Tightrope walk at Crossroads
ALENEK, THE LIBATION is a wine convenience store. All vintage, expensive and farmed wines are sold at this place… Local farm wines, wines from local breweries and imported wines are available at best bargain.
The store is a visual of distinct rustic-novel-vintage space and all wines: French, Italian and Spanish are nicely placed at respective racks with style and ambience. There are exotic wines displayed on wooden carts, curved floor racks and metallic wire frames. Lot of wines is placed horizontally and vertically on colored ornamental frames, some are wall mounted and others hanging from ceiling are prime attractions.
Equally trained, elegant and friendly are girls, the human resource, who work here. Mr. Paaus is Manager or Cellar Master. He was once an experienced viticulturist and oenologist himself, but now is happily managing a great departmental store.
The place is frequented by old wine connoisseurs, young couples, college students, wine tasters and even by wine critics for many reasons like its‚Äô central up market location.
It was sweaty summery sunny morning and a man in traffic downed his car window. As Prisha was in car next to him, she noticed the man waving at her and mumbling.
Visibly distracted, he asked ‚ÄúExcuse me, where is ALENEK, THE LIBATION?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs at central plaza-on City main Road.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all right.‚ÄĚ
Prisha found it strange that somebody asked her about ALENEK, the place she was working.
At afternoon, as she was checking the arrangements of wines in racks at store, a loud human voice interrupted her at store.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs wonderful to see you here. Could you please help me selecting some wines?‚ÄĚ
Prisha saw a bright yellow tee-blue trouser dressed man at her store; a man whom she had seen and given directions..
‚ÄúOh! Sure Sir.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs warm and sticky outside. A good rain is needed.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYes. Sir, what kind of wines is you looking for?‚Äô‚Äô
‚ÄúToday, it would be Imported and vintage.‚ÄĚ
Prisha took the mid aged man, who looked far less younger in his manners and expressions, to a section filled with imported and vintage wines.
‚ÄúI was in Rome, Italy and France last month and I hope I could find the same here.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSir, we have almost all wines on display and if you require some special one, I can fetch them easily.‚ÄĚ
The man looked at her and said, ‚ÄúI am Rudra Pratap.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNice meeting you Sir. I am Prisha; I help customers to select their wines.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúFrench love great wines. Have you been to place?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYes, last year‚ÄĚ
After spending long time at store, finally Rudra Pratap ordered wines and took leave.
‚ÄúYou have great range and I must congratulate you for that.‚ÄĚ
Prisha was happy at this complement. Prisha was happy that her recommendations went well with customer.
At evening Prisha was happy with sales figure as it meant appreciation and financial reward.
After few days, Prisha found her customer again looking for more wines. He was a regular visitor.
Now it was almost happening regularly. The Rudra Pratap‚Äôs was visitor to store and his conversations ranged from wines and wineries, seasons and weathers, Tours and travels, shopping and clothes and lunches and dinners. Prisha had to guide him through store and help him select assortment of wines.
It was embarrassment for Prisha to attend a single customer for such a long period of time regularly, but Rudra Pratap was giving good business. The staff giggled and the manager remained indifferent.
Priscilla is 19, a cute damsel and a loving daughter. She has a shapely figure. Her hair is black, which reaches her back. She has oval face with honey soft lips. She wears classy attires that are trendy and modern. She always wears chick smile on her smart and sophisticated dresses.
She has a soothing, soft and warm voice. She is studious and mature in her manner. She is smooth in her talks, but she is innocent. Her humor and poise gave her strong presence.
She works as a Sommelier, a wine expert, at the wine store called ALENEK, THE LIBATION. She graduated from prestigious college in India and then applied for few US universities, but didn‚Äôt secure admission in university of her choice.
In summers, she received an offer to work in one of the most promising wine retail chain, so she joined without much thought as they paid well with promising career opportunities. She was sent by company to Europe for getting training in food wine pairing and certified her as wine expert.
