Clandestine is my first short story, a mellow office romance revolving around Nandini and Manan. Inspired by the true story of two colleagues from my own work place, much of the narrative is fictitious. As the name suggests, it's a coming-of-age tale about how lovebirds at work can succeed if only...
The story defies several myths about such situations - considering we are all increasingly spending more hours at work, struggling to keep our social lives afloat and perhaps squeezing in something more substantial than just flirtatious banter between meetings, presentations, launches, shoots and late nights.
It's an uncluttered third person narrative that highlights unlikely personalities in a high energy advertising agency environment making it - not only in the work space, but also in terms of emotional growth. The starkness of juxtaposition doesn't end there. The lead characters also go against the grain of stereotypes in that being not entirely opposite in nature. However, as in any love story, it is not so much the beginning, middle and end that differ as the sequences that bring about the closeness between the two.
Here's a short excerpt:
Nandini suddenly felt a pang. The bottle of brandy her best friend had left behind had just dregs left now and the cold wasn't helping. 'He can't be that bad,' she thought. 'Would you mind if I joined you for that drink?' she asked. Manan was flummoxed again. He had tried not to threaten Nandini and kept his advances of aid to the minimum.
Manan and Nandini walked into the only 24-hour bar in town where women could enter without fear or awkwardness. He ordered his usual rum and water and looked towards her. 'Brandy. Neat. Small,' she said and looked at her mobile phone for the time. He sensed her anxiety about waking up in the morning and getting to work on time. 'It's ok,' he tried to help, 'You can take an hour off in the morning if you've left really late.' That smile again. Nandini glanced at him searchingly, as if to decipher if he was telling the truth or mocking her. The thought of him being unsafe company had been pushed out of her cold car window, and stayed back. The smile had grown on her. It comforted her now. She settled onto her bar stool and rested her elbows on the bar table.
'So how does your first long day at work feel?' It was Nandini's turn to smile. She remembered her earlier thought of work speeding up after work hours. The upward arc brought warmth into Manan's spirits. 'I definitely didn't think it would end with a drink with a colleague,' she caught herself replying. She couldn't believe the first full sentence she strung to this man was flirtatious in nature. This time Manan laughed a hearty laugh. Just then the account director's name flashed on Manan's phone.