She would be fired for sure… Kajal’s anxiety had soared through the roof. She saw as the shutter bulbs went wild clicking the hunk away. And why on earth was he annoyed with her? What did she do?
Of course, she was tongue tied. She was supposed to be doing the damage control, using her presence of mind but she had frozen. She retreated further into the dark corner of the dais.
She watched in awe as KB relished the attention showered on him. He posed and answered questions deftly and soon had them all eating out of his palm. It appeared that they had forgotten the purpose of their being here in the first place.
“So ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming here when you could have just clarified facts over phone. But then KB is a gracious host. Kindly enjoy the refreshments served before you leave… thank you!!” KB waved and swayed as he posed further to the roar from his audience and began to walk towards wherever he emerged from. He just halted and whispered something to his PA and he rushed towards Kajal.
“Listen, KB sir wants to see you in his vanity immediately.” The PA rushed and told her with a smirk as if he was enjoying the show.
“What for? Its all done, right? I have to talk to my boss…” Kajal struggled to hold her composure.
“…Everything else can wait. But KB sir can’t. See him already.” Saying he walked off.
Kajal inhaled profoundly and walked outside towards the biggest vanity van she had ever laid her eyes on. She knocked at the door but hearing no response, she opened it and climbed inside. It was pitch dark as of she had stepped into oblivion.
“Er…excuse me… KB sir? Hello…? Is anyone there…?” She was about to turn back when the lights flashed on and she had to shield herself.
She slowly opened her eyes hugging her folder to her chest and saw KB sprawled on his couch, his long legs stretched out on the center table before him. He sipped a drink and glared at her. His male hairdresser soon joined him, who began to prim him up, and the make-up artist who started to work his art. The PA also emerged out of nowhere and Kajal felt suffocated at the heavy dose of testosterone in the room as if KB had arranged it to intimidate her.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, his voice soft but lethal.
“Ka…Kajal from Ra…Ra…Rhapsody…” She stuttered again.
“Where on earth is Shipra…?”
“Um… Shipra ma’am is handling other issues as we talk…”
“So does that mean Rhapsody can send any two-bit employee for such an important event?” he straightened halting the other men in the process of their work. They stood behind quietly and Kajal was scared shitless.
“KB sir… I… actually it…”
“SHUT THE HELL UP…” he roared startling her to drop her folders and her tab, the papers moving across the floor all over. She stood still clasping her palms.
He moved towards her towering over her height of 5’7”. She was rooted to the floor and stared into his chest, her heart thudding with each passing moment.
“I am Rhapsody’s permanent client and they send a novice here? What is your qualification? Tell me right now.”
“I… I am… um…” For someone who had won debates for her college, she was tongue-tied.
“…I don’t have all the time in the world for dimwits who have no clue about the seriousness of matters. What was Shipra thinking?”
“I am sorry KB sir, and this was just meant to be a press release….”
“So…? Press release also involves answering a few questions thrown at you. Didn’t you know that? Have you even talked to Shipra about me?”
“I am sorry but there was… no time…” She tried to defend herself
“No time…? NO FUCKING TIME…? Is this a joke to you all…? My career is at stake here and all that you have is…NO TIME?” He drove a hand through his mane and walked back to his seat.
“Just call Shipra right now…I want to talk to her and not some fresher who can’t hold her wits about her… I want to ask what is Rhapsody doing with such useless staff around”
“KB sir, please don’t do this… I know I blundered… but I wasn’t aware… its my first time and…”
“…I don’t want to talk to you… just call Shipra…”
Kajal sighed and dialed Shipra but her phone was not reachable. Her anxiety mounted with every possible moment as four pairs of eyes glared at her.
“I am sorry KB sir but she is not reachable…”
He stood clapping and smirked. “This is the icing on the cake… they first sent someone with zero knowledge to the all-important event and then disappeared. Therefore, I, at this moment, declare that Rhapsody shall no longer represent me. Mr. Mehta…?” he looked at his PA. “… kindly look into this and find me an agency which can prioritize their commitments.”
Kajal stood stunned. This was bad… KB was an important account for Rhapsody and Shipra’s major one. She had to do something.
“KB sir please… Shipra ma’am is working hard on your case right now… she is meeting with…”
“…I am not interested in whom she is meeting with or whatever else that she is doing…She should have been here…”
Kajal was losing it now. “Sir, please don’t do this… to us….”
“Mr. Mehta, do I notice some begging here? You know I hate people to stoop to such levels…” He walked towards the mirror, adjusting his hairdo.
