A Stroke Of KOHL – The Line Between Concern & Intrusion

    The lift stopped at the third floor and the door opened automatically letting the employees out, to their office for the day.

    Dressed in a pink kurta and white leggings, Amaya came out of the lift along with her other fellow colleagues. Swiping her employee ID card at the main entrance of the office, she rushed to her workstation.

    Bored of the same make-up every day, Amaya decided to wear no make-up that day. So she entered the office without wearing her usual eye-liner and her pink lip gloss.

    Amaya started her career three years ago, in this company – Green Tree Solutions, Mumbai as a senior executive in the strategy and development team.

    It was Tuesday and the clock showed 10:30am. Time for the weekly team call.

    Amaya entered the meeting room for the call. As she entered the room her team members gave her a shocked look. She was more engrossed preparing for her turn on the highlights of the week gone by, so she did not delve deep into those expressions and their unasked but fathomable questions.

    Every Tuesday, in the weekly team call Amaya’s boss Sharon Rodrigues, Deputy General Manager – Strategy and Development, took stock of all the activities of the week gone by. Now it was Amaya’s turn to update the team, especially her boss on the progress of the projects and highlights of the activities of the previous week.

    Before she could start giving her update, Sharon went on mute on the team call and gestured towards Amaya with a concerned expression to check if everything was fine with her.

    To this, a surprised Amaya replied – “Yes Sharon. I am perfectly fine. We can go ahead with the call.”

    Taking the call out of the mute mode, Amaya started updating the team members on her set of highlights. Sharon, who was sitting just opposite to Amaya, was listening to the updates with rapt attention. Amaya’s update every week used to bring out the audacious boss in her. She derived sadistic pleasure by questioning Amaya more than any of the other team members.

    In her effort to meet all the illogical professional demands of Sharon, Amaya was inviting stress and anxiety for herself.

    As she finished giving updates for the week, Amaya was flooded with a flurry of questions, mostly from Sharon, as she loved making her nervous.

    So it was an unsaid rule followed by the team, wherein every week the last one to update the team was Amaya.

    After a well 20 mins of questions and cross questions the weekly team call was concluded with a new set of agendas for the upcoming week. As the team dispersed, Amaya was urgently called upon by Chaitra, Senior Manager – Strategy and Development, known more for her grapevine communication.

    Wondering what was the matter, Amaya went to Chaitra, who was making some presentations.

    Chaitra was not able to handle the presentation alone so she had sought Amaya’s help. Without thinking much, she extended her helping hand gladly towards Chaitra in making the presentation.

    As she was making the modifications in the presentation, Chaitra confronted her with her false concerns.

    “Amaya, Is everything alright with you in your life or did you fight with your parents or with Rohan again?”

    Amaya had found in Rohan, her soulmate, when she was in her teens, and the duo were dating each other since three years.

    Surprised, Amaya looked up at Chaitra and replied – “Yes, everything is fine with me. My parents are here with me, and Rohan visited them yesterday and they are happy with the two of us.”

    Understanding Chaitra’s intention of extracting more details about her personal life, Amaya quickly fixed the presentation and moved back to her workstation to attend to her work.

    As soon she left for her workstation, Chaitra received a call on her intercom.

    It was Sharon.

    Sharon wanted to discuss few agendas on the progress of the up-coming projects on business strategy and hiring, so she asked Chaitra to come to her cabin.

    Chaitra entered the cabin, with her laptop and a diary to jot down the points of discussions.

    “Did you speak to Amaya and find out what was wrong with her?” Sharon asked Chaitra

    An excited Chaitra replied – “Yes! I did. But I feel there is something she is hiding. I feel she is struggling in her relationship with Rohan and had a huge fight with her parents.”

    “Even I felt so. She is looking so tired today without kohl and lip gloss. Perhaps she lost interest in herself and her life. This is what happens when you send your only child outside and leave her to make her own living in a big city like Mumbai. I feel, her parents are staying with her as they fear she might take a drastic step sometime if anything goes wrong with Rohan or their relationships.”

    Sharon and Chaitra invested a well 20mins of their one to one discussion on Amaya and her personal life. To make their discussion all the more exciting, they both even visited her profiles on social media. The motive behind the visit was to find any spicy update on Amaya’s life to substantiate their claims. When they could not find any evidence of their assumptions, they both finally opened their laptops to discuss work.

