Being the best is not adequate?
Vikram's life turned upside down in one day (Fiction)Ramkumar R S
ACT 1 – Scene 1
Vikram entered the elevator at 8.40 AM and pressed the button for the 12th Floor. There were a couple of other early birds like him in the lift, but not from his office. Whenever he was in town, not travelling, he always made it a point to reach office at-least 15 minutes early. Yes, it helped him beat the peak hour traffic, but it also gave him the time to settle down peacefully and get ready for a hectic day.
Dressed in a Louis Phillipe Cream Coloured Shirt, Red Tie and Black Pant, he looked smart and intelligent. He always advised his juniors about the importance of dressing well. His shiny shoes, and Golden Cuff Links, demonstrated to the world, the kind of person he really was. Flawless.
Vikram used the time in the lift to check out his team’s Whatsapp group to see whether there were any urgent issues requiring his attention. Luckily there were none.
ACT 1 – Scene 2
At around 11 AM, as he was sipping his Coffee, and reviewing a presentation for a meeting in the afternoon, Mishra peeped in to his cabin.
“Vikram, can I speak to you for a minute”
Mishra, was his boss.
Mishra closed the door behind and sat down.
“Vikram, I just wanted to give you a heads up myself, before you hear it from HR”.
“I had put in my papers two months ago and I will be getting relieved in another 3 weeks. Luckily, the HR has been able to find a replacement for me at a very short notice. So, the new guy is joining next week and you and your team will start reporting to him”.
Vikram was speechless. Not because Mishra was leaving. He had heard some rumours about this many weeks ago. But he was 100% sure, that he will get promoted and take Mishra’s place. Whether it is performance, attitude or skills everyone in the organization knew how good he was. That they ignored him and decided to bring someone from outside to head the division was unbelievable. It simply did not make sense.
Vikram felt angry. But he wanted to act professional. No point in showing one’s disappointment to someone, who is any way, on his way out.
He smiled and said, “Congrats Mishra. All the best. So where are you going”
Mishra had already started raising from his chair. “We will talk later. But now I have to get on a call with Singapore.” He replied and left, as quickly as he came in.
ACT 1 – Scene 3
Vikram turned back to his computer, opened a new word document and started typing:
I deeply regret to inform you that due to some personal reasons, I am resigning from the services of this company. I would like to thank you and everyone at D&B, for having given me a great opportunity to learn and contribute, over the last 10 years.
I hope you will be able to relieve me as early as possible.
Vikram saved the document and immediately sent it off to Paul, the Managing Director, through email. Paul sat on the same floor a few metres away, but then Vikram was in no mood to meet him.
“They did not even discuss with him about hiring a replacement for Mishra”.
Vikram was honest, sincere and hard working. He was the best performer, appreciated by his juniors as a good manager and knew in-depth about the company’s products and markets. His appraisal forms every year, are filled with the various contributions and achievements he has made for the company’s success.
More importantly, he had a lot of self-respect. And he was not going to allow anyone to trample on him and insult his self-worth.
ACT 2 – Scene 1
Within a few minutes, Paul called him to his room.
“What is this Vikram? It is unbelievable. Why suddenly?
“No hard feelings Paul. I have some personal reasons. So, let’s leave it at that.”
“How can I find a replacement for you Vikram. You are one of the best we have.”
“Come on Paul. If you can find a replacement for Mishra at such short notice, it should not be so difficult to find a replacement for me, right? – There was a mild sarcasm in his tone. But he thought, "What the heck".
Paul quickly recoiled into a more defensive posture.
“So, you think you deserve to replace Mishra, instead of someone from outside?” Was this the reason for your sudden resignation?
Vikram sat stoically. He was boiling inside. But his face was tight and firm.
If Paul wanted to reconsider his choice for Mishra’s position, let him say that himself. Vikram was not going to steep low, sulk like a kid or negotiate.
“OK Vikram. Will you at-least give me some time. I am not accepting the resignation right away. Let me think about this. You know the next 3 months are crucial and I want your support.”
“Paul. You know I can pay 2 months’ salary and get relieved in one month”. He was challenging Paul and mocking him at the same time. But then, when your self-respect is wounded, you can’t lie down and take it low.
He wanted Paul to realize, what a big mistake he did, by not consulting him immediately after Mishra put in his papers.
There was a heavy silence in the room.
And then the phone rang. Paul picked up and said “Hello”
After listening for a few moments, he closed the mouth piece and said, “I will get back to you Vikram”.
Vikram left the room, feeling very let down. 10 Years he had given his heart and soul to this company. Now the time has come to part ways. He wished it was not like this, with a heavy heart and bad feelings.
“Time to prepare my resume”. – Vikram thought as he walked slowly to his cabin.
