But then have you ever imagined a life where nothing was planned? I often did. I wanted to jump from the window all the way down the twenty floors and never return again. I know you would mock and say “nothing of you would be left to return”. But still if a chance or miracle saved me, I would continue to walk away.

“Is this the only file or there are more?” his voice startled me a bit. But only a bit because it had been two minutes and he was bound to come back. 
Please for god’s sake ask me who he is? Please, for my sake if not God’s. Even if you didn’t I would still go ahead and tell you. My darling boss, Rohan Kataria, Divisional Manager, Sales. He loves me way too much. He loves me so much that after every two minutes he has to come and say something to me.

Irrespective of whether I reply or not. No, no don’t get it wrong, that’s the best part about him, all communications are one sided. You speak or not speak, who cares? And same goes for any feedback you give, negative or positive they all have the same end- trash can.

“No there isn’t”, I replied calmly. The key is calmly. How many times can a person get angry? No, no you tell me. How many times? So the best way is to say it with minimum or no irritation. Good for heart and head, they say. Now don’t ask who they, because this one even I don’t know. 
I love strangers, they are the ones I always look out for. Whenever you go out, say mall shopping, you must be on a look out for people who are acquaintances or perhaps friends, colleagues, blah and blah. Not me. I am always happy to be surrounded by strangers. Strangers provide me peace. They don’t say much and leave you with little scope to speak.
“You speak very less, no?” the most common words I hear from people. I always want to tell them “You speak way beyond, someone needs to balance.”

But my thoughts suddenly stopped flowing.

I watched him enter, wearing a black suit, and a maroon tie, he looked so sharp. If I was a girl or swung the other way in love games I would have fallen for him. 
Sanket Chauhan. They enter in groups, the loners. Notice this, a loner is always a part of group. They separate when no one sees them. Sanket Chauhan always came along with a group of top notch business tycoons and then in a few minutes disappeared.
And almost without fail he goes to meet my Boss and often thereafter disappears.
They are alone in such interactions, I watch the two from my cubicle. Mr Rohan almost never speaks and patiently listens to all the one sided talk meted out to him. And from the looks of it, I have never seen Sanket Chauhan sporting a happy expression in this deluge. More often than never he is screaming and in one odd case I even saw him pull Rohan by his collar. 
Sanket Chauhan was the man of my dreams. In my dreams I was him, quite literally. I took on his name and wore sharp business suits and imagined people to be bowing down to me. Most importantly my boss, Rohan, I always dreamed him getting thrashed by me. And all this while wearing one of Mr Chauhan’s black suits.
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“Then I met him and I was stunned to see his face so up close,” I spoke haltingly to one of my colleagues over tea. I stammered while speaking, this is also a huge reason why I speak so less. I am not ashamed of it but then it wastes more time to string along words in my case as opposed to someone who doesn’t. 
“Met who?” my colleague asked surprised.
“Sanket Chauhan, who else!” I spoke exasperatedly.
“Funny I have never heard his name,” he replied confusedly. 
These people know nothing. Ask them who is Shahrukh Khan marrying tomorrow they would tell you exact details. And people like Sanket Chauhan go unnoticed. These same people would also complain about lack of water and electricity in their regions. They are what I say a burden on the soul of society.
“Listen I need to go, Rohan would be needing the updated file,” with soft words I took my leave.
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“You know, even if you reach a couple of minutes late, Rohan would not die,” his voice stopped me from going further.
I turned around to face him and he looked better than my dreams, standing only a couple of inches away from me. 
“Sanket Chauhan and you?” he forwarded his hand towards me and smiled. 
“Shishir,” I spoke, surprisingly without a single hint of stammer.
“What’s it like to be you?” he asked me. 
It left me a little shocked. No one has ever tried to know that. Not even my own father.
Noticing my silence he asked me again, “Give me words, whats it like to be you? Silent? Strange? Aloof? An outcast?”
“Like you know me better than I know myself,” I answered softly, the stammer conspicuous by its absence. 
“From what I know, you stammer. But you are talking quite fluently here,”he spoke mischievously.
“I am amazed too. Its almost as good as me talking to myself. Its so smooth. I never stammer when I speak inside my head,” I spoke these words with the same clarity as previous ones.
He now gave me a deep smile and said, “Haven’t you already realised it? I know you always doubted it. Why do others in office not know me? Why do I haunt you in your dreams? Why does my face resemble your father so much? Why is it that you not stammer when you speak to me? Why is it that I am what you have always wanted to be?”
I remained frozen for a long time and did not reply.
“You have the answer within you. Its taking time for you to say it out loud to yourself,” he spoke, his eyes dancing in front of me. 
“Its almost as good as me talking to myself,” I spoke slowly and softly. 
He laughed out loud hearing me say these words. 
“Shishir!!” I heard someone call out my name. 
I turned to see my boss was walking down the hallway looking a little mad with rage.
“What are you doing here?” Rohan screamed at me.
“Sir I was talking to him,” I pointed on the side.
“Who him? What are you saying?” He spoke louder than before.
I glanced sideways to realise that there was nothing as much as a fly next to me. 
Like you know me better than I know myself. Its almost as good as me talking to myself.

to be contd…

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Tribe whispers is an idea proposed by Ayush Chauhan in the  Write Tribe Facebook Group. Members of the group are working together to create a story. Read more here: Tribe whispers at Hundred Works. I am writing the first part of the story and it now passes on to Shilpa Garg for part 2

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