I pressed the doorbell with a big smile on my face. My wife opened the door but her gaze directly reached the gift wrapper which I had hold in my underarm.
“Don’t stare like that. ” I said. She got aside and I moved in. I kept the wrapper on the dining table and shouted “Pinky…..Pinky. Where are you Beta…..look what papa has brought for you”
No sooner did I shout than Pinky rushed towards me “Papa. Papa .where is my chess board.”
Slowly a smile spread across my face. I hugged my child and kissed on her forehead. But her eyes were searching the most demanded gift and finally her eyes discovered the gift wrapper.
“ Heyyyyy. My chessboard is here. Now I can learn how to beat others” she picked up the gift and ran away in to her room.
Her last line “Now I can learn how to beat others.” was not the statement which I liked to hear.
I looked at my wife and asked “What did she say “
“Oh… You will not understand” she exhaled a deep breath “There are numerous benefits of playing chess”
I knew chessboard was my wife’s favorite game. Her passion about this game re-ignited when Pinky’s class teacher had organized a small tournament in her school. How could she allow Pinky to be defeated by others as her mother had been champion of this game in her house?
Just for the sake of pulling her leg I asked “Can you tell me one benefit”
She gave a contaminated look to me and said “get fresh first. I can give lectures for an hour on the benefits of playing chess”
“Hoonnh….Okay I am going to get fresh now and then would like to listen the numerous benefits of playing chess”. I beautifully mimicked her.
I tore my sweaty clothes off and jumped into the shower. While I was changing my dress my eyes caught the notification on the mobile screen. There were two missed calls. I got quite surprised the moment I recognized the number. It was none other than my once best friend Rajdeep’s mobile no. As far as I remembered the last time he had called me some five years back. I wanted to call him back but then my ego came in between our friendship. I decided not to call him again in my lifetime. I did not want to go back to that lane which I had left long back. Just to hide my queasiness, I demanded tea from my wife. But my wife was completely dug herself in teaching chess to my daughter. She looked at me and signaled to wait for two minutes. The uneasiness generated after seeing that missed calls and wife’s casual response to my demand upsurged my anger and I shouted with all the strength which my lungs could gather“ Rummellllaaa”
My wife turned towards me and waved her hand signaling what happened to me suddenly. She was confused on my sudden and irrational reaction.
She asked “What happened Amol?”
I remained silent for couple of seconds and then shouted “Don’t you hear I had asked tea from you”
“Haan baba. I had heard your voice but I assumed that you would wait for a few minutes. Sorry I was so engrossed in teaching chess to Pinky that I couldn’t realize when your patience exhausted”
My wife immediately went inside the kitchen and then after a few minutes she served me my favorite lemon tea. But the tea also could not erase my fidgetiness. After remaining silent for a few seconds I asked from my wife “Why do you like this game so much. What is so special in this game?”
After hearing my question her face turned on and she replied with extreme passion “Life is like a game of chess. Its moves teach you how to move in real life.”
Her spontaneous reply suddenly dragged me to my M.B.A days where Rajdeep used to say the same thing. Her reply made me more disturbed. It was quite shocking for me that my wife had the same opinion about life which a few years’ back Rajdeep used to have. I became stunned and saddened by her reply. She sat beside me and broke the silence “What is going on in your mind……And please don’t say nothing…because I know you very well”
I turned towards her looked into her eyes and asked “Is chess really helpful in real life”
She smiled and said “Look….. I don’t know much about the crest and trough of life but wise people say that a good chess player solves the problems faster than the non-player. And that’s the reason I want my daughter to take interest in this game rather than any girlish games”
“But I don’t think so” I murmured.
“Because life has taught me something else”
“You tell me first…why you have such negative thought about this game. Sometimes people don’t like the game which is difficult to learn.” She chuckled.
I looked at her and then said “You must have heard the name Rajdeep Ganguly….”
“Yeah Yeah….who studied with you in M.B.A”
I dragged the chair and sat opposite to my wife and started narrating the story of our Friendship “In our M.B.A days I, Kailash and Rajdeep were best friends. Rajdeep…what to say about him…he was very smart, shrewd, charismatic, talkative and overall very big diplomat. Kailash was someone who never had problem with anyone rather he had always been instrumental for bridging the gap between me and Rajdeep if sometimes it snowballed out of some trivial issues. Rajdeep always used to say the same thing what you said just a few minutes ago “Life is like a chess game. Its moves teach you how to move in real life”.
“Very true…he was right” My wife interrupted once again childishly but after seeing my irate expression she made her face serious.