ACT 2 – Scene 2
“This is the third time that this is happening Sheila” – His voice was raising.
He had asked the travel department to book him on an evening flight and they have booked him on a morning flight the next day which reaches only at 10 AM. And they did not even check with him whether the timing is OK. He had called Sheila to his cabin to explain.
“Sorry Vikram. I could not find a flight between 7 PM and 9 PM like you asked. So that is why I booked the morning 8 AM flight.”
Vikram really lost his cool.
“Don’t you have some basic Common Sense? – If you had asked me, I could have agreed even for a 11 PM flight.”
His voice was audible even outside the cabin.
“Can you please go now and find a solution to this mess you have created for me?” – There was so much hatred and indignation in his voice.
Sheila left the cabin with embarrassment and shame.
Not wanting to take any more chances, Vikram sat on the Computer and searched for flights for the night. Unfortunately, all the flights were already full. He also tried for flights earlier than 8 AM. Those too were full.
Left with no choice, he called the customer to tell him that he will be able to meet him only by 11 AM and not by 9 AM the next day as promised earlier.
The Customer politely refused. He was leaving the country tomorrow and will be back only next month.
He called Mishra immediately.
“Mishra, there is a problem. The travel desk has messed up my tickets. The customer is saying that he can’t meet me tomorrow after 10. And he is going away abroad and will be back only next month”
“What can I do Vikram? You know how critical this meeting was and how much is at stake. Now the competition is going to take advantage. I am off this case. You please explain it to Paul”.
Paul is not going to be happy.
Vikram felt even more dejected and let down.
ACT 2 - Scene 3
The Clock was showing 7 PM. It was a long day indeed. Felt longer and gloomier than usual. He shut down his laptop and prepared to leave.
Just then Naren walked in to his cabin and said “Hi Vikram”
Naren headed another team, similar to the one that Vikram managed. But they focused on a different group of products.
“Sorry to bother you so late in the evening. Are you going down? I will also join you. I want to ask you something. But we can talk as we go”
Relieved, Vikram joined Naren and they started walking towards the lift.
“You remember Vikram, you had prepared a detailed case study about this customer in Kolkata”.
“Yes – the one who took 2 years to close”
“Exactly. I am working on a similar case study on one of my customers in my segment. I have a rough draft. But I feel, if you could spare some time to rewrite it, it will be great”
“Naren. You know how busy I am. Writing or Rewriting a case study, will require at-least 2 to 3 hours every day for about a week. Tell me, where do I have such a luxury.?
“I know Vikram. But we can work together. Maybe if you can spare 2 hours alternate days, we can complete it before Friday evening”
Vikram did not commit. He already had too much on his table, related to his own work.
Added to this is the tension of handling Paul about the missed appointment and a possible repercussion that they may lose a huge order. Then there was his resignation and whether Paul was interested in retaining him by offering Mishra’s role. Even if he did, wasn’t it too late, since Mishra’s replacement was joining next week. He should prepare his wife mentally about the need to look for a new job. He had to spend time on his resume. Spruce up his Linkedin profile..
As he was lost in his own thoughts, the lift landed with a cling sound.
“Don’t count on me Naren. I am sorry. I want to be honest. I don’t want to give you any false hopes.” Vikram said, as he pressed the button marked “G”.
Naren Said “Its OK Vikram. I will manage myself.”
As the lift descended from the 12th floor to the ground floor, they both remained silent. The fan above was whirring with a gentle hum.
ACT 2 – SCENE 4
As Vikram walked to his car, he was searching for the contact number of his friend Ravi, who was running a headhunting firm.
He connected the mobile to the car’s audio system through blue tooth, dialled Ravi’s no. and drove the car out of the car park and through the out gate.
“Hello, Ravi. Vikram here.”
“Hello, Vikram. How are you? Sorry I did not recognize your number. I had changed my mobile phone recently.”
“No issues da. It has been almost a year since we spoke to each other right?.
“Ya… Tell me, what is up” How are you doing?
“I am fine. Are you free now? Can we speak for 5 minutes”
“Go ahead da”
“You know it has been 10 years since I joined D&B. I think it is time for me to move. You know about my space. How is the market?”
“Market is normal. But it is not easy to find a better job for guys like you in D&B”
“You know D&B takes care of their employees really well and their package is normally 20-30% above market. And for blue eyed guys like you, it is even more difficult. Last year when I checked, you were getting 30% more than others who were in similar position at D&B.”
“What about, going up the ladder” – Like heading a division or something like that?
“Vikram, I think it is difficult to sell a 10-year experience profile to a division head role. I know you are a great performer, and you even probably deserve it. But then..”
