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Trust, Belief & Then

"So, you don't believe in God?"
"Nopes! I believe in people." Riya was responding to her female colleague's question.
"Hmmm. I'll tell you. From my experience, you don't lose out by believing in God, but believing in people... thats different. It isn't nice always."
"Really? My experience tells me otherwise."

He was looking at her. He looked at the clock to find the perfect time. All the three needles fusing into one. Twelve Noon. 'Coincidence?' He looked around, and found everybody working. A few were on the phone. Some faces had smiles on them. Some were stern. But everybody was working. A deadline to meet in three days. And here, in the next cubicle, the debate of atheism vs theism. What a loss of productivity? He cursed himself, at the hypocrisy he was exhibiting. He looked at Pandu. Pandu was looking at him. They exchanged glances, and nodded at each other. Pandu looked tired. He remembered that both of them had arrived early for the days work, and were yet have their break fast. He then observed Pandu's signal for food. He nodded.

He convinced himself that he is not a hypocrite, and raised to have his break fast, with Pandu. They went out together to the lift without a word being exchanged. As the door closed, he observed Pandu staring at her. He was smiling at Pandu. Pandu smiled back.

"Whats the progress?"
Pandu chuckled, and after a moments hesitation "None."
"Oh? She's your type, man. One atheist with another atheist. You two should gel well. Why don't you propose her?"
"Its been only five six months since we started talking properly. I haven't got the confidence to go and propose her."
"She's into you, man. The whole office knows."
"No, Fahman, she's not that into me. I can sense it. And its also not about what she does to me. Its about what she really is. She's definitely not into me, the way it should be."
"Mmmm... I think otherwise. I just wish that you guys get along really well. You two would make a good couple."
"Good couple? You mean in terms of looks. Matching of height, complexion, and so on?"
"Nopes. Meeting of minds. Like you are an atheist. So is she. You have a liking for all things red. She too likes things in red. You have an ambition of settling abroad, preferably in UK. She has openly declared many times over her liking for London and some Menchester or Manchester. Both of you love movies."
"Oh... You mean to say these are enough. I would like to believe so, but I know, these aren't what really counts. I am a bit reserved type, whereas she talks all along non stop. Isn't there a difference?"
"Thats another proof! Thats the sign of perfect match! She talks you listen. Both of you talk, you end up fighting."
"Experience, eh? Can't argue with that." They had their delayed brunch, and walked back to the lift, discussing their work, and scheduling their weekend activity, which was once again at office. For the third time this month.

The lift stopped at fourth floor, and both of them walked towards their cubicle. Pandu was talking something. They could hear her voice continuing on the belief in god part. Suddenly she stopped and stood up, signalling hi to Fahman and looking at Pandu. Fahman reciprocated, and prodded Pandu to say hi. She came forward, and asked Fahman. "Can I borrow some money from you? I forgot my purse today."
"Sure." He was taking out his purse slowly, expecting Pandu to take his. He fiddled the currency notes in the wallet, raising his head, signalling how much. He took out a 500 Rupee note.
"Just Rs.300."
"Oh... I don't have any change. You take this. Not an issue."
"Thanks." She turned to her friend and yelled at her. "See. This is what I meant. Believe." She turned to him, looking at Pandu and said "I  will return it tomorrow."
"With interest, right?" Pandu asked. She smiled at him and went to her desk.