    By the time the discussion was over, which revolved more around office gossips, it was 1:30pm – the lunch hour for the team. Carrying their lunch boxes along, the team assembled in the cafeteria for lunch.

    The strategy and development team, consisted of ten members. Five of them reported from Mumbai, three from Gurgaon and two from Australia.

    Sitting opposite to Amaya, Sharon opened her lunch box. While opening it, she asked Amaya – “Where is your lunch box today?”

    “I woke up late today and so could not manage to prepare anything for lunch today.”

    Not satisfied with Amaya’s response, Sharon and Chaitra exchanged glances, speaking through their eyes in silence that indeed everything is not well in Amaya’s life.

    At that moment, Amaya got up from her chair to bring her noodles which she had ordered at the food counter.

    As she made her way to bring the food, Sharon and Chaitra smirked at each other and the rest of the team members without even understanding anything gave a confused smile to both of them.

    Amaya returned to her place in the cafeteria and placed her noodles on the table, while adjusting herself on the chair. Without any delay, she started enjoying her food as she had a special love towards noodles.

    Seeing her relishing the food, Chaitra asked – “Amaya, did you have a proper dinner last night?”

    A perplexed Amaya replied – “yes, I did. But why did you ask this question Chaitra?”

    Clearing her throat, Chaitra looked at Sharon and started with a confused smile – “Look Amaya! You somehow appear to be very dull today. It looks like you did not eat properly nor did you get a proper sleep last night, and the trouble is very much visible in your kohl less eyes.”

    Amaya who was tired of listening to all these words from Chaitra and Sharon, did not react to it. She instead sported her brightest smile to re-assure them that she is fine.

    The team finished their lunch and thus concluded their daily gossip session and made their way back to their work stations for the second part of the day.

    Amaya returned to her work station and started working on the remaining tasks for the day. Though she was trying hard to concentrate on her work, deep down in her mind she was feeling irritated with the false concerns of her team members. She somehow kept those thoughts aside and started to concentrate on her presentation, summarizing for the higher management the highlights of every projects handled by her team. As she got engrossed in her work, she completely forgot the time. Suddenly she was moved by the silent atmosphere around her. She got up from her chair and checked around to find only few people at their workstations. She rolled her eyes on the clock, on the wall beside her workstation.

    It was 6:30pm, time for Amaya to wrap up for the day.

    With mixed feeling towards the day, she called it off. She walked out of the office premises with her ear plugs on and tuning in to her favourite number – “Let it go.”

    Reaching home, a tired Amaya started her retrospection into the day’s activities and found that she herself was responsible to let people have myriads of negative assumptions towards her personal life. She thought to herself that she should dress properly from now on and should look glamorous to stop people from having less interest in her life.

    The next day Amaya donned her favourite black kurta and paired it up with her red leggings. To make herself look fresh and glamorous for the day, she highlighted her eyes with kohl and her lips with some gloss. Wearing one of her heavy black metal earrings, Amaya was all set to start one more hectic day in her thrilling corporate life.

    Like every day the lift stopped and buzzed open at the third floor. With lots of positivity and energy for the day, Amaya stepped out of the lift. She swiped her ID card and walked elegantly to her workstation. On the way she really did turn the heads of many men, who were checking her fresh and glamorous look.

    Sharon, who was watching everything from her cabin, thought to herself that there is something in Amaya’s life that she is missing out.

    She immediately called Chaitra on her intercom “Sharon here. Did you see Amaya and her fresh new look?”

    Chaitra with her smirk replied – “Yes I did. I am now damn sure she must have dumped Rohan and must be dating some other guy.”

    Sipping her herbal tea Sharon replied – “Even I knew it from the very first day she introduced him and her parents to all of us, during her house warming ceremony. She is quite ambitious unlike Rohan and she will definitely replace him with someone more successful.”

    “Chaitra, you are quite friendly and close to her. Right?”

    “Yes I am.”

    “Why don’t you try to extract some updates on Amaya’s life from her itself? After all she is quite a source of entertainment in office for me.”

    Hearing this, Chaitra jumped out of her chair immediately and straightaway started heading towards Amaya’s workstation.

    “Good Morning Amaya!”

