Getting leave for a couple of days was a big problem in the company. Mr. Tyagi, the CEO, never took vacations, and he always thought his subordinates never needed any. If you had something a bit important, like passing away of a parent, or getting married, he might admit that the absence of a day might not be too much out of order, but visiting a temple, that too for two whole days! That was something Mr Tyagi would never come to terms with.
And that too for Sreejith Raghuram!. His point man who handled some crucial projects. It was an unfailingly regular affaire in the mid year, which spanned more than a week. It would start with Sreejith submitting a written request for leave, for his annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala. The company worked in a bit of a queer way. Most of the HR activities happened electronically, but the old paper forms were still available. This was for the convenience of the non computer enabled staff like drivers and security staff. Net savy higher ups never used the paper system, but for reasons best known to himself, Sreejith preferred to use the age old form to do this particular request. The whole company knows about this event. While some looked forward to the spectacle, others, especially the poor souls who happened to be in the crossfire, dreaded it. However, all of them knew that Sreejith almost always won at the end.
He modestly put it to be the blessing of Lord Ayyappa.
Breeze Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Was a small company dealing with high technology projects. It was originally founded by a group of technocrats, ex DRDO. It was founded on the hope that a private enterprise may offer the much needed dynamism for the projects that they could sub-contract from DRDO. The endeavor was even encouraged by some of the top honchos in DRDO, but soon they realized that running the business is far tougher than running the projects. At least while under DRDO, they got paid on time. Here, they have to run around for each invoice to get paid.
As they almost ran it down to the floor, a conglomerate, already operating in the area of defense contracts, bought them off cheaply, and installed Mr. Shekhar Tyagi, a seasoned technocrat businessman, as the CEO. Three of the original founders left, while the fourth one, the best in technology, and worst in ambition, stuck on as the CTO of the company.
Then Mr. Tyagi did the ultimate sacrilege. He brought in the untouchable civilian business. He divided the company into two divisions. One continued to serve the defense projects, primarily DRDO, but also to the upcoming private sector defense players. The other group was dedicated to non defense projects. The CTO, and the team hailing from the original setup hated the decision, but the business acumen of Mr. Tyagi rode supreme. Of course, he had the backing of the top management. Eventually, Mr. Tyagi was proven right, as the civilian group, which was the unofficial moniker of contempt vested by the defense fans, started bringing in the moolah.
Sreejith Raghuram was hired directly into the civilian group as project leader. He was an expert in security systems, but being a bit of a non conformist, he had made his life a bit too hot at his first place of employment. Of course, he never admitted to that, and put the blame on 'bloody Bangalore traffic' to be the reason for moving. Mr. Tyagi's unfailing eye to spot talent had its share in the decision to hire Sreejith, and place him in the civilian group. It was the defense projects that originally attracted him to Breeze, but when Mr. Tyagi gave him some details on the projects on each side, he decided to take the job as offered. Only that the smart maverick never ventured if the big man had, in fact, been a bit disingenuous in that presentation.
Mr. Tyagi never knew, but the real factor that actually sealed the deal was something he had originally fought tooth and nails, and lost miserably. It was the lunch menu in the cafeteria. Sreejith got bowled over by something he terribly missed at Bangalore.
The beef fry!. In all its glory, adorned by the coconut flakes and crisp curry leaves, supported by the onion slivers fried in oil.
Saumya, his sister, laughed so much when he explained why he is taking the job, that her ageing mother-in-law took the trouble to raise the volume of her chanting as a warning. Parvati Amma, mother of Vijay, and the matriarch of that family, ran a strict regime in that house. Poor Saumya had to run to the kitchen to suppress the laughter. When she could talk again, she seriously advised Sreejith not to mention that again, at least to the old lady. Parvati Amma was really fond of Sreejith and considered him a good boy, and that good image would be shattered if she knew that he ate beef.
And in the evening it left the old lady really perplexed, and a bit annoyed, when he saw that her son too, was laughing rolling on the sofa when he came back from work. She muttered something about the whole world being gone lunatic or something to that effect, and went back to reading narayaneeyam* for the millionth time.
Within a month, Sreejith reluctantly moved in with his sister. He almost had convinced Vijay with some effort, but when it came to the old matriarch Parvati Amma, he was helpless. He held the mother-in-law of his only sister in high esteem, as she kind of filled the void of his own mother being passed away. Soon enough, the old lady started combing her ancient family tree to find a suitable girl for the 'nice boy who is my bandhu'.
Sreejith had no choice there, so he just ignored the minor irritant. He used his wonderful knack of diverting the conversation to something the old lady liked, like the wonders done by Chattambi Swamy@. Once in that groove, the poor lady would forget all about what she wanted to say, and go on with the new thread enthusiastically. He liked his work and workplace, especially the sea breeze from which the name of the company originated. He liked the free food there. He liked living at the ancient, but beautifully restored house.
He would never admit it, but he even started liking his sister's cooking. He hadn't forgotten her attempts of disastrous consequences while they were younger. It should be hereditary, he told himself. There is no other explanation.
Of course, they didn't eat meat or fish at home, but what else are those world famous thattu kadas for?