It was usually the time our office closes. The office worked in shifts. The last shift ends by 9.30 PM and all the 300 people working get in their respective cabs that would take them to their home. We had adequate number of team leaders and admin persons to handle such a big crowd and always managed to clear the crowd within 15 mins maximum.
Working in such a big company is fun. Our primary source of fun comes with the attendance sheets circulated from all the departments through access card reports. We used to count how many Karthicks and Senthils are in the company. At one point of time there was a quite a competition between the names Vinoth and Karthick. Karthick won easily after vinoths stopped liking our company.
Everything was set, myself and my friend were standing near the security door signing for people who missed their locker keys and id cards. Then we heard a feeble voice calling us.
An elderly man in his ugly dhothi and shirt was standing in front of us. His beard was white and his eyes were kind of yellow in color. Not even a contractor or vendor would come in this time for our office.
“Sir! My daughter is working here. She hasn’t come home”
We checked with securities about the cab. Just in case if some cab have broken down, the girl would have got late to home. We have to send people to escort girls to home. Head ache. But surprisingly all the cabs were good.
“Sir! All the cabs have gone. May be your daughter will be in home in another twenty minutes or so”
“My daughter works in first shift”
Again we got puzzled. That shift ends by 1 PM. But the girl still hasn’t gone home. Its usual that few people extend their shift for some reasons.
“Whats your girls name?”
“What is the project she was working in?”
The old man was clueless. I cursed myself for asking such question. He was clearly not the type the girl would sit and discuss her job with. We checked for Selvis and found five in first shift in various geographies in Chennai. This is going to be tedious.
I was skeptical to suggest him to go to police. Our managers would fry me if the morning papers carries the name of our company for this affair. I was not able to read the old man’s face. He was restless. And was looking at me anxiously as I was looking at the list.
“Where do you stay sir?” I asked hoping to narrow down the selvi we were searching for.
“Mangadu” And again he was looking anxiously around him.
“Sir its eleven, do you have any bus to take you there in this time?”
“I think I will manage that but my wife is also waiting in the security cabin downstairs. They didn’t let us in”
Sometimes the data entry companies occupy big IT parks with stringent security rules. Ours is one of them. I was pretty sure the old man would have gone through hell to come up to the office. I was baffled when I came to know he brought his wife with him at this time. I asked our security coordinator to take care of the lady.
Atlast we found “the” Selvi, but I was not able to identify her. There were 500 people totally working in this office. There was no HR person available and I cannot wash this as their responsibility because I felt that the old man had put all his trust on me.
“There may be lot of reason sir. Your daughter did not extend her shift. Infact she took permission and left by 12 noon itself. I am not sure how I can help you”
“You can ask her friends”
“I don’t even know her, let alone her friends”
“She is working in your office, you ought to know. The place I work, my manager knows every person and their friends”
“Its our office. And I am not a manager. Infact you should know who her friend is”
“I don’t know. She won’t talk to me”
He was in brink of the tears and I didn’t want to push the matter further. Suddenly it occurred me. Her van friends should know me. The company had a sound MIS. I picked up the van route she was coming and then dialed the van leader. Van leaders are people who get in at the first point so as to note the starting KM in cabs. So that we would manage transport. He/She should have this girls number. It was a girl and I thought a thousand times before dialing. Its half past eleven now.
I was sweating, what the girl would say when she gets a call from me in this hour. If she don’t picks up the phone and complains to her supervisor, things will go critical for me. For my reputation in office, I cannot convince even the housekeeper that I didn’t have any evil intentions.
The call went on wait. Shit!
I tried few more times and then the call was picked and I heard a husky hello.
“Hello, I am Prasanna from the office”
“Sir please talk slow. I cannot talk properly. Dad will kill me”
“But the call was on wait”
“I was talking to…”
“Ok OK! Do you know Selvi, first shift. She didn’t reach home. Her number is switched off. She came with you in morning”
After an eternity of silence she said “She came to office in saree”
“Sir she was seeing a person from our office. He is in a different project. People said that they went together.”
Oh Shit! How am I going to tell this father that his daughter would have been married by now?
“Are you sure?”
“Sir, please don’t pull my name into this” and she cut the call.
For a moment I thought about my team. They have planned a house party. Few bottles of bear would have gone and few people would have gone down on their own puke. But poor me, stranded in office with a bewildered father and a possibly crying and ranting mother downstairs. And I don’t even have a clue on what to tell them.
“Sir” I hesitated for a long moment.
“Son! Please don’t tell, you cant find her. You are our last hope. I have been with a friend to police station to give complaint about his missing daughter. The questions they asked… I will die then and there if I have to face that humiliation.”
Oh! He is not making it easy. I asked him to sit and dialed my friends number. He is the Google of personal affairs inside the office.
“Guru! I need help. Do you know Selvi from Mangadu? First shift?”
“Yeah! She was in saree today. She was seeing Pushparaj. That guy was absent today. What do you want?”
“Love you da! You almost gave everything I wanted. Good night”
In five minutes I was waiting for Pushparaj to pick up the call hearing his shitty hello tune. He picked up the call and I told him the whole thing.
“Uncle and Aunt are there in office?”
“They are not your inlaws yet. Where did you take her?
“I am going to kill you. Who takes a girl to temple at 1 PM. You went there for free lunch?”
“Sir! Her friend was getting married there”
“Yes sir. Then I saw her getting bus to her place”
Uuff! I somehow felt easy to discuss the probability of accident to her father than marriage. Good God! What if it is a kidnap?
“Ok come here as soon as possible. We are going there”
To cut long story short, when pushparaj came to office, he forgot his ID card and had to sit with the mother of the girl who was crying. To comfort her he told the whole story to get nice thrashings from her sandek sandals in the middle of the road. Myself and the old man ran and stopped her. When the old man came to know, I feared Pushparaj had a better chance of getting killed. But the old man took his hands and started crying.
We took them to their place to find the girl sitting in their door step. While pushparaj was showing all his teeth, the mother gave her same treatment that was given to Pushparaj.
“Where did you go? Who is this guy?”
The girl was shocked by the treatment first then seeing her boyfriend with her parents. She then said “I went to our aunt’s home and there was problem for her with her husband. I was there to stop her doing anything silly. When I came home, you people were not there. I was clueless and sitting here”
“What happened to mobile?”
“It fell down and it is not getting switched on since then. Why do you beat me?”
“You need not go to office from tomorrow. When we think you are working, you were having fun with boys”
“Aunty its not the case” Pushparaj came in.
“Just shut up. Son, we are not educated or rich. All we have is good name. I don’t want her to spoil it.”
Though I didn’t understand what they were talking, I was relieved that the girl is safe and I can go home. My mobile rang. It was the security coordinator.
“Sir, There is one more old man in search of his daughter”
I turned to the Selvi we were searching for past one hour.
“You went for a marriage today right? Is she from our office?”
“Yes Sir, why?”
“Nothing” I said and started the bike cursing the long night and the reality to face the teary eyed father and break the news of her daughter’s wedding.