It is huge pressure retail job, when company gives unreasonable targets to frontline girls. During such times the customers are king and the girls are fallen princesses.
One day Prisha is sitting in store and thinks, ‚ÄúNumbers! Numbers! Numbers! So numbers are keys in corporate world. In classes, they spoke about communication, commitment, confidence and positive attitude and nobody told me about numbers‚Ä¶For numbers I need to cross promote and cross sell‚Ä¶if I meet numbers, I am still given bigger numbers to meet‚Ä¶Will my life end in pursuit of numbers? I enjoy creativity in sales and front office, but cold numbers baffle me.‚ÄĚ
She further thought, ‚ÄúWhy business places look so attractive and vibrant to outsiders and so obtuse to insiders? Where is my self respect? Where is my visibility? Where is my voice? I would no more act as LOLITA to this rude buyer, but today I would shout. They would hear my shouts today‚Ä¶ No, Mr. Paaus thinks that self expression at work place is sheer waste of time and unprofessional. So, I need to act normally‚Ä¶yes, normal. ‚ÄĚ
While Prisha is lost in thoughts and slowly lunch time draws closer.
Riya ask her to join her for lunch.
Prisha simply denies joining her and she silently enters into managers‚Äô room.
Mr. Paaus as usual is busy on his phone and computers and silently directs Prisha to sit.
Prisha announces, ‚ÄúSir, I want to resign.‚ÄĚ
There is silence and the room freezes.
Mr. Paaus, The manager breaks silence, ‚ÄúYou are star performer and your numbers were great last quarter. You brilliantly cross promoted n sold and besides your team needs you here. Do you have an offer?‚ÄĚ
The manager looks for details and says, ‚ÄúOK, can you share?‚ÄĚ
Mr. Paaus finally declares, ‚ÄúYou can trust me. Oh‚Ä¶OK…Is It Mr. Rudra Parag? Don‚Äôt take him seriously; he is bit old and frustrated. Give me time; I would surely help you out and you are not resigning. I can understand your frustrations. Give me time and I would rearrange things here.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Rudra Parag was a constant source of attention, attraction and embarrassment at store, especially for girls.
Mr. Rudra Parag never married as he suffered from strange mental complexion. He lived in two extreme worlds, sometimes deeply ascetic like Buddha and another time overexcited Casanova.
Now Mr. Rudra Parag is in his mid forties, a high society gentleman. He is lean bodied, fair complexioned and thin faced. He is cool, confident, an early riser and a lover of great wines. He has big estate to manage and a team of servants at his beck and calling.
For last 20 years or more, he is looking for perfect beauty and a perfect bride. He is freely roaming the mother earth for this search of eternal beauty. All matrimonial and dating sites have failed and even GOOGLE was nightmarish for him. Astrologers and match-makers constantly throng his mansion with updated profiles of girls of marriageable age.
In his college days, his brain was full of ideals and philosophies, drama and adventures and ideas and reasons, but now it is filled with obsession of his perfect Indian bride.
Once upon a time he was super local cheat, then he transformed into manipulative businessman and now after becoming super rich, he dominates his social circle by display of his wealth and possession.
He loves shopping as a past time and mostly ends up buying kids throwaway stuff.
On one such shopping spree at ALENEK, THE LIBATION, he saw a PRISHA, the girl of his dreams. On seeing her, he was immediately transferred to distant vine fallow from the midst of bottle storages, service surfaces, glass hangers and canvas slings. He developed immediate affection for this beautiful girl and thought of advancing her someday with lot of graciousness.
Today on seeing her, he mentally rehearsed, ‚ÄúOh my Lolita, I am forever at your service. I waited for you for whole my life. Why are you working at departmental store, when you can be owner of many?‚ÄĚ
Also he mentally heard wood, metal and glass wine store playfully singing and echoing advent of sizzling love affair.
Mr. Paaus acted swiftly and transferred Prisha to backend office after her resignation threat.
One fine morning, at her new arrangement, Prisha is happy at work.