“Our story starts from here. After passing M.B.A, Kailash decided to move in to his father’s existing business. He never faced any interview so he never understood the nervousness of going through in campus interview. I and Rajdeep, we both were trying to get hired by some multinational company. And that special day also came in our lives when we both joined the same company but his CTC (cost to company) was much higher than mine. I didn’t take it sportingly because in academics journey I always scored higher than he. But possibly I couldn’t match his smartness level.
“How did you manage Raj….”
“Interview is like a game of chess .….but an athlete will never understand.”
He always pulled my leg by passing his teasing comments on me though I was not an athlete but it pained me. He knew I was fitness freak.
I spontaneously replied “Life is a MARATHON and not a sprint” to show my contentment to him and satisfy my self-esteem.
We always had disconnects in our ideology since the time we became friends. He always led his life on the principle of chess and kept on thinking his moves to capitalize the opportunity and I had a firm belief that Life is a marathon and not a sprint. After having so many disconnects we still cared for each other.
Very shortly he became the blue eyed guy of our Zone head, Samir Sheikh, and his power in the company started increasing day by day. In two years’ time he got three promotions. Now he seldom spoke with me. I felt that most of the time he avoided speaking with me in public. He never realized that how much anguish his changed behavior inflicted on me.
Now I also wanted to learn the chess game so that I could also get some growth by using its moves since I was still struggling to get at least better rating at the end of each year.
The day came when he was awarded regional head position by replacing the most seasoned manager, Sandip Sen, who was much senior to him in terms of vintage as well as experience of handling that channel. We all were surprised that how Rajdeep could acquire this position. I could not hold back myself and called him “Hello Raj”
“ Yes Amol”
“Yaar… how did you manage ….”
“Hah…hah…ha… getting promotion is like a chess game dear. You need to know whose moves are what and then you should move accordingly” He chuckled and repeated his favorite line.
His favorite lines echoed in my ear for some time. I could feel that he had become very big now. Whenever his attitude made me feel my failure I called Kailash and drained out all my grievances against Rajdeep to him. But he was the person who always tried to bridge out the differences between us.
I used to curse myself why did I not learn the game of chess if it was so important in life. Most of the time Rajdeep did not attend our get-together party most probably his ego did not allow mixing with us now.
I remembered the day when his insolent comments about Mr. Ajoy ’s channel in a big meeting like National Sales Congress had made him the topic of discussion in our organization for couple of weeks. As we all knew Ajoy was terror in his previous company. His every subordinate and even few office staffs from other department also thought many times before approaching him. Ajoy was silent and did not react on his comments but I knew that Rajdeep was playing with fire. I knew his silence was the signal of suppressed tornado. As a well-wisher it was my responsibility to let him know about the consequences.
I called him “Rajdeep….”
“Amol…I am busy in some important work…am calling you later”
“Rajdeep…. I know you are busy but be careful from Ajoy…he is not an easy man..” and hung the phone before I got to hear the beep sound.
My wife unsettled in her chair and asked “What did he comment about Ajoy and why you became so worried?”
I looked at her for a few second and then continued “For the sake of coming more close to Samir he committed that his region would do more business than Ajoy’s entire vertical…and his bold statements had elevated his position in the eyes of Samir Sheikh…”
“ Ajoy did not encounter his comments….” My wife asked in bewilderment
“No….he believes in execution and not in commitments….”
Now there was a buzz in the year that Samir was likely to get promotion. Rajdeep was hopeful for getting the chair of Samir. We all were waiting for the structural announcements.
As expected Samir got the bigger responsibilities and moved to Mumbai Head office. After announcements Rajdeep became very depressed because then both the vertical were merged and Ajoy was heading as a vertical head. Rajdeep had to report to Ajoy.
“My God….Ajoy is the same person….Nah..whose…Rajdeep had made a fun”
“And then what happened…..” my wife’s curiousness could signal her anxiety.
“And then the same thing started what I was anticipating. Ajoy’s volcano erupted and swept all the ego of Rajdeep. We witnessed how Ajoy crushed Rajdeep’s self-esteem. And then Rajdeep looked shaky, dull, lost, exhausted and everything which denoted his failure…”
My cell phone’s screen flashed. It was again missed call from Rajdeep. No sooner did I think of dialing him than my wife asked “ If Rajdeep was so smart then why didn’t he find any alternative?”
Her question diverted me from dialing to Rajdeep and I dug myself again in narrating the second half of his professional career.
