The Song of a Single Mom: The Road not Taken

I had, meanwhile,  started to work on a project, thanks to my ex boss from almost 12 years ago, whom I stayed in touch off and on and who was almost like an elder sister to me. It was a project on assessing the Training Needs of one of the departments of a newly formed state in India known for its natural beauty.  My friend was a part of a consultancy group which had no HR expertise. I agreed to be on board for the lack of anything better to do and because the project seemed interesting enough.

The project officially started off by my going to a beautiful hill station to sign the MoU. I was told to take the night train and I would be met at the Nizamuddin railway station by officials from the Consultancy, including Mr. J, the CEO. The journey to the beautiful hill station was uneventful, except for the time I stared outside into the black night, being unable to sleep while snorers hit the high notes.

The next day was a long day of presentations. And it was a day when I got reintroduced to the white-towelled chair. I remember seeing these chairs in the early days of my career and in the later days of my schooling, when I would have to meet bureaucrats for various projects. The white-towelled chair of the babu –in-charge chair greeted me wherever I went. And 12 years down the line, it was still there. The IAS officer we were meeting had his chair covered in a white towel. I stared at it and it stared back at cockily.  I was wondering why they never get out of their towel covered time wrap since the late nineties? Can someone tell them how ugly those chairs look? How, in the sweep of a towel, they immediately bring the overall aesthetics of the room to sub-zero levels?

Anyways, the towelled chairs were not the highlight of the trip. The highlight of the trip happened on the way back from the little slice of heaven and in the next couple of days after that. The CEO, Mr. J seemed very interested in understanding the various nuances of HR from me. Now I should have guessed then, that Mr. J’s interest in me extended beyond his curiosity for HR. But in spite of growing up in Calcutta, where girls are regularly pinched on the bottom by men in buses trains and all other public spaces, I should have known better. After some amount of small talk and medium talk and large talk on the night train, we part ways, with me promising to give my best for the project and for the consulting group. We had also discussed the state of my marriage, with Mr. J already having heard from the grapevine that I was going through “a rough patch”. I had meanwhile taken up the morally superior position of not lying when asked about my “patch”. I am not a good liar, and as much as I tried, could not lie well enough to turn the dry, rocky and totally parched patch into a lush green one. The ‘don’t ask don’t tell policy’ was modified a bit by me to become the ‘if asked, don’t not tell’. So, when Mr. J asked about my husband, I told him we were about to be separated soon, even though we had the rather strange living arrangement of living under the same roof. Mr J told me I was very brave and the matter ended there.

But it didn’t really. In his mind, I was an available woman and could be propositioned to. Perceptions don’t change much, even though we are well into the 21st century. A woman without the protection of a husband is seen as fair game. I get a text next day about how unforgettable I was…. my flawless skin, my rosy lips the unruly lock of my hair. I don’t reply to the text. It was followed up, after a couple of days with a job offer. To head the office in Delhi. I was stunned. And between a rock and a hard place. I needed the job. I desperately needed it. He was even willing to match my salary. I was in such a dilemma. Here was a job offer that was staring me in the face, but I could not take it up.

What would I be expected to do? Would I be expected to sleep with him? Would I be expected to be a walk over, agreeing to every decision he took? What would it entail? Would I be able to look at my colleagues in the eye and pretend I was offered the job only because Mr. J was super impressed with me?

My dad was incredulous and wasn’t satisfied with my answer of I just can’t. My friend A was extremely amused. “What an ass. By giving you such clear signals that he liked you, he made sure that you couldn’t take up the job.”

Maybe realists would call my actions equally asinine, but I just couldn’t take up the job. I had decided to take the road less travelled by. I had decided to blaze my own trail and not back down in the face of any kind of pressure. I would be damned if I were to fall into a ditch and not reach the end of the road I had chosen.

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About roadlesstravelledby

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference
This entry was posted in bringing up a child as a single mom, family, job, job search, new beginnings, single mom, starting over in Delhi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Song of a Single Mom: The Road not Taken

  1. alice says:

    I see that you have a seriesof stories already and there is oomph in each piece. So email any editor of the newspaper or magazine and tell them that you have a series of stories to share (if you intend to procure a column). Start with a humble letter, asking how one can become a columnist and give a main title for your stories, say “Tales of a single mom” or whatever you think is suitable. You can attach a few pieces for their consideration if you like. You can also send in random pieces to English newspaper companies abroad.

  2. Joy says:

    Hmmm…yet another interesting incident…its amazing how many bastards live in our nation. I can surely say its tougher for a single woman in India. Somehow it would have been so much easier for you here in Singapore. I hate that you have to go through all of this but I cna see how each of these incidents makes you a stronger person. Do take to writing more in the third person and try converting these in short story format……you could have a regular column by doing so.

  3. Joy says:

    Hmmm…yet another interesting incident…its amazing how many bastards live in our nation. I can surely say its tougher for a single woman in India. Somehow it would have been so much easier for you here in Singapore. I hate that you have to go through all of this but I can see how each of these incidents makes you a stronger person. Do take to writing more in the third person and try converting these in short story format……you could have a regular column by doing so.

  4. alice says:

    Try sending to Singapore newspaper editors or any other newspaper publications abroad or book publishers if your pieces are not accepted in India. Google to get the email addresses, OK?

  5. Vinita Tripathi says:

    Why are you bothering about an HR job. Put plan B in action and get into writing business.
    I can visualise a soap opera based on your job hunting meetings.
    Try selling this to a producer.

  6. Anand Khatri says:

    Its a part of Life. Do’nt shy away. Its a part of the POWER game.
    The most beautiful and successful women know how to carry their CHARM and not give in to the idiosyncrasies of socio-sexually frustrated ageing men of Delhi.
    Writing can remain as a hobby. Its not always important to earn from “what you are good at”.

    Please try and hold on to it.

  7. alice says:

    If you can find a permanent job, then it’s good. In the meantime, your writing may earn you some income while looking for a job. A temporary survival is what I meant. Some income earned from writing can come in handy when you’re running low of cash. But who knows, it may be the road for you if some publishers or editors decide to publish your works. Writing involves almost zero investment – just your time and your talent, if you’re writing from home. So no harm trying, right? Listen to the voice of your heart. I am just giving you some suggestions because I care, although we have never met.

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