    Amaya looked up and sported her brightest smile to Chaitra and greeted her back.

    “How are you today Chaitra?”

    “I am good.”

    Chaitra continued – “You tell me, what’s up with you? You seem to be glowing and all bright otherwise for a Worn-out Wednesday?”

    Pleasantly surprised at Chaitra’s words, Amaya replied – “Yes, I am. I feel if you start your day on a positive and fresh note you spread happiness around. So I am well dressed today unlike my dull looks which I had yesterday.”

    Unable to digest the answer, Chaitra gave Amaya a look of distrust and went to her workstation to continue with her work.

    After sometime, half day had passed and it was lunch hour. Like every day, the team gathered at the cafeteria with their respective lunch boxes. Amaya also joined the team in the cafeteria for lunch. Unlike yesterday, she had got her lunch box like rest of the team. Since fruits and vegetables salads were easy to prepare, so Amaya had stuffed her lunch box with these items.

    The moment Amaya opened her lunch box, Sharon who had just joined the team gave a silent smirk to Chaitra, pointing out with her eyes, at the content of the lunch box. Amaya in the meantime had gone to the food counter to bring a glass of fresh lime juice for herself. She re-joined the team, only to find both of them posing at her with questions in their eyes.

    Sharon broke the silence and asked – “Amaya, what is special in your life that you are on a strict diet?”

    Understanding the sarcasm from the tone of her voice, an irritated Amaya reverted sternly – “No Sharon, nothing special. It’s just that I had not tasted fruits for quiet sometime. So thought of having it today.”

    Sharon gave an offended look to Amaya and finished her lunch quietly without interacting much with the team.

    After the lunch, Chaitra went to pacify an upset Sharon. Less to pacify than to earn more brownie points from the boss. She understood that Amaya’s sharp response had burst the bubble of Sharon’s ego. Both of them started discussing about Amaya and the rudeness in her behaviour without even the least realisation about their own attitude.

    It was almost 4pm and Amaya was working on a presentation which urgently needed her attention. It was a presentation on Sharon’s and the team’s mid-year review. After some time her intercom buzzed. It was Sharon at the other end.

    “Amaya, could you please come immediately to my cabin?”

    “Yes, Sharon.”

    Unaware of Sharon’s anger who took offense at her response at the cafeteria, Amaya with her laptop and diary, knocked at Sharon’s cabin.

    “Come in”

    “Please sit down Amaya”, replied Sharon, trying to be as sweet as she could be.

    “Thank you, Sharon.”

    “Could you please take me through the presentation on mid-year review that you are working on?”

    “Yes Sharon.” Amaya, without slightest delay opened the presentation and started taking Sharon through it.

    When she was halfway through her slides, Sharon in her cold voice remarked – “It is not up to the mark. So it is better you change the entire presentation.”

    Amaya made futile attempts to convince Sharon who was hell-bent at her decision and discarded the entire presentation. With that all efforts and time invested by Amaya on the presentation since a week, went down the drain.

    “Please re-work on it”- demanded Sharon giving her only a day’s timeline.

    “You may leave now.” Sharon turned towards her laptop.

    Amaya very well understanding the reason behind this decision came out of the cabin. She kept her laptop and diary at her workstation and walked towards the coffee vending machine to grab a cup of hot coffee to soothe her nerves.

    Taking her mug and filling it till the brim with black coffee, Amaya sat down on the couch beside the vending machine. With her eyes on the magazines placed on the table, her mind was wondering and asking questions to herself.

    “What is my fault that I am getting harassed this way?”

    A confused and frustrated Amaya was trying to find out – why people are so curious about other’s lives and want to know every bit of her personal bytes.

    Delving deep into these aspects she did not know how to go ahead in life or how to react or respond to people’s inquisitiveness behind her make-up and non-makeup day or her noodles and salad days.

    Devleena Nath
    An HR by profession Devleena has an exceptional knack towards writing personal and travel blogs and enjoys penning down poems and short stories. Adventurous by nature she loves travelling to new places and being a voracious reader she loves exploring life through books and novels as well.

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    1. Very nice story Devleena ji. Really time has come to stop putting the nose in someone others life and managing your own affairs properly. We have to understand that every expression or behavior is not a reflection of past, it may be her present new start. So we should stop judging and start believing. All the best…

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