“What did you think….he would not have tried to settle his position? He tried all his techniques, his smartness, his shrewdness to come closer to his new Boss ….but his all moves went in vain. Ajoy did not budge an inch from his perception about Rajdeep…..One day he got the news that his God father Samir joined other organization. He was his last hope but this time Samir upfront rejected his request….”
“Because for the sake of becoming closer to Ajoy he dropped some wrong comments about Samir and somehow the same comments reached to him..”
“ Oh no…..” my wife stalled for a second and then said “ What happened after that?”
“Ajoy started humiliating him in front of his juniors. We used to get these kinds of news from his subordinates. And one day he resigned. Ajoy accomplished his mission. Rajdeep’s saving drained out in a couple of months. He could not even maintain his family life. His wife left him. And then she stayed in her father’s house with her son. His visits in BAR increased. I wanted to help him but I rolled back my steps after thinking that my help might hurt his self-esteem”
I could see that my wife’s eye welled up. A few drops rolled down from her cheeks though she was fighting it back.
Once again my cell phone rang. This time it was Kailash. I couldn’t understand why Kailash called me at this time. I received the call and said “Hello..”
“Amol…..where are you” his voice was shivering.
“Rajdeep was calling you……did you notice how many missed calls were there….”
I understood immediately the reason of his call. He would again patch up our relationship and then would bury himself in his business. Kailash had been doing this since we all three became friends. I felt why I let myself always agree to Rajdeep’s wish. Why should I again resume the relationship with Rajdeep who never cared for my feeling when he was up in his professional career. Why now? And then my voice went louder “Whose missed calls”
“ Rajdeep was calling you continuously…..”
Then I checked my cell. There were 9 missed calls. Actually I had put my mobile in silent mode so that it did not disturb when I was sharing the story of my best friend with my better half. I felt bad. I felt diminished. I wanted Rajdeep to call me and pacify my angriness but I never wished him to call me nine times and I would not respond. This was really embarrassing. I completely believed Rajdeep had a golden heart but he was so fascinated and influenced by the chess game that its moves totally empowered his feelings about others. I forgot everything. I said in a commanding tone“Oh this time also Rajdeep has asked you to clear the difference between us…Give him the phone..I feel like giving him a tight slap….”
“ No….you can’t…..”
“ Oh Mr. Kailash….You know I can….till now he has not become so big. Still he is in our reach”
Kailash was silent. I could not understand what happened to him.
I asked in bewilderment “What happened Kailash….Is everything okay…..”
“Where are you” Kailash asked in a very low tone.
“ Why….what is the matter…”
Kailash became silent again.
“ Okay pass your phone to Rajdeep. Let me talk to that idiot…”
First time I heard Kailash crying like a kid.
By the time I understood there was something wrong. I cut the phone and dialed back at Rajdeep’s no. It was ringing and ringing. Thank God Rajdeep received the call before my patience ran out.
“ What happened Rajdeep…..”
“ Rajdeep is no more…..” Kailash replied from his cell.
“ What……Are you mad..”
My heart started pumping at double rate. My hands were shivering. My knees became weak. My entire body went numb. My brain stopped thinking. I could see my wife’s lip movement but not her single word was reaching to my ears. The emotional impact of shock dazed me senseless. A strong jolt from my wife made me realize that it was not a bad dream but a crude reality. Somehow I managed my emotions and asked in my broken voice “Where are you all….”
“Since morning… we are in hospital…”
“ Since morning….” It gave me another jolt “and you are informing me now. Kailash …how come you became so selfish. You could have informed me much earlier”
“We all wanted but Raajdeep was adamant…”
“Adamant …adamant for what”
“he wanted to confess to you only and that’s why he was calling you frantically”
“Confess….what ?. I am not getting anything…”
By the time my voice deceived me and all the barrier of my emotion had broken. I was crying. I wanted to know what he wanted to confess.
“Amol…..Rajdeep has left a message for you… “And he read out loudly“ Amol …..When you hear my confession may be I would not be the part of your world so I do not have any hesitation in saying that I do completely agree with your ideology that LIFE IS MARATHON AND NOT A SPRINT. In my last days I realized that life should not be played as a game of CHESS. I was so influenced by this game that it had taken over all my feelings for others but now I do realize you people were right. I do realize that I have hurt you so many times. I wanted an apology from you but it seems death is in hurry….perhaps would not get the chance for saying this also. …oye maaf karde yaar…
Naam toh suna hoga”
Rajdeep’s last word had been echoing in my ear for couple of minutes. I did not realize when the call got disconnected. My wife could understand my mental status. She wanted to know the full story but somehow she understood the reason of my hatred for CHESS.