Thursday, December 10, 2015


Caveat  Slam Dunk
Fiction Short Story

“Well – the professional part of the interview is over,” the CEO said to me, “now we will hand you over to Ms. Nina who will ask you some questions.”

There were 3 persons in the interview panel:

1. The CEO – who sat in the centre – opposite me

2. The ‘Head of HR’ – who sat to the CEO’s right

(Both the CEO and ‘Head of HR’ were elderly gentlemen in their 50’s)

There was a third person too.

3. Yes – the third person in the interview panel was a smart looking woman – around my age – maybe slightly older – in her late 30’s – or maybe early 40’s – who sat to the left of the CEO

Out of these 3 persons – for the last one hour – it was the CEO who had asked me most of the questions.

The ‘Head of HR’ just asked me about my qualifications and experience.

The Mysterious Woman had remained silent so far – but she seemed to be observing me carefully during the interview – as I answered the questions put to me by the CEO and ‘Head of HR’.

At the beginning of the interview – the CEO had introduced himself and the ‘Head of HR’ – but he had not introduced the woman.

I had thought that she was ‘sitting in’ as a woman observer – just because I was a woman – and the CEO and ‘Head of HR’ were both men.

But now – after one hour –  the CEO had introduced the woman her as their ‘Recruitment Consultant’.

Yes – the CEO just mentioned her first name – Ms. Nina – and he said that she was their ‘Recruitment Consultant’.

Ms. Nina smiled at me and she said: “Well – as you know – this is a very senior position…”

“Ah – I must interrupt here…” the CEO said to Ms. Nina.

Then – the CEO looked at me – and he said to me: “Let me tell you one thing young lady – if you are sitting here before us today – it is only because of Ms. Nina. Frankly – we did not want someone so young for this senior key position – but Ms. Nina insisted on you – and the way you have answered our questions – I feel that she was right...”

“Thank you, Sir,” I said looking at the CEO.

Then – I turned my glance and looked at Ms. Nina and I said to her: “Thank you, Ma’am.”

Ms. Nina smiled at me.

Then – Ms. Nina looked at the CEO and asked him: “Shall I…”

“Oh, Yes,” the CEO said to Ms. Nina.

The CEO looked at me and he said: “Thank you for your time, young lady – I think we will now leave you two – Ms. Nina and you – to talk to each other – and we will get on with our work…”

The CEO gestured to the ‘Head of HR’ – and both the CEO and ‘HR Head’ left the room – leaving me alone with Ms. Nina.

Ms. Nina looked into the laptop in front of her – and then she looked at me – and said to me: “Well – as you know – you are being considered for a very senior post – a key appointment in the organisation  a position of great trust…”

“Yes – Ma’am…” I said.

“The ‘Ma’am’ is unnecessary – just call me Nina…” she said.

“Yes…” I said.

“You did not apply for this position – the company invited you for an interview – am I right…?” she said.

“Yes…” I said.

“Well – let me introduce myself – I am a ‘headhunter’ – and it was I who ‘headhunted’ you for this top level job…” she said.

“Thanks…” I said.

“I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a few questions of a personal nature…?” she said.

“Personal questions…?” I asked, hesitant.

“Well – you may feel that it is none of our business to probe into your personal life – but – as I said – this is a position of trust – you will have access to sensitive information – company secrets – so to speak – and since I am the person who ‘headhunted’ you – I feel all the more responsible…” she said.

I remained silent – feeling a bit confused in my mind.

Ms. Nina looked at me and said: “Feel free not to answer any question that you do not wish to answer – or if you want – we can finish the interview right here…”

Ms. Nina spoke these words softly – with a smile on her face.

But the caveat was clear – if I wanted this job – I had to answer all her questions about my personal life.

And – I desperately wanted this job – which would catapult me into the top bracket.

“It’s okay…” I said – feeling a bit self-conscious.

Ms. Nina looked at me and she said: “I can see that you are feeling a bit shy – so I will keep my questions to the bare minimum – okay – I will ask you just one thing – tell me – why are you unmarried…?”

“Excuse me…?” I said, surprised.

“You are unmarried – aren’t you – it says so in the form you filled up just before the interview…”


“You are 36 years old. You never married…? Or were you…?”

“I never got married…”

“Why didn’t you get married…?”

