It was my first job and my first stint in Delhi, alone, away from my family. What was it to stay alone was a new experience. During the job induction, it was made crystal clear to us to refrain from taking leave for the first six months. My heart fluttered, mind toppled and eyes welled up. The following month was Diwali and the thought of being alone that day struck me like a thunderbolt. I did not even know how to conduct a full-fledged puja on such occasions, let alone celebrating it with people. Plus I had no friends In Delhi who would accompany me or ask me to be a part of their family on Diwali. After all, Diwali in India was a family celebration. The HR manager continued to enlighten us with the company policies while I swallowed the lump in my throat and pretended to be normal.
Days passed by and I breezed through my training period. One part of me was excited and eager to explore a new city, while the other part of me missed my family. Every day either of my parents would call me asking me if I was okay, had my meals on time, attentive to my job or not and a never ending list. Indian families are emotionally bonded and I understood the value of the bond then.
“I have made sweets & namkeen, but I don’t feel happy without you. I wish you had an off on Diwali” my mom said painfully one day over the phone. I felt helpless as my job did not allow me to take leave for the next 6 months. My training batch mates discussed shopping, sweets and crackers, while I had no idea where and with whom to go for shopping. I stopped thinking about festival and tried to concentrate on my job.
Days approached quickly with Diwali being just three days away. Within a month of joining, I cleared training and waited for the "on the job training", popularly called OJT, where-in we would learn while working with mentors. My mentor David, half French half Indian, guided me. “All well?” he asked as he noticed me feeling low one day.
“Ya all well, just missing my family. Won’t be with them during Diwali for the first time,” I replied as I was almost on the verge of crying.
“Oh Diwali! Yes I have heard about this festival of lights. My mother often told me about it when I was young. Why don’t you go home then?” David asked me.
“Trainees are not eligible to take leave on Diwali David. I joined a month ago,” I replied in the most unenthusiastic voice.
“Chill! Who will mentor you when your mentor is not present?” he winked.
I squinted my eyes at his face.
“Arey baba, go home. I am taking off for 3 days. No company will penalize you when you take leave. They would only deduct your salary. Choice is yours.” He resume to tap the laptop keyboard.
I could not sleep the whole night. David’s words kept ringing in my ears. I got up in the middle of the night to shuffle my luggage. Next day I reached office with a small bag stuffed with clothes. David smiled at me and gave a thumbs up. I did not inform my parents about this little surprise. I left from office in the evening, bought a box of sweets on the way and boarded a bus from Interstate Bus Terminal for my home-town.
I reached my hometown on the morning of Diwali. As I rang the doorbell, a stream of thoughts choked me. I had actually rebelled in my first job! I had followed my heart to see that smile on my parents face. I braved the harsh company policies to be with my family on Diwali. I gave a damn to my job. Special thanks to David to guide me on the HR policy know-hows.
I snuggled in mom’s warm embrace as she sobbed with happiness. A box of sweets with my first salary, a wonderful surprise on Diwali and moments of joys. It was magic. I still remember that sweet day of the year 2003.