Pandu turned smiling, to find Fahman staring at him. He walked to Pandu, and asked "So, you don't have any confidence? She is not 'that' into you? And I should believe these bollocks, eh? She wanted to borrow it from you. Didn't you see it. I was just an excuse to talk to you. Trust me. I know it."
"Trust you? May be. Truth is, I am not that into her."
"Why? Mmmm... Tell me this. She is among the prettiest of girls in this office. May be 'the' most beautiful as well. Still you didn't go out and propose, why?"
"Come man, Pandu, I am in a relationship."
"Nopes. You were not in a relationship when you joined, or when you saw her. Your relationship happened much later. You have yourself said couple of times about how beautiful she is." 
He knew Pandu. You can't lie to him. After all he is among his best friends. "I don't know. Something stopped me. I was sure this won't work."
"The same here. Something stops me."
"What stopped you?"
"I don't know.."
"Inspite of her alluring beauty, may be you felt threatened. Her assertiveness can be a turn off at times. She carries an aura of being super strong mentally. In a way, she does intimidate many people. May be you felt something like this."
He was staring at Pandu. "Come on man! Don't be so blunt. Its offending, and makes one feel weak." Fahman was looking at her. Then at the floor, noticing Pandu's latest shoes, they had bought together couple of weeks back. He raised his head. Looked into Pandu's eyes, and said "Its true."
"What is also true is that, you are more happy with Sunaina, who doesn't boss over anybody. Very friendly. Almost men like friendly. And you made a wise choice."
"May be. But you are diverting the issue. What stops you from going and proposing to Riya?"
"Riya? I do feel threatened as well. But most importantly, it won't work in the long run ..... Don't you ask me how or why or ask me to explain. I think she is a fake."
Fahman stared at him puzzled. Pandu had his index finger on his mouth.

Two Days Later:
Fahman looked at his watch. 7.30 AM. He was early to the office, as usual. As the lift opened, and he walked into his cubicle, Pandu was there to welcome him.
Pandu acknowledged. "Breakfast over?"
"Not yet."
"Lets have then. Was waiting for you."
They went out, and were back in thirty minutes. They were yet to have any company.

A couple of hours later, as Pandu had just left for a cup of coffee, she entered the office. Fahman observed her looking for Pandu. A few seconds later, Pandu was visible. He was carrying two cups. Fahman looked at his direction. Pandu's eyes were on Riya for a moment. They then moved back to Fahman. He smiled and entered their cubicle.
"Have they changed the machine?"
"The coffee tastes different."
"Yeah. Was wondering what was different. Its the same machine though. May be some different coffee seeds."
"Or milk powder."
"Or may be what we are drinking is tea." They laughed loudly. Bit too loudly, inviting  attention from others in the floor. A few peeped in, a few wanted to know what was the celebration about.

"Is everything alright?" It was Riya.
"Yeah." Pandu had responded. "Were just talking some funny thrash."
"Oh... You guys won't share that fun with all of us, as usual?"
"Nothing to share and all. It wasn't that funny."
"Mmm...." She was staring at Pandu for a moment. Then suddenly turned said "Hi Fahman"
"Hi. Thought you had forgotten me." He said, looking at Pandu sideways.
"Am sorry." She went back to her cubicle.

"Why are you smiling at me?"
"When you said about being ignored or forgotten, I thought you were referring to your money."
"What money?"
"You gave her couple of days back."
"Oh.. Thats just five hundred bucks."
"Yeah. Just five hundred. But she hasn't yet returned that yet."

By around noon, Riya, Fahman, Pandu and a few other employees were walking together to the coffee machine. Suddenly, she rushed back to her desk, and fetched her purse. They were near the coffee machine, with Pandu operating the machine for all of them.
"Am sorry, Fahman. I forgot totally." She was opening her purse. Fahman looked at Pandu smilingly. He didn't smile back.
"Its alright. Why this urgency. You can give it whenever you want."
"I prefer being debt free." She said, looking at Pandu.
"Oh.. Go ahead then."
"Oh... No change..." She took a thousand rupee note, out of her purse. Fahman was thinking about taking his purse to extract a five hundred, and moved his hands to his wallet. "Many thanks Fahman." She said extending the thousand rupee note to Fahman. He raised his hands to receive her just that she withdrew it back. Fahman looked at the currency note going back by a few inches. "You have change, right?"
He didn't take his wallet out, just rubbed his palms over the bulge of his wallet. "No.... I don't have." He responded to her, looking at Pandu, who was laughing silently, and giving away the coffee cups to everybody. She kept her money back, to collect the coffee.
"Take this coffee." Pandu offered Fahman. "It will help in digestion."
Fahman nodded slowly smiling. He understood what Pandu said.


