Rantu and Mantu have been tremendous friends for years, working together in a production house. They meet five days a week in office, chatting merrily, discussing politics or cinema or books or anything from their respective work duties. Santu, the third friend in this rather closed-circuit gang often joins the discussions. All the three friends have been very creative in their respective fields of work. At least on one of the Saturdays or Sundays either Mantu or Santu or both inevitably visit Rantu’s residence for lunch and Rantu’s wife always manages with exemplary patience and presence of mind to not show her irritation or something like that and prepares dishes as per the preferences of Mantu and Santu together or separately that implies preparing separate dishes. Rantu takes it all in the spirit of friendship and thinks that his wife too likes the consistently cheerful weekly meetings.
However, Rantu is never known to be a fool or a taken-for-granted person. He has an analytical mind considering his creative work, mostly with the written words, and he often feels that somehow, he has always been at the receiving end: office meetings invariably take place in his room where he has to foot the bill for teas and snacks; and while the weekend visits always take place at his residence, he has never seen how the houses of Mantu and Santu look like as they, being proud bachelors, never bother about inviting Rantu and wife to avoid inviting trouble to their carefree existence.
He and his wife are definitely piqued when Santu gets married, visits them along with his wife and still does not invite them to their house, no longer a bachelor’s, but a family home now. Mantu, more or less a confirmed miser, vows never to marry fearing the double burden on his single salary thus preferring to remain a bachelor, and therefore his friendship with Rantu goes on rather unhindered. Yet, Rantu gets tired at times of this never-reciprocated friendship; but he counters this with his age-old belief that true friendship is always unconditional and it means liking a person irrespective of his/her virtues or defects. So, Rantu has been in the habit of ignoring minor happenings that are not to his liking.
But a day finally comes when Rantu suffers the biggest jolt and has to change his perception about friendship which is now doubly confirmed, added to this Santu’s one-dimensional behavior pattern even after getting two-dimensional.
At that time their office is very busy with the annual big event coming up shortly. Rantu is assigned to write and compile a book, capturing the enriching history of their organization. He diligently creates his team, ties up with a printing press and starts working at a furious pace. Notwithstanding his busy schedule he still entertains Mantu and Santu in the true spirit of friendship, more strengthened by his strong belief that ‘however busy you are, you can always find a spare moment for your dear ones’. To help our readers understand better when required we must tell you that Mantu and Santu are not at all associated with the office work of Rantu as they too have their respective assignments in other fields.
The dummy copy of his book arrives on that fateful day. Protocol demands he show the copy to the supreme boss of the organization for the final approval. Therefore, he phones up the boss’s personal secretary and accordingly fixes up an appointment. The moment he gets ready to go for the appointment with the book, his baby as he fondly thinks, ready in his hands Mantu comes in, smiling broadly and babbling about how bad the new movie has turned out to be. Rantu has been well-known in his office for his shyness, his inability to speak out assertively at the appropriate moment and his hesitation in talking about himself, forget boasting, in any possible manner.
So, Rantu does not think twice before inviting Mantu to accompany him to the boss’s chamber which he thinks is an endearing gesture in a true relationship. Mantu accepts immediately and they both leave for the appointment, the most important one for only Rantu.
The boss invites them in cordially and asks them to take their seats. Then he excuses himself to the rest room. Sitting there Rantu looks around and finds some new paintings on the walls. He hands over the book to Mantu, rises and takes a walk around the spacious chamber, appreciating the finer tastes of his boss. Mantu turns over the pages of the dummy apparently in a casual manner.
Rantu is only trying to have a good time-pass, and is ready to come back the moment the restroom door opens. As luck would have it, he gets a little late coming back to his seat. In the meanwhile, the restroom door opens softly, the boss comes back and occupies his majestic revolving chair. That moment’s delay costs Rantu dearly, because as he is in the process of sitting down Mantu has already handed the book over to the boss saying proudly “… have done it, Sir!”. Rantu is not sure what exactly Mantu has said at the beginning of his sentence and if Mantu had deliberately kept either ‘I’ or ‘We’ very soft.
Rantu has now felt very foolish, looking as if through the eyes of a dead fish at the boss who is busy turning over the pages, section by section. To his ultimate horror, the boss has started smiling and speaking in great appreciation; because the boss is looking directly at Mantu only and discussing the book with him only! Mantu also smiles back in the deepest possible gratitude answering him mostly in monosyllables as he never knew anything about the book.
Rantu tries very hard now to attract the attention of the boss with some hesitant and bitter rejoinders. But the boss ignores him completely and seals his final approval handing over the book to Mantu.
Helpless and dejected, and yet unable to chastise his friend with a resounding rebuke, and out of the boss’s chamber just takes the book back from a now-silent Mantu and enters his own room. He again tries very hard indeed to inform the members of his team that the book has been approved. The loud cheers addressed to him by his dedicated team fail to cheer him up, not really about not getting the due credit, but about the values of friendship thus blasted. How could a friend do this to a friend? He has no answer.
Fortunately for him, the cat gets out of the bag only two days later. As he happens to encounter the supreme boss in the main lobby, the latter asks him, “Where is your book? Why didn’t you show it to me?” again trying very hard, now to hide his surprise, he manages to respond, “But Sir! Mantu has already shown it to you!” “Who is the editor of the book, you or him?” the boss now looks at him sternly, “Show it to me this evening positively!” “Yes Sir, sure!”
That really cheers Rantu up, but the ‘friendship’ issue continues to haunt him and sadden him.
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