“KB sir, I assure you we will settle this…”
“HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SETTLE THIS… you don’t even know what this is all about and you are vouching for your superiors…? You have some guts, lady… for a newbie I must say you have the guts… nonetheless… I am done. My time is important and a lot of it is wasted today… Mr. Mehta shall connect with you guys on closing the account…”
He began to move and Kajal realized this was her only shot at setting things right. She rushed to him and held his hand, her silky hair releasing a little from the ponytail the make-up lady had so painstakingly done up. She was sure her make-up was all over too…
“Sir please… don’t do this… please…”
He shrugged his hand away and glared at her. “How dare you….? Learn to accept your mistakes, OK…?” he moved towards the exit.
“Sir this is not fair…” She almost whispered, and he halted in his tracks.
“What did you just say…? NOT FAIR…? ha…I am unfair? I took my ass out there, have been talking to a nobody for the past few minutes, and you say I am unfair?” He spoke, hands on his hips. Kajal had enough.
“Sir, with due respect…. to whoever you are, I know its our responsibility to improve your image, but it isn’t our obligation to go around doing damage control every time you decide to throw your weight around….”
He stared as if he had been slapped, but she didn’t want to stop… the months of emotional roller-coasters surging up. “…And by the way, I studied your case file on my way here. Shipra ma’am has extinguished so many fires so far, which you have conveniently lit around and saved your sorry image… I am sorry, but the fact lies in this fiasco… if anyone is primarily at fault, it is you….”
There was silence as the other men looked wide-eyed and Kajal was breathing heavily as she finished her tirade. She was sure her job was in peril but she couldn’t let this man insult her any more. Even as he looked, she began to gather her papers. Suddenly he held her hand and pulled her up. He was visibly angry as his hand dug into her arm… it was sure to leave marks.
“How dare you…. You… two-bit employee who knows nothing about me… you dare to back answer…” He moved closer, almost touching her even as her heart raced.
“Let me… go…” She wailed even as she inhaled his cologne, wondering if she would just collapse right there.
“…of course… I don’t want the likes of you around me…Miss righteous.” He pushed her away even as she rubbed her arms and just picked the tab before rushing out of the van.
She reached the make-up room allotted earlier and shut herself inside, rubbing her throbbing arm. She lifted her sleeve and saw the bluish imprint of his fingers. How could anyone treat a woman like this? But to her utmost horror, she wasn’t angry with KB… in a way, he had saved the day for her.
What was Shipra ma’am thinking? Why didn’t she prepare her for today? Why was she not given a heads up on what to answer?
Oh God, what was happening? She stayed there for almost half an hour, staring at her pale reflection in the tainted mirror as the surrounding light bulbs flickered and glowed. It reflected her life so well… Her head reeled, and she had to gather herself as she moved to the locker to collect her purse.
Her phone rang, shaking her out of her reverie. It was Vijay.
“he… Hello Vijay…”
“What on earth did you do today Kajal…?”
“Vijay… it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know… I couldn’t answer their questions….” Her eyes filled again.
“You are all over the internet and Rhapsody has received the most publicity in ages…”
What was he talking about? She had messed up.
Vijay continued. “…You haven’t seen it looks like… you are no less than a celebrity…”
Kajal disconnected and googled up Rhapsody.
The first article that came up showed her breakdown under the spotlight, another one of her entering the vanity and the third a disheveled picture of her emerging out of the van. Her heart stilled as she read the headline…
‘Showbiz travails… sobbing act by PR agency… employee specially sent to cozy up to KB… what else was she doing in the vanity van?’
‘KB doing what he does best…. Extinguishing the fire… both external and internal…’
Who on earth clicked her picture? She was sure the reporters were all gone by then. Kajal frowned at the cheap thrills people derived from crap news; the articles were up half an hour ago and had received over five thousand likes… there were many such articles and she felt disgusted at the character assassination. Unfortunately, no one had the guts to print KB’s picture; it was just her. Fortunately, her complete profile or name wasn’t visible anywhere so that was a solace. Wiping her eyes, she walked out to the waiting car to go back to receive brickbats in the office.
As she looked out at the passing scenery, her mobile buzzed with an incoming message. Vijay had sent her an article.
There was a video of her opening the vanity van door and another of her exiting it. Here she was clearly visible as the camera had zoomed to show her waterworks.
Tears streamed down her eyes as she read the tagline:
‘Vanity romp…looks like the virile lion got his little bird right in his cage….’