“So what do you suggest”
“Dear Vikram, unless you are willing to look at a complete change in role or industry and be mentally prepared for a lower package than what you are getting, it is difficult. But knowing you, you are already addicted to your pay packages and incentives and you are so focused on performance and winning. Why do you want to change? Is there something wrong?”
“Nothing da. I was just checking. OK, I am driving now. I will catch up with you soon”
“OK Da. Take Care”
Vikram disconnected the call.
Vikram did not like this feeling of being pushed to a corner. He had always been a performer and a winner. But the whole chain of events that happened that day, was very unsettling. He had resigned. He can’t go back on that, without a huge loss to his self-respect. He needs to find another job. He and his wife were already used to a certain lifestyle, there were EMIs to pay, holiday plans already pre-booked…
He drove the car into the car park at the basement and took the lift to his flat on the 10th floor.
Rashmi, his 5-year-old daughter opened the door.
“Appa” – she jumped onto him, made him lift her up and hugged him.
He hugged her tightly, left the laptop bag on the sofa and went inside.
ACT 2 – SCENE 5
Vikram still felt low and beaten. He was sitting on his bed. His wife was busy making Pulkas in the Kitchen. But the tight hug of his daughter, on his chest, felt like a gentle balm to his broken self. A few drops of tears welled up in his eyes.
The day’s events played back in his mind.
The Resignation and the confrontation with Paul.
“Paul. You know I can pay 2 months’ salary and get relieved in one month”.
The ticket booking blunder by the Travel desk and his confrontation with Sheila
“Can you please go now and find a solution to the mess you have created for me?”
The unexpected request for help from Naren that he had to turn down politely.
“Don’t count on me Naren. I am sorry.”
Vikram was always proud about the ruthless drive that he had in him. He was righteous, a task master when it comes to efficiency or performance. He was extremely focused on his results and wanted everyone around him to do the same. All these traits contributed to his success.
But this feeling of vulnerability was very unlike him.
Vikram thought - “From Academics to Work, I have always proved to the world that I am the best. But when the world tells you “Being the best” is just not adequate. What do you do?
‘Why are you dull Appa”
Rashmi looked at his face and asked with the innocence of a child and the concern of a mother.
Surprising how simple human emotions could sneak in and awaken us at unexpected moments.
A small candle of light entered his heart and he saw at that moment, what he couldn't see earlier.
"I was mean with Paul, angry with Shiela and selfish with Naren.”
Then he asked himself “Is that the complete truth? Hell No”.
Rashmi climbed down from her father and ran to the Kitchen. “Amma Appa is crying”.
“I am mean, angry and selfish. Have always been like that. With everyone in my life.”
ACT 3 SCENE 1
Vikram pressed the button for the 12th floor and waited. He surprised himself by smiling at the other two people in the lift.
He wasn’t wearing a tie. Since there were no customer visits planned that day, he decided to wear a more casual shirt. And he wore his brown half-cut shoes, instead of his usual Black.
Once he entered the office, he walked straight to Naren’s cabin.
“Hi Naren Good Morning”
“Good Morning Vikram”
“Sorry I bluntly refused your request yesterday”
“It's OK Vikram. I understand. I know how good you are in writing case studies. And I thought the company will immensely benefit if you could put in some time on this. But does not matter. I will manage”
“No Naren. I thought about it. My trip to Mumbai got cancelled and my day is relatively free today. We can spend some 2-3 hours today, to build the initial framework.
We can also sit for half an hour early in the morning for the next 3 days, if you do not mind coming early say around 8.30. And there are portions that you can work independently on, which we will finally integrate. And my wife and kid are away to my in-law's place this weekend. You can come to my house and we can finish it fully.
Naren was very happy. “Thank you, Vikram. I really appreciate you going out of the way to do this”.
“I should thank you Naren. You have given me an opportunity to do something meaningful, something I really enjoy doing”
ACT 3 SCENE 2
Next Vikram walked to the other end of the office wing, where the travel desk was located. Shiela saw him coming from far-away. As he approached her, he saw the fear and worry that was lit large on her face.
“Hi Shiela” – he said kindly, which eased the tension in her face a bit.
“I am sorry Shiela, I lost my cool and shouted at you yesterday”
“No Vikram, I am sorry, It was my mistake”
“That is OK. Mistakes and misunderstandings do happen. Later in the evening, I thought about it, what I could have done so that this mistake did not happen in the first place.
“For example, considering the high stake meeting that it was, I could have told you what time the meeting was with the client and why it will be a huge loss to the company if I don’t make it there before 9 AM. Then maybe you could have booked me on that Air India flight that leaves at midnight, without even waiting for my confirmation.”
Shiela felt relieved. It is not often you see someone so senior and experienced coming down to explain like this.
