Jyoti (name changed) is a colleague. Well to me, she is more than a colleague. Senior by two years, she’s my sounding board on official issues. And many not-so-official issues. And she’s always willing to listen and help, unlike most cant-you-see-I’m-busy seniors.

So I didn’t really like it when the grapevine got murky about her. We’ve all had our brush with office gossip-almost always started by jealous peers, sometimes official, many-a-time personal, largely untrue, completely vicious. Make no mistake, I’m no gossip-virgin-I have been guilty of perpetuating many a ‘harmless’ hear-say.

We’ve been doing it since school. Only now, we call it office politics.

So when details around her and Daljeet(another good guy) started floating about, I wasn’t about to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. I grinned and bore it. As did Jyoti; she didn’t let the gossip affect her relationship with Daljeet. Which made the tongues wag even faster. Wild rumours were soon buzzing around. They came to office and left together but spaced out their entry and exit so as not to arouse suspicion, they were seen checking into some seedy hotel in Andheri, his car would be in the office car park late after office hours and was seen to be vibrating heavily and the most ridiculous of them all-they had been arrested for immoral behaviour on Marine Drive.

We knew it would soon be over, but the dust refused to settle. After all, despite her friendliness, Jyoti was a kick-ass, cant-suffer-fools kind of boss who had made many enemies. And Daljeet was no Shweta Tiwari either.

I finally snapped when people started ‘verb’izing them. ‘Lets add some masala to the script, like a Jyoti-Daljeet angle,’ a bright young copywriter suggested at a meeting.

“Dont you have any kaam-dhanda? I mean, these people have families, Daljeet has kids, what do you think…etc etc,’ my outburst must have lasted five minutes. If this was a movie, I would have stalked out while people hung their heads in shame.

Turns out it wasn’t and people just gave each other the ‘lets-ignore-that-crazy-woman-in-the-corner’ look and went about with their work.

“So Ms Rajni, you think we’re the $#@% here? What if we’re right? What if its all true?” My normally- sane friend Sanjay cornered me after that.

‘C’mon! They’re married!’

‘Uh…so?’

I didnt have an answer to that.

‘No smoke without fire dahling! Atleast not this strong and for this long…hey! thats a good line for those male capsules huh-so strong and long,’ my always-insane-copywriter Ajay commented from his corner.

I wasnt going to be put down that easily. ‘Oh ok, if you all are so confident, lets have a bet. If you prove even one of those stories, I will take you out for drinks.’

Frustrated and poorly paid copywriters will do anything for free drinks. Their plan was to hang around and spy on Jyoti till she left for the day to prove that she and Daljeet did indeed leave together as rumoured. Which was tricky, because normally Jyoti and Daljeet were amongst the last to leave. ‘They have a lot of work,’ I muttered at 8pm. ‘Their team has left. What ‘work’ are they doing alone in his cabin?’ Sanjay chuckled over the phone.

9pm. Jyoti finally walked out of his cabin. ‘What are you still doing here?’ she exclaimed. I might have asked her the same question. Instead, I persisted, ‘Can we go back home together? I wanted to discuss something with you,’ I made my best puppy-dog face which works on everyone but my boss and my hubby. She shifted. She demurred. And then she replied, ‘Sorry yaar, but the hubby is picking me up today. Maybe some other time?’ I could already see Ajay and Sanjay hi-five across the office.

PS: At 9:30 pm, we pretended to leave, but actually parked ourselves in Sanjay’s car in the basement car. At 10 pm Daljeet and Jyoti made their way to his car. To this day, Sanjay and I have arguments over whether it was vibrating heavily.

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