He comes often to the office these days. Nothing is familiar,really- not the building , not the people.The organisation too has a tenuous link with the one he worked in and left almost 40 odd years ago, when he was much younger and sought after , both professionally and personally.
His English ,is impeccable, his eyes shine as I show him a tattered copy of a manual he had once authored . Very much the boxwallah he talks of the old Calcutta , of long lazy lunches at the club, the nightclubs on Prk Street . We respond to him , sometimes absently because we are running against time .
Someone once told me that he had a stormy long term relationship with a well known actress , famed as much for her beauty as for her acting skills . Now of course , his wife has the upper hand .
At times he forgets his address and telephone number. At such times , one of my colleagues puts him in a taxi, gives him the taxi fare , tells the driver his address and then calls up his house an hour later to make sure he has reached safely.
Last week he had to be driven home because he was disoriented , dishevelled , his clothes spattered with undefinable stains , a long , bloody cut on his arm, which has to be dressed by the office compounder , and which ,he said, his wife had inflicted because there was no money. Not very true because he lives in one of the posher areas and has a well run household.
Sometimes he talks about my father whom he knew. At times his voice , a refined low baritone becomes tremulous and he switches to calling me "madam"and has to be discouraged from doing so, gently and firmly.
Difficult to believe that this was a man once hated and feared by officers and workmen alike , responsible for closing down and dismantling a flourishing tin plant over a short weekend ,closing down the largest oil depot and the aviation stations in the east , because the foreign company he worked for , wanted to sell off its assets systematically ; floating a VRS scheme and finalising the list of employees who would have to opt for the scheme - and rendering jobless almost 500 personnel within a span of 2 months .
As a reward for carrying out his assignments he was sent for a long holiday to England so that the unions could purge him out of their systems .On return he resigned and joined elsewhere - the only safe option for him at that time
When he pulls himself straight and proudly says he was a covenanted officer in a British company , it is easy to see that he was once a handsome man - the bone structure, the hair, the blue eyes and the haughty patrician Brahmin aristocratic looks . It is easy to imagine him with his wife , the two daughters in identical white dresses with blue sashes , the lazy appreciative glances at the attractive women in office and the club , a courteous escort , a loving provider to his family, a passionate lover to the stormy mistress on the side .
At over eighty now , he should be on a verandah , sitting in an easy chair reading the papers or dozing off comfortably, basking in the company of his wife , his children and grandchildren but life it would seen has different plans for him.