“By the way Vikram, Mishra was telling me that your customer whom you were supposed to meet today at 9 AM is leaving for Singapore and won’t be back for a month”
“Ya. It is a big problem. We may lose a big order, if we don’t meet him this week”
“Since I am in the travel desk, I came to know Paul and Basin are in Singapore for the APAC meeting on Friday” – Do you think you could ask Paul to meet your customer when he is there?
Vikram was elated. “This is very useful Shiela”. Thank you. Thank you very much.
ACT 3 – Scene 3
Vikram knocked on Paul’s glass door and entered.
“Good Morning Vikram. I thought you were in Mumbai today.”
“Sorry Paul, I messed up the flight ticket booking and the customer was not willing to wait for me till 11 AM. But I have found an alternative solution. I have already spoken to the customer and he has agreed. But I need your help for this”
“Tell me what should I do”
“Can you meet this customer for 1 hour Singapore on Friday or even Saturday is OK. I will update all the details about this case by email today.”
“Thank you. Paul. I do not want D&B to lose this case. We have worked on it for over 8 months.”
As Paul momentarily looked away into his laptop, in response to an email alert, Vikram continued
“Paul, one more thing...”
Paul looked back at him.
“I have decided to serve the entire 3 months’ notice period and complete all the pending cases for this financial year before leaving”
“Sit down Vikram”
Vikram pulled the chair and settled down.
“Are you angry that you did not get Mishra’s position”
“To tell you the truth, Paul, I was angry yesterday. But today, I am not. I think it is OK. I can see why you are looking for a mature 40+ guy to head the division and not a young and brash person like me”
“So then why do you want to leave? You have become a role model for people in other teams and divisions as well. Are you not happy with your package and incentives?
“Paul, I resigned yesterday in Anger. But now my reasons are different. I have realized winning deals and earning money is not the only thing in life. I want to spend more time with my wife and daughter. I want to travel less. And so, I will be looking out for a role in Marketing Support in Chennai, even if the package is less and zero incentives, it is OK”
Vikram continued.. "Paul, you please do not worry. You do not have to look for anyone outside to take my position. There are at least 2-3 guys in my team who can take on my role. They are as driven and aggressive as I used to be. I will ensure that they are fully ready in the next 3 months and we will choose 2 of them before I leave. These two people and the team can report to Naren. He is a very steady, balanced and down to earth guy.
“Vikram, you are such a great guy. You were performing so well in your role, winning all the time, visibly happy, it never occurred to me to ask you or talk to you about your future.
“It is OK Paul. Even I thought I was happy and contended. Till yesterday happened. I now realize, that even successful and happy people have this need to grow, not necessarily only in terms of designation or salary, but also in terms of other intangible things like love and contribution.”
“Vikram. I am happy we had this conversation. It is so sad, that we must lose such a great performer like you.”
They shook hands. Vikram walked back to his cabin. Slowly. But this time he walked with a sense of calm and peace. He was at ease with himself.
ACT 3, Scene 4
It was Saturday. Vikram and Naren were working on the case study at Vikram’s house.
Vikram’s cell phone rang.
It was Paul calling from Singapore.
It should be about the customer that Paul would have met in the morning.
“Hi Vikram, good news for you”
“What happened? What is the customer saying?
“He is saying that he will instruct his purchase department to wait till he comes back from his tour. He is positive. He has a few issues that he has flagged. But nothing that we can’t handle together”
“Thank you, Paul,”
“And Vikram, one more thing”
“There is a marketing support role open at Singapore, which will address the whole of APAC region. Will you be interested?
“Yes Paul. It sounds interesting. I have to check with my Wife though”
“It is one grade above your current grade. And moving a performing sales guy to a support role cannot be done so easily. But I have convinced BASIN that your depth of knowledge on the products and the markets, your success record of winning many deals and your gift of articulation skills, it’s a unique combination that justifies this move.
“Thank you, Paul,”
“I knew about this opportunity Vikram, even earlier, but I wasn’t sure whether you would be interested or whether you would be the right person for this. Also, I had to convince BASIN before telling you.”
“On Wednesday, when you knocked on my glass door and came in, I saw a human side of you, Vikram that I have never seen. And I felt that will be a great value-add when you must coordinate with so many sales teams across the world.”
“Thank you, Paul. I will talk to my wife and confirm by next week”
“OK Bye, we will meet next week”
Vikram was happy. He was sure that his wife will agree. Singapore was a place, that she was always interested in.
He thought of Rashmi. He had heard that primary school education in Singapore was very good. And a nice multi-cultural environment for a young soul blossoming into this world.
He closed his eyes for a moment and said thank you. To Naren. To Shiela. To Paul. And to Rashmi.