‘Acchoo’, I went and AK growled at me. We were in the midst of a meeting, both the Boss and AK were having heated arguments and I was in a confused state about whom to support, the one who had appointed me or the one who paid my salary.

Tired of working in an audit firm, I had applied for a job in sales finance. Instead I had been appointed as a team leader for a DSA (Direct Sales Associate) by AK for his financing company. The owner of the DSA had good connections, was situated strategically and yet the business was going down. And so on a lark, AK had appointed me for the DSA.

It was fun actually, making my team work, close deals, make reports, everything. The best part was motivating the young chaps and yet the employee turnover was high and almost closed deals collapsed. But whenever I went along with any of the sales guy, we closed the deals. The boss called me his lucky charm and AK just said that I could do better. 😦

The fact was that whenever we had a sales pitch, a meeting or a party, I had to sneeze or cough. Now that irritated AK. ‘Are you an old woman to cough/ sneeze like that’, he would say. For the life of me, I could not understand the relationship between old age and sneeze.

That day we were having a meet- BOss, myself, AK. Topic- our best and longest staying sales guy had quit. AK said that it was because the Boss employed losers and he got losers because he paid less. And boss opined that why should he pay more for someone who he trains and then that person quits just like that. I agreed with both of them. But the fact was I was hungry. Lunch was ages ago and by the time I reached my hostel refectory would be closed. I knew if I had dinner out, the hostel gates would be closed too.

The meeting concluded inconclusive. I took my bag and ran. When AK said, “wait” and I swore-to myself of course. ‘Lets have dinner’, he said. ( he always saw that we were fed properly). ‘But my hostel gates will be closed by then’, I said. ‘Don’t worry, I will drop you’, he said.

We had just sat down for dinner that my sneezes began. ‘Ther you go again, can anyone have an interesting discussion with you?’ Now how could I explain that his perspiration combined with his Eau de cologne in the closed A/C room gave me sneezes. I did the next best thing, Moved a little far. And miraculously the sneezes stopped.
‘Who do you think is right me or he,’ asked AK. ‘Errrr actually both, I think the cause is something else’, I said.

‘Meaning?’, he asked

‘Somehow I feel that there is some other reason. I have a doubt, can you give me a few days. Meanwhile can we eat and talk, I really have to rush,’ I said and we chatted on mundane topics.

I began training two new persons. The day I was sending one of them on a pitch alone, I was pensive. SHyam our peon was wiping the table when he asked, ‘Naya ladka gaya kam pe?'( the new guy, did he go on a job). I nodded. Feeling a bit down I decided to go to the nearby coffee shop where I noticed the new sales guy. He got up hurriedly and explained that he was about to go to work but decided to have a coffee first, I said it was alright, as long as he did his job, I did not mind his having as many coffees as he wanted. And as usual I started sneezing.

As I bent down to cover my nose, my gaze went outside the french windows and I saw Shyam talking to another man. That man looked familiar.

The whole day I was thoughtful. The new sales guy failed to close any deal. I was snooping around, trying to get my suspicions cleared. I called AK and said, I am hungry.’

‘Go and eat something’, he said.

‘No treat me to a sizzler today at ….,’ I mentioned a chic restaurant.

‘Why don’t you go yourself’, he asked.

‘The salary you give me is not enough for a sizzler’, I said.

He guffawed and said,’OK come at 8 sharp but for heavens sake don’t start sneezing’

‘Why don’t you wear a fresh shirt and come,’ I said and bit my tongue. I was so worried about the problems we were facing that I had not checked myself.

‘Huh you mean to say that it is me who causes the sneezes’.

There was no point uin being diplomatic and I blurted the truth, ‘Yes your sweat combined with your cologne’, I said

We met at 8 sharp, he in a fresh shirt and me-my usual messy self. Shyam gave me a sly smile when I left office today, ‘I said.

‘So?’ he asked.

‘I also saw him with Nitin’s driver yesterday,’ I remarked.

‘ Why are you talking in riddles, he said.

I told him my suspicions. I suspected that Ntin the rival DSA owner had ‘bought’ Shyam. He got to know all our leads and also saw to it that our sales executives got a better job elsewhere. Shyam giving me a sly smile that evening was the proof that he was spying on my phone calls and had thought that I was having a date with AK
We brainstormed, we argued and finally AK agreed that I may be right. Now he got pensive and I enjoyed the sizzler alone.

My suspicions were proved right. Nitin was indeed insecure of our DSA and saw to it that he got to know of our leads adn got our execs, better jobs. Nitins, DSA lost out Company’s Account

The Boss was happy and gave me a raise and AK asked me to aske him whatever I wanted. ‘Just wear a fresh shirt whenever we meet,’ I said and we all had a hearty laugh.


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