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Short Story: Shadow

Written by Tayyaba Aziz & Saqib Hussain   After 30 minutes of struggling to focus on work, Moosa finally gave up. He stumbled in hi...

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Encounter with the Grim Professor

After a long boring philosophy class me and my cousin Sheraz decided to visit the nearest departmental store. Whether it was long list shopping or just to grab a chips pack for the long walk to the bus-stop. This large store was our favorite place to visit before we hit the road home.  
As always Sheraz wandered around while I indulged in search for my favorite brands straight. I was about to collect a few more things from the second aisle when Sheraz runs to me and babble something with wide-open eyes and mouth in shock. He waits for a response, I frown at him and thought to myself how men can be so anti-shopping creatures.
“Just saw Professor Rafique in the first aisle” Sheraz uttered in a soft hushed tone this time.
“What! No way” I yelped in alarm and made all the other customers stare.  

Professor Rafique was a retired military man, a wing commander to be specific. The man who cared for rules, etiquette, discipline and many other conducts to complicate one’s life. On the bright-side he was the only teacher who saw us as professionals. We very much enjoyed his fun filled, trill and military like classes. He treated us like executives and expected us to act like CEOs of Multinational co-operations. And that was the only reason we were disinclined to confront him.

The problem now was we were in the second aisle and we had to cross the first aisle to reach the counter.  So we the smart, future CEOs started to play hide and seek with the professor. Few minutes later Sheraz guessed that professor must be at the end of the first aisle by now so we could cut through the mid way and sneak out.  We rushed to the mid way and came face to face with Professor Rafique. Thanks to the pathetic planning of my partner we meet in an unavoidable awkward situation.
It took us a few seconds to convert our astonishment into more pleasant surprised looks. We greeted the professor with wide smiles and expressed how pleased we were to see him. Professor on the other hand was actually pleased as he instantly started a conversation. After many questions about our plans for future he told us about resigning his job as a teacher. I gave a laud shriek as if I didn't already know.  He slowly nodded and there fell a short pause. Then we excused him as we were to catch the bus.

Before our goodbyes he addressed me by my name and asked why I was holding all the products in my hands, where was our trolley. I felt the lecture coming, as I struggle to clutch on products to keep them from a collapse. How negligent, retroactive and poor conduct for professionals! I could read his mind. More than that, old teachers tend to own their students and how they behave. One the other hand students live simple, pick stuff in hassle, drop them on counter, pay and rush for home. Unfortunately Professor Rafique did not believe in sweet and simple.
I gave an uneasy short laugh which died instantly as he gave me the fierce interrogatory stare. I told him it was just one-item shopping. I was holding more than six items when I said that. Blame it on the impulse buying initiated by the self-service stores these days.
He gave me an unacceptable behavior kind of a look. I and my cousin surrendered ourselves to penalty and public humiliation that we could sense coming. To our surprise Professor shook his head and smiled. After farewells we rushed off with hysterical laughs all the way home. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

My First Interview was a Disaster!

One day the coordinator called to inform us about the internship offer from an International company. Teachers and the whole university were excited with great expectations where I and Saba were so calm and cool-headed.
I and Saba were the perfect partners in fact we redefine partnership into a success story. Saba was the computer genius and I was the amusing presenter who would attract the audience, hold their attention and convince them. Whenever we were together in projects everyone knew they were no match for us sharks. Every presentation would end with a proud teacher encouraging applause and many standing ovations. We were the stars, the leaders, the champions well you get the point.

The big day came I dressed my best looking confident and stunning, ready to add another achievement in our history.  When we entered the company my heart skipped a beat. It was huge and fascinating with great glass walls, plants and luxurious furniture. ‘This is it. The place where I actually belong.’ was the first thought that came to me. The air was friendly and very businesslike I already felt connected. There were people smiling and greeting us everywhere.

When my name was called I picked my bag with attitude as this girl is a ten out of ten. All eyes were on the confident, fabulous celebrity who walks her way to her destination. I entered the room and found four gentlemen well dressed appearing professional. The room was bright and fascinating, sunlight passing through the huge glass windows on my left.
 In the center sat the guy who politely asked me to take the seat. I figured he was the Human Resource Manager. Mr. HR was only there to offer me water, be nice and keep the environment friendly. The second to his right was a sweet guy obviously the Marketing manager, to the left was an unfriendly Finance manager and the forth I have no idea what he was there for. He didn't say a thing at all so I couldn't guess his department. Could be a Sales person? Well I doubt that as sales people cannot be that quiet.

For a while these guys said nothing but stare at me making me feel a little nervous. It felt awkward sitting in front of four straight faced strangers. The white bearded Finance guy turned out to be very rigid and inconvincible just as I guessed. He asked me about my major and mocked me when I replied that it’s marketing with a relieved smile. I was delighted when marketing questions started to shoot. ‘This is easy’, I thought to myself.
The only problem was I forgot how to speak. I had every detail in my mind so perfect but couldn't encode this information into understandable words. Questions were simple basics of marketing. Like what is a Brand?
“Brand is a promise you make to your customer. Brand creates a positive sentiment among its target audience. A symbol used by companies to distinguish their product from others in the market." This is what I wanted to say but what came out was, “Brand… like I’m wearing Gucci glasses and this is my Coach bag” and that was all.

Before I could gather myself another question was asked. It became a game whenever I started to answer Mr. Finance would either change a part of the question, or an entirely a different question was thrown in my face. I realized I had only seconds to answer I started to provide examples only. Well I was doing the same in the first place so it didn't show-off my crisis management.
I was a dumb child sitting there staring at huge monsters who looked mad. A toddler could speak better than me at that time. I knew no language. My mind went blank like a computer screen. The answers were right there in my mind and this good sweet marketing manager was nice enough to understand my ‘sign language’. He kept encouraging me all through the interview. In that room he was the only person on my side even when I wasn't on my own side.

After a few minutes I was exhausted. The picture I gave was of a weary huffing pray and they were the relaxed tigers enjoying the game. At this point I started to lose my temper my smile was gone. I knew the answers and I badly wanted them to know it, only if I could figure out how. The HR Mr. Nice offered me water while I was talking. I shouted back, “NO!” I didn't mean to sound defensive but couldn't help it. The silence that followed almost killed me. Few seconds later they thanked me and told me they would give a call.
Disheartened I picked my ‘Coach bag’ and slowly started to walk out of the room. I desperately wanted to turn around and show them who I am. Just to prove that I can do a lot better than that but I was more shocked than embarrassed.
When I came out of the room it was a different place. It had become darker and scarier. I desperately wanted to run away from. And I actually did run. Well almost as I could hardly walk with the shock so great. I am so good with the presentation with halls packed with huge audiences and I couldn't happen to talk to these four guys. We failed but bigger shock was our juniors passed! Two nameless timid introvert guys got the internship and we didn't?! Oh well instead of a success we ended up adding a little humor to our history.

The biggest mistake was losing my temper. Mr. Finance was only trying to see my anger management. The pressure is bad but the only thing I missed was a smile. Lesson learned is playing cool even if the interviewers play you like a hockey ball and keep smiling.