I remained silent – wondering what to say.

Why was she harping on my marital status...?

I felt a bit uncomfortable.

I think Ms. Nina sensed my feelings – so she said to me: “Don’t answer if you do not want to…”

“No – it is okay – I will tell why I never got married till now. Well – after my studies  for the first few years  I wanted to focus on my career – and then – when I felt like getting married – all the eligible boys had got married  and there were no suitable bachelors left for me to marry…” I said frankly.

“Is it so…? Well – but now – it looks like you have found a suitable boy…” Ms. Nina said, “So – you have finally found a suitable boy to marry – haven’t you...?

“Suitable boy…?” I said, taken aback.

Ms. Nina pressed some keys on her laptop – and then she turned around her laptop with the screen facing me.

On the screen was a picture of Arun.

“We did some background checks on you – the customary vetting we do before hiring top level executives – and it seems that you are in a serious relationship with this man…” Ms. Nina said.

“Yes – we are dating each other…” I said.

“Just dating…? The report says that you are cohabiting with him. Aren’t you two in a ‘live-in relationship’…?” she asked.

“Yes – we live together – whenever possible…” I said.

“Whenever possible…? What do you exactly mean by that...?” she asked.

This was getting a bit too much.

But – I knew – that – if I wanted the job – I had to come clean and tell her everything.

“Let me tell you everything – he is an airline pilot – we met 3 years ago at a party in Delhi – we started seeing each other – and – last year – he moved in with me…”

“He moved in with you…?”

“Oh – it is not exactly like that – he lives with me whenever he is in Delhi on layovers – which he manages quite often – but actually he is based in Mumbai…”

“So that is the reason you want this job – so that you can relocate from Delhi to Mumbai – and ‘move in’ with him permanently – and convert your ‘weekend relationship’ into a full-fledged permanent ‘live-in relationship’…”

“Yes – but the main reason is that I want this job…”

“So – once you ‘move in’ with him permanently – do you intend to get married to him…?”

“Yes – that is the future plan…”

“Future plan…? Tell me – what are you waiting for – isn’t 3 years of dating including one year of intimate ‘live-in relationship’ enough to get to know each other well…?”

I was getting exasperated by her line of questioning – but I kept my cool – and I said to her: “Even if I do get married to him – there is no conflict of interest – I will be working here in FMCG – and he is an airline pilot…”

“That’s true – so you are living with him right now in Mumbai…”

“No – I flew down from Delhi by the morning flight – and I came straight over here – he is not in Mumbai right now – he is flying on a long trip abroad and will be back next week…”

“Oh – but he must be happy about this interview – if you get this job – you two will be in Mumbai together…”

“He doesn’t know about this interview…” I said.

“Really…? That is very surprising. So you keep secrets from each other…?” she asked me.

“Frankly – I did not want raise false hopes and disappoint him if I didn’t get this job…” I said.

“I see…” she said, “but it seems like you are going to get it. So your boyfriend is going to be very happy…”

This conversation was getting more and more exasperating – and I wanted to end it quickly – so I looked at Ms. Nina and I said firmly to her: “I think you have asked me enough about my personal life – and I am sure you are convinced that there is no conflict of interest if I am in a relationship with an airline pilot…”

“Just one last question…” Ms. Nina said.


“Outwardly this company may appear modern – but the inner culture is quite conservative – and some of the Directors have rather old-fashioned views – so I have been told to specifically ask you this question – ‘Do you intend getting married to this man – Arun – and – if so – when are you two getting married…?’…”

“Yes – we intend getting married – and it is going to be very soon…” I said firmly.

Ms. Nina smiled at me.

And then – she said to me: “You can’t get married to this man – Arun. Well – I am sorry – but – you cannot marry your boyfriend Arun…”

“Why…?” I said, taken aback.

“Because your ‘lover-boy’ Mr. Arun is already married…” she said.

“What…?” I said, stunned.

Ms. Nina looked at me – yes – Ms. Nina looked directly into my eyes as she spoke triumphantly and delivered her coup de grace: “Yes. Your ‘lover-boy’ Arun is a married man. He is married to me. I am Arun’s ‘legally wedded wife’. Do you understand...? And – as of now – I have no intention of divorcing my husband Arun…” 

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This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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