(Book 1: Lights, Captura, Action)
Ravi Thakur walked through the market streets in a daze, eyes gazing blankly into the distance. He tried in vain to make some sense of what had happened.
All my money… my documents… twenty-five years of my life…. All of it—gone!
In one unfortunate moment, the best day of his life had turned into the worst, ever. Only a couple hours ago, he had happily moved out of his hostel, ready for the journey back to his hometown. Now, he was left with no money, no identification, no change of clothes and no foreseeable way back home. He felt helpless, not sure where to go or what to do.
His first thought was to approach the police. But there was no saying if and when the culprit would be caught. What was he to do till then?
He considered posting a letter home, but any assistance would surely take days to arrive. Where would he spend the nights till then? What would he eat?
And as if that wasn’t enough, he worried about the blow that this turn of events would deal to his dreams. His grand ambition could end up unfulfilled. In fact, the shock of the situation had still to sink in entirely. Unrealised consequences threatened to drown him at any moment, like wild floodwater held back by a rusty door.
Ravi shook his head, as though denial could undo the disaster. With a little bit of something that passed for courage, he reasoned, All is not lost! I can still write, can’t I?
Even in his own mind, it sounded weak. Still, retrieving a ballpoint from the breast-pocket of his suit, he continued, As long as I have a pen, and I can find some paper to write on, I might be able to make something work. I might just get through this…
Looking around the street, he spotted some pamphlets littered in a corner and managed a brief smile. I might get through this, indeed!
Not wasting another moment, he ran to pick up the pages. And then, as he scanned the text on one of them, a glint of hope presented itself at last. The parchment turned out to be an advertisement for a job offer:
We require applicants with excellent command over the language, in both technical and creative capacities.
Tasks will involve writing promotional content as well as engaging narratives.
If you think you’re up to it, walk into an interview at PHANTASY PUBLISHING!
And that was that. An hour later, Ravi found himself at the entrance of Phantasy Publishing, a company that occupied an entire skyscraper. His determination taking a boost, Ravi quickly signed up for an interview at the reception, then proceeded to the waiting queue. It took close to two hours before his turn came up at last.
This is it, he told himself, walking to the interviewer’s cabin. This is it!
He thrust open the cabin door, storming in with purpose, as planned. Slamming his hands down on the interviewer’s desk, he proudly claimed, ‘I am the best person for this job!’
The interviewer had not batted an eye. Her raised eyebrows, though, told Ravi that he had her attention.
‘Really?’ she responded. Her tone was playful, but her voice contained an unmistakable hint of authority.
In fact, authority was stamped all about her: she sat upright on a comfortably large office chair, her files neatly arranged on the desk; a cup of half-finished coffee rested immediately before her, its handle at precisely ninety-degrees; her waist-length auburn hair was untied but flowed in neat waves behind her; and a low-cut, violet top highlighted her female form well, without compromising on etiquette.
‘Let me guess,’ she said, ‘next come the claims of notable degrees you’ve earned? I’ll warn you. Three people already have tried today. It didn’t work for them, and it most certainly is not going to help you.’
‘The thing is, I might have tried that,’ Ravi said, ‘but I can’t… You see, I was robbed of all my belongings today, just as I was leaving town. I’m literally left with no certificates, no proof, nothing; not even any money. But believe me, I am more than qualified for the post, and I really need this job. You can test me if you’d like. Please!’
‘Ah, so you’ve got some tactics from the “tragedy” camp as well? Interesting!’ She grew suspiciously excited before dropping the act. ‘Just kidding. Please show yourself out.’
‘NO!’ Ravi yelled, surprising even himself.
‘Excuse me?’ the interviewer frowned. In a louder voice, she called out, ‘Guard! Get this man out of here!’
‘Wait!’ Ravi commanded, but a little too late. The door flew open behind him and a uniformed security guard strode in.
Before he could be denied the opportunity, Ravi pulled out a soiled piece of paper from under his coat, flinging it at the interviewer’s otherwise neatly arranged desk. ‘Read this once, then tell me I’m not up for the job, I dare you!’
‘What’s this?’ the interviewer frowned at the dirty slip. ‘This looks like our pamphlet. I’m tired of your jokes, Mr. Thakur.’
‘Flip it over,’ said Ravi coolly, even as the guard started to drag him away, having grabbed him by the collar. ‘Go on, flip it!’
She picked up the paper, touching as little of it as she could manage, and turned it over to glance at the other side. Still frowning, she murmured, ‘Quite plain…’
Meanwhile, the guard yanked harder, and Ravi’s efforts to fight back bore no fruit. He was almost out of the room by now.
‘So plain… so simple!’ laughed the interviewer.
Ravi’s face broke into a grin.
‘Let him go,’ the interviewer said, waving to the guard. The man obeyed, leaving the room without a word. Ravi straightened up and adjusted his suit.
‘Mr. Thakur,’ the interviewer said, not a hint of apology in her voice. ‘I’ve had many an arrogant boy in here before, but never one with such good reason. This… this is genius!’
She held up the paper as though it were a masterpiece at an art exhibition. ‘You’ve written it better than we had!’
Scrawled on the back of the pamphlet, in Ravi’s handwriting, was the following:
ATTENTION ASPIRING WORDSMITHS
If a flair for engagement and a knack for description you have, a dream opportunity at PHANTASY PUBLISHING you may grab!
(Illustration of a writer brandishing a pen with confidence.)
Walk in for an interview today!
‘I like you, boy!’ the interviewer proclaimed. She rose from her chair, revealing a high-waisted, black pencil-skirt. Her eyes seemed to be studying him, considering him, perhaps even scheming something.
The next moment, her unfriendly avatar fell apart completely. Bending over the desk, she playfully crawled toward him. A whiff of her perfume caught Ravi’s nose while he made an effort to keep his eyes above her neckline.
The interviewer’s face came uncomfortably close to his, before she softly said, ‘I do have some conditions, though, before I hire you. I wonder, will you be up for them?’
Ravi’s face had turned red and the tip of his ears seemed to be burning. He felt like he could accept any conditions she had for him just then.