Sushmita looked up from her paperwork in response to the timid knocking at her door. Without even realizing, she frowned. A man was at the door, hesitating, nervous. Sushmita’s frown deepened as she ran her eyes over his creased kurta, loose shabby jeans, and at least five days’ stubble.
She knew – and vehemently disliked – this category of men. Struggling authors, they liked calling themselves, and for some strange reason, believed that an unkempt appearance wad directly related to literary genius.
Her guess proved correct, though people seldom came at her door for any other purpose anyway. The man nervously shuffled towards her huge wooden desk, meticulously organized – down to the stapler in a glass plate along with gum-stick, and paper clips in their own square box. Sushmita hated sloppiness
“Uhh”, the man fumbled, probably the effect of Sushmita’s scrutinizing and clearly disapproving gaze. “Actually, I write short stories. I have a manuscript I wanted you to see”.
Sushmita pointed at the two little stacks of manuscripts on the corner of her desk. “Put it there”, she replied as briefly as possible.
The man hesitated. It was evident that he had hoped to discuss the manuscript with her right then. He scratched his stubble in apparent deep thought, and ran a hand through his already tousled hair. Sushmita’s nose scrunched up in distaste. She wondered when the man had last taken a bath.
“Somebody will get in touch with you… if we like the manuscript”, she said curtly.
“OK”, mumbled the man.
As the door closed behind him, Sushmita shook her head as if to clear the unpleasant image from her mind.
3 months later ********************
Sushmita looked up to find a young man at the door, smiling deferentially at her.
“Come in”, Sushmita invited, smiling back.
He walked confidently to her desk. He was not what you could call conventionally handsome, but with his neatly trimmed thick wavy hair, clean shave, crisp white shirt and perfectly tailored trousers, coupled with his easy manner and confident smile, he was every bit pleasant for the eyes.
“I have written some stories. If you could look through them when you have time? Should I leave the file on your desk?” he asked politely.
“Sure.” Sushmita smiled approvingly.
After he left, Sushmita finsihed what she was working on, and reached for the manuscript. Let me read one or two of his stories before lunch, she thought to herself, finding herself secretly hoping that his writing would turn out to be as good as his appearance. By the time she looked up from the manuscript, it was long past lunch hour, and she had read all the fifteen stories. The “book”, as she already called it in her head, held immense promise.
“Thank you, I will see you soon”, he said and pressed the End button on his phone. The call had been from Sushmita’s office. They wanted to discuss his manuscript. Would he please make it down to the office the day after at 3 pm, they had asked.
He had definitely not expected to hear from them within two days of dropping off the manuscript.
“If only I had shaved last time,” he said to himself, and grinned. “I would have had this meeting three months back”.