She is now working at back office away from direct customers. She has just received her promotion cum appreciation letter from Mr. Paaus. Her other female colleagues, Siya and Riya are constantly teasing since morning about her lucky mascot, who has suddenly made her star in organization.
Siya whispers, ‚ÄúNow you have sugar daddy Rudra Parag.‚ÄĚ
Riya Interrupts in husky voice, ‚ÄúThe Ever young Godfather. I hope he comes today and congratulates Prisha and places some more orders on store.‚ÄĚ
Prisha silently engages in her work at computer and listens to all grapevine n grape-vice spread by her friendly girls. It bothers and confuses her, but she is too young to tackle it.
As It is new assignment and she knows that she has to prove her mettle and has to learn a lot. Now Prisha is senior and is supporting her team from backend and Riya and Siya are front end girls taking care of all the customers, even rude and tough ones. Numbers are constantly being met by team and cross selling and cross promoting is succeeding brilliantly.
As predicted by girls, Mr. Rudra Parag arrives at store and inquires at front desk about Prisha. The front desk directs him to meeting room and rings to back office.
The reception is calling, ‚ÄúMiss. Prisha, Mr. Paaus wants you to talk to visitor at meeting room.‚ÄĚ
Siya and Riya teases Prisha, ‚ÄúMr. Rudra Parag, your admirer, the kidult is there. Lucky Prisha can now buy whole world with his money.‚ÄĚ
She anxiously thinks, ‚ÄúI must not trust my boss. I must run away from this unholy place‚Ä¶I must run…BUT I AM STUCK.‚ÄĚ Prisha moves from her back office to meeting room with fear inside and outward calm and composure.
Prisha greets Rudra Parag, ‚ÄúHello Sir!‚ÄĚ
Rudra Parag is as happy as he is on seeing Prisha.
Rudra Parag flatteringly says, ‚ÄúI want to gift some wines to my friend who has recently been awarded by her organization.‚ÄĚ
Prisha makes a businesslike conversation, ‚ÄúSir, we have recently made gift packs with mix of vintage wines from France, Spain and South Africa. I hope your friend would like that pack.‚ÄĚ
Rudra Parag says, ‚ÄúMiss Prisha, Congratulations! I must honor you at this happy occasion. ‚Äú
‚Äė‚ÄôThanks You Sir, it was your support.‚ÄĚ She shudders.
‚Äė‚ÄôThere is this beautiful place and I‚Äôll meet you at dinner tonight at 8.00.‚ÄĚ
Prisha is bit startled and says, ‚ÄúIt is.. Against company policy.. To go out with customers.. other than ..business purposes.‚ÄĚ
Rudra Parag says smilingly, ‚ÄúI would arrange that please don‚Äôt worry.‚ÄĚ
The meeting is over and Prisha is overwhelmed. She is new to this, after all she has just finished her college and she is 21.
She wants to run to her Boss or share this new development with her friends, but they all are conspiring and helping Mr. Rudra Parag.
Ultimately she calls her Boss, ‚ÄúSir, Mr. Rudra Parag invited me for dinner.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Paaus hurriedly answers, ‚ÄúYes, he has left two gift packs for you at reception. He is our esteemed customer and please be sure about numbers.‚ÄĚ
Prisha turns little Lolita again and speaks slowly, ‚ÄúThat is rude.‚ÄĚ
Nobody hears her words and Mr. Paaus returns to his work.
