I vividly remember the farewell party we gave to our seniors. Not only for all the fun, but also for the great speech given by Prakash — one of our seniors. While everyone else spoke about themselves, their plans, their friends, their memories, their pets, etc., Prakash was the only senior who was different. He didn’t speak even a single line about himself. Throughout his speech, he focused on inspiring fellow youngsters like me.
“Who was Ambani?” he had asked with a lot of fervor. “A person who sold detergent on the streets. We are engineers — We are doing our B.E. Imagine how much more we can do . . .” We all cheered. He continued, maintaining a serious face and demeanor, “If you thought Google, Microsoft and Apple were started by rich kids with their parents’ money,” he reduced the intensity of his voice, “you are wrong, they were all started in a garage,” he continued, now raising his voice. “The future game-changing garages of the world will come from India and I hope to see many of us play a pivotal role in it,” he concluded to the thunderous applause of everyone.
What a speech that was! By the end of the day, I went and got his autograph on a paper and to this day, almost three years after that farewell day, I keep the paper in my purse. To me, that is not just paper, it’s hope. It makes me hope that one day, I’ll leave this call center and become the CEO of a large organization. It makes me hope that one day, I’ll also become a successful entrepreneur. It makes me hope that one day I’ll start my own Google, Apple or Microsoft.
I took the paper out, unfolded it, and looked at the signature. All my worries, anger, self-pity, and everything else were gone in an instant. I had completed my work on yet another stressful day in the call center and packed my bag to go home. The clock over the reception desk showed 2 A.M., my normal leaving time.
I signed the register, swiped my card on the card reader, and turned towards the main door. Someone opened the door and walked in. I moved in his direction until we were both two feet away. I recognized him instantly. How could I not?
“Hey Prakash,” I almost shouted. How glad am I to see you again. How are you doing?” I asked him, unable to contain my excitement.
He did not return my smile. “Who are you?” he asked me.
“Don’t you remember me? I am your junior from college. We met during your farewell and I had even got your autograph,” I said and hoped he would remember me. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and then looked away. He looked at me, opened his mouth to tell something, but he closed it immediately. He looked away again.
“You may not know me Prakash, but I remember your wonderful speech on the farewell stage man. I still have your autograph in my pocket. That is the only thing that keeps me going through all this drudgery of a work man,” I said. He nodded, still looking away. I sensed he was not in the mood for a conversation, at least not here.
“So what are you doing here at this time? Would you like me to drop you somewhere? My cab should have come by now,” I told him.
“Are you going to Adyar?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “How do you know?”
“Because I am the cab driver who came to pick you up,” he said, turned around, and walked out of the door.
I stood there, frozen.