Ketan said…

You've written the story beautifully. Perhaps, I could best identify with Pandu. But I'm not convinced that I could understand the last paragraph.

Riya had borrowed Rs. 500 from Fahman only to prove to her friend the goodness of human beings. Fahman had readily given her that amount, and in fact had forgotten about it, but when Riya was to trust him with loaning exactly the same amount, she did not trust him enough and withdrew her hand. Is that what you had wanted the reader to notice?

That though, she had been asserting that she believed in the (goodness of) human beings, she was being a 'fake' in saying that as was demonstrated by her mistrust of someone who had trusted her so easily. Moreover, despite her stating that she liked to be "debt free", she did not give him the Rs. 1000 note, when she could have actually become debt free by giving it anyway. This was the 'micro' of the story.

But there was a story 'happening' at another level - the superior understanding of Pandu of the human nature. His confident conviction that Riya was not the right person for him despite her being an atheist and the most beautiful lady in the office. His restraint and composure were exemplary and thus that was the 'heroic' you wanted to put forth through the story. Are you that Pandu? :) Really curious!

Though, my understanding of the story is still provisional as long as you don't set your seal on it, I couldn't understand why did you use the term 'hypocrite' in context of their debating on belief in God, is it because, they were supposed to work instead of debate at that time?

There were a couple of typos:

1. "thats a different"
2. "He rised his hands"

I must congratulate you. This story had a very intricate plot, though with very simple, almost day-to-day events. Really a supreme effort!

G Saimukundhan said…
Hi Ketan,

Honestly, I didn't want or expect the reader to notice anything. That Rs.500 wasn't a coincidence though. I wanted it that way to have it on even terms between Fahman and Riya.
To ensure that she has her doubts trusting Fahman for the same amount which he had lent her, without worrying if she would return or not.

I don't know if it was the micro of the story. I wanted to write something based on deceit, betrayal and hypocrisy. At a level most of us experience.

Portrayal of Pandu as a person with a good understanding of human nature was as important as portrayal of Fahman as a honest man. Honest to his emotions. It was also an ode to good friendship. That openness and trust.

In fact, I was deliberating for quite sometime whether to swap the character / personalities of Fahman and Pandu. I wrote and rewrote and kept on reversing their personalities (Fahman to posses that superior understanding, advising Pandu not to go behind Riya). Finally settled on this.

And I am definitely not that Pandu. Though the incident (the final exchange between Fahman and Riya) is one among many miseries experienced by a very close friend of mine. His experience was the seed on which I had built a small narrative. His character I had split into Fahman and Pandu. If Pandu was 'heroic', it wasn't intended.

Was the use of word "hypocrite" inappropriate? I don't know. Since Fahman was complaining with self that people are not working, when there is a lot to be done. At the same time, he was complaining without working. A way of mental loitering / meandering. I thought that should make him feel a bit guilty, and hypocritic. To highlight his honesty as well.

And the narrative on Fahman's thought on the utility of discussion on Atheism vs Theism was more of my view than Fahman's. Thought of incorporating some other topic, then decided on this.

And many thanks for pointing out the typo. As I read and reread it couple of times, I realized how lacking the narrative is in literary quality. Not that I worry too much, but would like it better scripted.

And many thanks for your detailed comment.


G Saimukundhan
G Saimukundhan said…

Forgot to add. The last para was meant to convey Fahman's acknowledgement that Pandu was correct in his assessment, and that Fahman should be prepared for such disappointments.

I tried using coffee as a prelude to Pandu's communication to Fahman on human frailties.