The girls at office are now more excited and Siya says, ‚ÄúRed wine, white wine and Fine wine. Prisha is mine and she would finally dine.‚ÄĚ
Riya says teasingly, ‚ÄúThis is an honor. Long live the king! Long live the princess!‚ÄĚ
Today Prisha will have a dinner at prime restaurant with the most esteemed customer of the company. Prisha is bit wary and confused to mention dinner to her mother, but her mother is a sharp woman. On reaching home she tells her mom, Mrs. Ira about her promotion letter and her surprise gifts, but she is hesitant to mention the dinner. Ultimately, she says, ‚ÄúMom, I have a dinner tonight with our client.‚ÄĚ
Mrs. Ira asks Prisha inquiringly, ‚ÄúWho accompanies you from office?‚ÄĚ
Prisha is bit nervous and anxious, ‚ÄúNo one, I have to go alone. I was only invitee and everyone else is busy in month end targets. Management needs numbers.‚ÄĚ
Mrs. Ira is lady of razor sharp brains and she can calculate the moves well and finally says, ‚ÄúNumbers? What numbers? What should you dine for those numbers? Stay home and I would fix those bastards.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMom, it is my job to support my team. I am no more in front sales, I am in backend and customer Liaison is my job. We need relationships to meet targets. You don‚Äôt know the corporate competition and culture.‚ÄĚ
Mrs. Ira, ‚ÄúI know the men world well. Let tomorrow come! You are staying home tonight or I would send you to university.‚ÄĚ
Prisha is happy at her mother‚Äôs decision. Ultimately, she is one who has brought her successfully in men‚Äôs world all alone, while her father lived in United States with another woman.
Suddenly it‚Äôs her boss phone, ‚Äú Prisha, Dinner is at 8‚Äôo clock and you are still home.‚ÄĚ
Prisha wants to say something, before that her Mrs. Ira snatches the phone from Prisha and speaks, ‚ÄúHello Mr. Paaus, This is Mrs. Ira. How can Prisha go alone? She is too young. Just have some semblance. Are numbers that important? She would either resigns or work at respected job place. The choice is yours.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Paaus sadly says, ‚ÄúWe generally don‚Äôt ask our girls to go for dinners with clients, but it was Prisha‚Äôs decision at meeting with our client Mr. Rudra Parag that tonight dinner was planned to celebrate the occasion. We don‚Äôt mix numbers with dinners.‚ÄĚ
Mrs. Ira was firm in her reply, ‚ÄúDinners for numbers‚Ä¶huh..She is not going and asks, so called, Mr. Rudra Parag to call me. I would fix him.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Paaus gives a meek reply, ‚ÄúI thought they had mutual agreement.‚ÄĚ
The phone goes dead and Prisha is happy. She ultimately unveils the whole story of Mr. Rudra Parag to her Mom.
Mrs. Ira is angry, sad and then got bit happy at Prisha tale of girly woes. Prisha finally ends her story with words, ‚ÄúThe girls is office often tease me. I even resigned.‚ÄĚ
After hearing the whole story, Mrs. Ira finally sees the truth and reassures her daughter, ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt worry, I would take care of it. I must leave as I have an important presentation with my client tonight.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Rudra Parag is waiting for Prisha at upscale Italian restaurant from 8.00 Pm. It is already 8.15 pm and now, he is looking nervous. He calls a mobile number and nobody responds at other end. He thinks, ‚ÄúI must wait here until Prisha joins.‚ÄĚ
He knew Prisha would reach by 8.30 Pm under all circumstances.
Finally he sees a thin male figure advancing towards him with a beautiful girl.
‚Äė‚ÄôOh, here they arrive, but why Mr. Paaus?‚ÄĚ
Now Prisha has changed her name to Priscilla. Priscilla worked hard to prove her mettle in the company of her understanding father. Even after 7 Years and she wonders, ‚ÄúWhy her mother, Mrs. Ira didn‚Äôt hide her passport and papers away from her on the faithful day of her escape? Why she found everything ready as if her mother actually secretly wanted her to fly away with her father? Was her mother a assiduous opportunist girl or the bitch?‚ÄĚ
Priscilla has started her first startup with the help of her doctor father, while Ira is a billionaire and a widow and owns a chain of wine stores and Mr. Paaus happily works for her.
Mr. Paul, The doctor always reminds Prisha, ‚ÄúOnce an idle evil bitch, now a busy mischief maker. What would she be next, we must watch.‚ÄĚ (End)