serious work at 3:00 PM. He waited in vain for Renu to come in and was just about to check with someone if she was on leave, when he got a frantic call from Anita, who wailed that she had just got a call, that someone had kidnapped the baby she had wanted to adopt, from the orphanage.
Before Keval could gather his wits to go and inquire further, the head of delivery walked over to his desk, a young developer in tow. “We will do our roll-out tonight and you will have the new product to market by the end of this week”, he announced flamboyantly, before going on to add that the developer Sumit, standing next to him single handedly developed, fixed and integrated the whole code, under his guidance and deserved the whole credit. He cajoled Keval into the VC room for a demo. His curiosity piqued, Keval asked if he could see the code. Almost as if he anticipated it, Sumit opened up the code repository and started a walk through. He showed how he had kept class and method well commented, with his name as the author. While going through the comments, Keval asked Sumit if he was the only developer; before Sumit could answer, the Delivery head quickly butted in, “Well sir, we have a team of five, three junior resources and a senior techie called Renu, besides Sumit; Renu is a shirker, who wastes her time on trivial pursuits. Even today, she did not come to office, despite knowing about the roll-out”.
Thanking them and advising them to do a thorough check before doing a roll-out, Keval went back to his cabin, called the HR manager and asked her to come in with Renu’s file. The surprised HR manager complied. Keval noted Renu’s address and other details from the file, before inquiring with the HR manager about her performance. The HR manager’s feedback was a bit contrary to Sumit’s. She said that Renu was quite hardworking and meticulous. The previous delivery head gave her a good feedback. She took extra initiative and even reviewed others’ code in addition to working on her own. The new delivery head, who joined four months ago, somehow had issues with her style. “If I am not wrong, the lady probably might be looking out. She is technically sound and a great asset to the organization. You need to find ways to retain her”.
Keval nodded his head thoughtfully. Going by the code that he reviewed earlier, either Renu’s performance went down over the last six months, thanks to her ‘other pursuits’ or she had plagiarised others’ work in the guise of reviewing it. “Either way, I shall get to the bottom of it”, he thought, “If she had skipped office that day to kidnap the baby, as she had promised, then I might have to terminate her employment. I do not want a rebellious plagiarising zealot in the organization”.
Editor’s Note: On behalf of iDiya.team, I sincerely thank Sarita Lakshmi for this beautiful fiction yet realistic story on adoption and the social boundaries around the process. Feel free to follow Sarita on her iDiya profile
One of the greatest gifts of this editor role for me is getting to know many of the incredible and beautiful people with whom I share a space on this fantastic iDiya platform. Every day I am inspired, touched and heartened by the stories and articles that are shared. I will be waiting to read more of such beautiful articles that really help us in creating a wonderful happy world!
– Swapna Peri, iDiya.net Editor – LifeStyle, Art & Culture
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