The ‘performance based’ promotion list arrived in stealth from ‘Head Office’ yesterday. One more time, my friend Austin had missed making it to the managerial cadres. Abe had bypassed him.
That evening, Abe said he would stay back in office a little longer as he had some urgent work. I felt that Abe did that deliberately so that I could be alone with Austin. On the way home, as we travelled together in a troubled, steely, cold, metro train, I tried to console Austin. “Do not worry”, I said, “after all, in a long career, a promotion is a small matter. What difference does it make to you what designation you have and then, monetarily there is going to be only a marginal difference. In these days of recession, saving a job is important.” I attempted to assuage his feelings. There was pregnant silence, which made me realize that my statement was insensate to the situation.
After a while, he responded, in hushed, hurt tones, hardly heard above the inapt incongruence of the metro. “It makes little difference to me, but I have not had any good news for my family for quite some time. For their sake, it would have been great to be promoted at least once. I have had nothing to celebrate for so many years now”. I knew what worried him: Abe stayed across the street. Comparisons!
When we alighted from the metro, I saw his hunched shoulders and wished the train ride had never ended; that would have avoided going to Austin’s home. I decided to walk down with Austin even if it meant a longer route. It was unfair to leave him alone in this rather sad state; it mattered little if I went home a trifling late.
“How do I break it to my family?” he asked, as he was about to ring the bell. I did not know how to respond.
Austin’s eight year old son rushed out from somewhere as the door opened. The kid looked crestfallen as he hugged Austin and murmured, “Daddy, Neil did not play with me; they are going out for dinner. He says his dad has become a manager. I told him we will also go out for dinner.” Austin’s three year old pony tailed daughter smiled as she tried to nudge her brother out for a warmer hug.
I waited to catch any variations in Mrs Austin’s voice as she announced the final decision , “We shall go out for dinner tomorrow. Today Dad and you will play scrabble”. There were no disappointing variations, which I noticed in that voice.
That evening as I trudged my way to my humble abode, I was grateful that God made families before He made offices.