December 2006 – I was attending my first-ever experience of the great Indian wedding tamasha. The eldest cousin was getting hitched and everyone in the family was going berserk. While the assortment of aunties and uncles squabbled over the menu and decorations, the cousins sat up every night to dig out the most appropriate songs for the sangeet. My interest kind of fizzled out after we had set a medley in place. I didn’t care much about the actual dance moves. I was itching to get back to work.
The mother expressed dismay, “I think you should go for the practice. It will be a lot of fun.”
“I’m sure it will be. But I don’t think that’s where I want to be. At present I am where I want to be.”
I have no idea how I uttered those words but I did. I was at work, coordinating the logistics for a book launch. There was a lot to be done and I could have left it to someone else. But that thought never crossed my mind coz I was too busy enjoying myself.
It was love-affair that began with the black-and-white setup at Mahalaxmi. That place was heaven. One casual trip to a bookstore and I decided that I’d want to work here someday. It was always a distant thought. Never consciously acted upon it until the father insisted I go out and get a job once I was done with college. Crossword was the first thought and I never looked beyond.
One casual phone-call to the reception and the security guard transferred me to HR (Yes, it was that simple a few years ago). She asked me to come in for an interview the next day. I went in wearing three-fourths and a t-shirt and we had a nice casual chat. An hour later, I left with the knowledge that I was a trainee at Crossword. An unparalleled high it was.
What began as a six-month training period extended to 15 joyful months. Office was a 15-minute walk away from home and I could read any book off the shelf. I took my time adjusting to the “boss.” There were days I came home and only ranted about her but eventually we became friends. The mother always said that I would thank her someday. Today, I am grateful for those multiple email drafts, constant follow-up messages and reworked chunks of copy.
It was a wonderful feeling when the security guards at each store began to recognize me; when the in-store staff kept aside a book they knew I’d been wanting for a while; when the back-office guard let me slip in and out on a busy day without checking my bag; when an author wrote to say thank you.
Today I cannot step into a Crossword without looking at it through the lens of longing and nostalgia. It was the perfect first job.