I have never met stranger people in my life as much as I have met in the last one year. The road to El Dorado, I guess, is fraught with strange situations and even stranger men and women.
My friend R told me about a recruitment consultant who had helped a friend of hers find a job who was in a similar situation as mine. She passed on my contact to this person who promptly called me. He started off by saying two things. Was I extremely young, because that is what my voice sounded like. A young girl’s. And I could trust him with anything. If I was a little freaked out by these strange declarations, I said nothing. The limits to how much I can take in search of that elusive job gets tested every day.
The consultant called me up one Saturday and told me he wanted to meet me. It was on the other side of town and temperatures were easily touching 50 degrees celsius. But I threw common sense to the wind before I took an auto to the Barista coffee shop at Priya cinema complex. Now, I used to love the Priya complex when I went to college in Delhi. Young hip people hung out there in cool clothes sipping coffee from fancy tea and coffee shops. The Priya movie hall was a student’s dream where you could watch movies for Rs. 5 only in full air-conditioned comfort. This was one of the few feel good places in Delhi which sold happiness at cheap discounted prices. I thought visiting the complex some 14 years later brought back happy memories. And a job lead to go with it.
The consultant turned out to be an overweight, middle-aged Sardarji with a dull turban. He could almost be Saint Nick if you dressed him in a red robe, but just almost. There was a meanness in his eyes that immediately struck me. I was expecting him to ask me questions about my varied work experience. It after all, spanned over more than a decade over a variety of verticals. But Mr. Consultant seemed more interested in the lurid details of my break up, with the constant “you can trust me” line. And he told me that he needed me to be able to be absolutely honest with him before he could help me. Before I started driving myself crazy trying to understand what exactly that meant in professional terms, he told me that I needed to tell where exactly I was in terms of my divorce. Before I started answering that, he moved on to “was there alcohol involved”? On my incredulous No, he said then there “must have been another woman.” I opened my mouth to say something but closed it soon enough because by then he went on to describe in lurid detail how one of the women he helped getting a job had a paedophile for a husband who did bad things to their daughters. He also told me about parties he had been to in my home town of Calcutta where cricketers and film stars held orgies and swapped partners.
I wish I had a mirror where I could see the expression on my face. What did I get myself into? This person clearly got off on describing sexual deviation with strangers, while constantly branding himself completely trustworthy. Why did I not excuse myself and walk out?
Later, as I looked back over the morning, I wondered, what was it that forced me sit down and listen to a clearly demented man? Surely, I could not be that desperate? But I guess, I came across as one. I thought of myself as being desperate for a job and projected that onto the next person. Why else would they next story touch the nadir of the morning deviant sex discussion session?
Mr. Almost St. Nick started describing massage sessions at massage parlours in Thailand. He went on to describe in great detail how Indian men and white men had sex sessions with the masseurs in Bangkok. But he was always extremely respectful of the masseurs. Always. I almost opened my mouth to tell him that most of the masseurs in Bangkok are she-males, but his eyes shone with such glee while describing one such act he had witnessed, that I decided to shut up and zone him out.
I was upset at myself and my desperation for a job that made me sit through two hours of pure drivel. But even though I did not have the guts to walk out of the coffee shop, that day, I made a vow to myself. I became extremely clear of one thing. Going forward, I would never show the world my desperation. For the world, I am just fine. The job would come when it did. And if it didn’t, I would try to knock on other doors.
The proverbial rainbow will never lie beyond the next lurid tale. Nothing in the world was worth this. And I would never again give any crackpot who got off on being trustworthy to “pretty girls who are alone in the big bad city of Delhi” that pleasure.
After two hours he told me he did not have any jobs for me, but would I please take the email addresses of four other consultants? By then I was too irritated to even care. I smiled calmly at him and took the addresses down, not even wanting to use any of them.
His paunch jiggled as he squeezed himself into the car. He thanked me for coming and meeting him. I thanked him for the iced tea with as much disdain that I could manage, barely mustering a smile. The pleasure was all mine, he said. I didn’t want to argue on that and walked back into sanity.