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Wednesday, February 09, 2000

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Better halves, no quarter

Three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening is all I have to immortalise in prose a day in the life of Ranjan Chak, Executive Director of Oracle's India Development Center. Residing currently in Hyderabad and giving shape and form to the newly formed software facility in this city.

We start the average day by 6:45 a.m. The boss has his first morning communication with our golden cocker spaniel, Cinderella, 'Cindy' for short. This elaborate show of affection lasts eight minutes. During this ritual, countless cups of tea spill, and I always get soggy and crumpled newspapers after master and furry fiend have wrestled and tumbled over the news.

Next on the protocol is Major Domo, Ganesh. The boss and efficient, trusted old reliable launch their morning discussion on political developments-from the WTO conference to Phoolan Devi! In the course of this dialogue I might be noticed, but only because I happen to be there too.

Following this dialogue is a dash to the laptop to catch up on pending mail (after all, it's been almost seven hours since it was last checked!). Meanwhile, Rahul and Supriya, have awoken and all hell has broken loose! Supriya has taken Rahul's pencil-box and refuses to return it to him. His box has a picture of Hulk Hogan, hers has Bambi. She wants Hulk Hogan. When the din finally permeates, Boss pulls himself away from his e-mail ritual and steps into the role of parent-referee-negotiator. The conversation is punctuated with wails, grunts and thumps and ends with the referee retiring from the scene, leaving me to mop up the acrimony! He retreats to his laptop world. Packing off the gruesome twosome to school, I return to drag him away from the machine, only to find that there's an early morning meeting scheduled today, and Boss has slipped away to get ready.

Breakfast sometimes happens and sometimes doesn't. On the days when there is a demand for matutinal nutrition I get to pin him down for that fleeting moment. Finally, my turn comes! I've been watching like a predatory beast, tracking him doggedly. Now I can put all my woes and problems on the table with his eggs and toast. He looks up from his plate, conscious of my gimlet scrutiny. Unsettled by the deafening silence at the table, which tells him that I have been waiting while he has been going through all the motions of connecting with his family. I see a slow smile spreading across his face and quite suddenly the rehearsed litany of abuse seems to slip my mind. It strikes me that I really don't want to dump any extra baggage on him. He has just spent the whole morning communicating with our doggie, the children, the staff, the newspaper-wala, whoever Now he will pull out of the driveway and proceed to a full day of work and people and words and more words. The only time he can get some silence is when he is at peace at home. When people understand each other well even the silent moments are eloquent. I have my own work to deal with and there is the perennial hubbub of an active household. As we are ready to part for the day, I remind him of the championship carom match with the kids in the evening. He nonchalantly says:

Yeah, I remember. See you later, old girl.

Cindy and I shuffle off back into the house; Cindy with a dry stick in her mouth and I with dawning wisdom. The boss has his life and I have mine but together we make up our life. Now, will it be one of those smooth evenings that go off without a hiccup: when the kids get to play their carom match, and we actually manage to catch up with friends, and get to watch a movie too? I keep my fingers crossed. One thought lingers: did he say, "See you" to me or to Cindy? I'm sure it was to Cindy!

Amrita N. Chak

(Wife of Ranjan Chak, Executive Director of Oracles India Development Center)

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