Naina was livid!

She was extra careful about shutting the door quietly behind her as she came out of her boss’ cabin. She was afraid she might bang the door hard enough to splinter it to pieces.

“Of all the aggravating people!” she fumed to herself with a clenched jaw and smouldering eyes. What on earth was his problem? There was no pleasing him! No matter what you did, he could always be trusted to shoot holes in it.

“Damn and double damn!” She burst into her cubicle and flopped vengefully into her chair.

As she sat simmering with a self-righteous sense of injury, the entire issue replayed in maddening technicolour in her mind.

At the eleventh hour, Naina had been bull-dozed into attending a family wedding she had no wish to attend. She had appraised her boss Aniket of the entire situation and also told him that she was still trying her best to wriggle out of it. He asked her to call and let him know if she has to go. She promised to do that.

She couldn’t wriggle out of it and was compelled to go. Before leaving home to catch her flight, she called up Aniket. His handphone was switched off. When she called his home landline number an old man received the call. It was obvious that he was rather hard of hearing. He told Naina that he was the family’s caretaker. Apparently, Aniket had gone out with his entire family and could not be reached.

Repeating herself many times, Naina explained the message she wanted the old man to convey to Aniket. She asked him to repeat it to her. Finally, sensing his peeve, she rang off. She would have preferred to have spoken to Aniket personally, but she was sure the old man would convey the message. Even if he did nothing but tell Aniket she had called, it would be enough. Aniket would be able to guess why she had called. With an easy mind on that issue, Naina boarded her flight and mentally prepared herself for a joyless family excursion.

She had returned late the night before, utterly depleted from a trip worse than she had expected. Not only was it terribly hot, but for two days she had had to live deep in the interiors with no amenities. The worst of it was that she was completely cut off from the world. There was no mobile connectivity at all!

The moment she had stepped into the office this morning, she knew there was something wrong. Her team-mates looked at her pityingly. To make matters worse, her cubicle neighbour Rajiv had drawn his extended thumb around his throat indicating a beheading. Utterly confused, she was about to ask him what was wrong when the intercom on her table buzzed. It was Aniket, asking her to come to his cabin immediately. Still not suspecting anything, she picked up her diary and went.

The reception she got was the biggest slap in the face she had ever got. For fifteen minutes she was berated for being irresponsible and casual towards her work. Of all the things Aniket could have said, that hurt her the most. She was proud of her dedication, sincerity and sense of accountability to her job and her team. To be accused of being the opposite was intolerable to her. Her brain shut down and she stood mute, fighting tears that threatened to breach her strict sense of office decorum. By the time she stumbled out of his cabin, however, her shocked tearfulness had given way to a towering temper.

“Hey, pretty lady!” said a voice. She looked up to find Rajiv’s familiar and friendly face. Then the dam broke.

Between sobs, she narrated the entire story to Rajiv. Rajiv was surprised.

“Are you saying you called and left a message for him at home?! He told everyone that he’d asked you to let him know if you were leaving but you had disregarded his request and scooted off!”

“You know I would never do that Rajiv! You know how particular I am about keeping people in the loop and keeping my communications clear and unambiguous. How could Aniket accuse me of lack of accountability?! I have no option but to put up my papers now. I can’t work with someone so unreasonable!” Her voice rose a little in righteous anger.

“Naina, I understand your anger. It was wrong of Aniket to jump to conclusions. But to resign?! You’ve always loved this place! Don’t take a hasty decision you might later regret!”

“But what can I do Rajiv? Aniket has undermined my sincerity and dedication. You know I am very serious about my work. To be accused of being casual is not something I can take. Where is the trust I deserved? You’ve known me for over four years, have I ever done anything in this time to give you the impression that I am not responsible?!”

“No, you haven’t Naina. You’ve always been very accountable not only to your superiors but also to your subordinates and peers.”

“I can’t work in an atmosphere of such distrust Rajiv, surely you can see that? It is true that I love working here. It is also true that I am going to miss all of you. So far away from home, you guys have been the only family I’ve had. Aniket should have asked me where I was. Surely I deserved a chance to explain? Why on earth did he not call me?”

“He called you Naina; we all did. But we never could get through to you. Later your phone was switched off.”

“Oh damn! I forgot that!” Naina fell silent, looking woebegone. She realized the reason for Aniket’s anger. Not being able to connect with her, and never suspecting that she was going to a place where there was no connectivity, must have angered him. To add to it, her phone was later switched off! Naturally, he assumed she had disappeared without a word!

“Rajiv, I’ve had such a rotten time! I went to this horrid village in the back of the beyond where I was totally cut off. To make matters worse, I’d forgotten to take my mobile charger with me. If I’d known I’d get into so much trouble, I’d have called Aniket very half an hour from a pay phone. Or I’d have killed someone. Or DONE something..!” Naina was tearing up again.

“I think you must go and talk to Aniket again. Tell him about your call and the old man to whom you conveyed the message. It looks like the old man not only forgot to deliver the message but didn’t even tell him you called. In the absence of a message, naturally, Aniket would be angry and upset. Things got aggravated because he couldn’t talk to you.

“As for questioning your accountability, don’t take it to heart. I know he thinks very highly of you. It was probably his anger talking today. Moreover, when we don’t expect some to be irresponsible, we get far more annoyed with them than with someone who constantly lets us down. Come now, dry your tears and have some water. Resigning from the job is not a solution. Go talk to him. Shall I come along?”

Smiling gratefully, Naina nodded. She really hadn’t the guts to face Aniket alone again.

In half an hour, the whole issue had been clarified with Aniket. His caretaker had indeed forgotten to convey Naina’s message. Aniket was most contrite and apologized sincerely for having jumped to conclusions without giving Naina a hearing — especially in light of Naina’s past record of exemplary work ethics. Naina, happy once again not to be thought irresponsible and assured of Aniket’s esteem, was quick to forgive him.

“Today’s lunch is on me,” he told his entire team. “I’ve learnt today that hasty assumptions hurt people and hence undermine trust. Thank you for your mature handling of the situation Rajiv. Thank you for clarifying Naina. If you had taken offence at the way I behaved — something you would have been justified in — instead of helping to clear my misconceptions, things could have turned pretty ugly.”

“Well Aniket,” quipped Rajiv, “jumping to conclusions is yet to be declared an Olympic event!”

Everyone burst into laughter!