G Saimukundhan
shenbagam said…
A very interesting narrative, as ketan said,something revolving around our day-to-day lives. But what was this thing about both men being uncomfortable with a confident ("assertive"!)woman? I wish I could really trigger a debate on why men generally feel intimidated by women who exude confidence, even if it means digressing a bit from the main topic.
You know GS, once you break the initial ice with such women, they can be a great asset, at home and work. They know when to assert and when to leave you alone. They respect others for what they are. Most important, they are not jealous or petty because they are supremely confident of themselves (at least they are too proud to acknowledge that someone can make them jealous). And here lies the contradiction. A woman who is really accomplished and confident will never resort to such petty behaviour as Riya. No wonder she turned out to be a fake.
G Saimukundhan said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
G Saimukundhan said…
Hi Shenbagam

Sad but true. Men love dominating. And what better way to show off this attitude than enforcing it on the perceived weaker sex? And when they know that this attitude wouldn't wash with all women, they deride her to dent her confidence or avoid her to avoid future confrontation.

What is also true is that men in general find women who are coy more repulsive and irritable, than a confident woman. I am generalizing based on what I have seen, experienced and heard from people around me.

Actually it isn't just about men. It is about human nature to dominate anybody who appears weak, real or perceived. It isn't just restricted to men trying to dominate over women, it applies to people in general, including women.

A school teacher trying to avoid a very assertive student, or a boss trying not to push too much a confident looking / sounding employee. Even among friends there is always one, who is pushed around by every other person. So is the case among relatives as well.

I highlighted that fear (genuine or baseless), to just show that each and every central character is frail in one way or the other.

However, would love to see a complete and comprehensive post / comment on the same from you or anybody for that matter, on that topic. I remember reading something on this in a book authored by Alan and Barbara Pease.

But I think, accomplishments (as in doing something superlatively) has got nothing to do with petty behaviour / acts. Like some famed tennis stars stealing the Wimbledon towel.


G Saimukundhan
shenbagam said…
True. Accomplishments have nothing to do with behaviour. In fact, it is rightly said the bigger the man, the smaller his mind. But the context in which I meant it was: a woman who is assertive and knows what she wants (that too a working woman) will not generally behave the way Riya did. She was indeed a fake.
A full-fledged blog on the subject of women (assertive ones at that), well,I'd love it. But I'm not a regular blogger, I prefer responding to posts.
I entirely agree that people are generally uncomfortable with those who appear strong mentally. But I have also noticed that men who don't really grumble about the tantrums of their male bosses ('he's had a bad day,' 'bosses are like that everywhere')can't take half the heat from women bosses who occupy the same post ('women should never be given power, they can't handle it' is the typical refrain). A man finds it difficult to accept a woman's suggestions and views - that she is right. When the same suggestion comes from a man, he's ok with it.
This inherent contradiction is what needs to change. Youngsters (particularly men) need to undrestand that there are the assertive - men and women - and there are the not-so-assertive - men and women. There is no such thing as masculine quality and feminine quality. There are only human qualities. It is we who categorise them to suit our stereotypical thinking. It is all about how much faith a person has in himself/herself and how much he or she is willing to accommodate. An assertive, confident person is more accommodative, BTW. Can handle any situation without being rattled.
Last, I'm glad you have reinforced what all (or many of us 'assertive' women)have known all along. Men can't stand the so-called coy and shy women for long. They see through them or just get bored with them. U see, they have no time for women who cannot make up their minds. They move on to find those who know what they want. It is practical and economical, you know.
Bye for now.
Sundar Raman said…
Very straight....Hw close fahman and riya may be!!!! The inherent way of doing things by a girl (RIYA here) proved...

Perfect observation from Ketan, Pandu is the real silent hero!! just like bharatha from ramayana
G Saimukundhan said…
@ Sundar

Pandu becoming hero was "unintended". I didn't want to portray anybody as a hero. It was just an event and a quality that is prevalent in all men and women, atleast most of them. A kind of ideologies for convenience - adhering to them when required, breaking them when not required.


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