“Dinkar, you’ve been retrenched.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Thank god, thank god, thank god, I murmured sincerely, uncrossing my fingers. I had feared I would lose my job in the ongoing recession. I smiled at my boss, at once conscious and proud of my invaluable contribution to the company to which I had given four years of my life. I puffed up my chest and straightened my neck, smiling smugly.

Some of my colleagues looked puzzled though. Eff you, I thought happily; you’re just plain jealous. Then I turned to look at my boss. How expressive I tried to make that look! I wanted him to appreciate my gratitude and the silent promise that I would work even harder, make the company prouder of me. After all, the company that had appreciated my efforts and hard work deserved that. But even he was frowning at me.

“Dinkar,” he said in a grave voice, “you’ve been retrenched.”

I nodded eagerly. Maybe he wanted me to stand up and thank him for being considerate. Well, I thought, what the hell if he did! I had no problem; I’d get up and thank him. So I did. He cocked his head, his eyes narrowed, as if interested in seeing what I was going to do next.

“I…” I began but then stopped. Sounding too enthusiastic wouldn’t go down well with my other unfortunate colleagues, one or more of whom would get the bad news soon enough. I decided to strive for the difficult balance between caution and sycophancy.

“Thank you so much for…um…for your…consideration.” That sounded just right. I smiled at him meaningfully, hoping he’d understand that I intended to thank him later personally. In a more fitting manner. Maybe a gift – a bottle of scotch perhaps? – wouldn’t be out of order. I nodded at him and sat down. Oddly enough, someone sniggered. Must have been that bastard Vinay. I hoped he got the axe; he deserved it.

Mr Sharma,” he spoke again. “We’re letting you go.” So that meant I was free to go and resume my work. I nodded eagerly again and made to get up.

“You do understand what I am saying, right?” he asked doubtfully.

“Yeah. Of course.”

“O…ka…y,” he drawled. “Um…so, ahem, you can probably pack up your desk now.”

Wait, what? What did he mean, “pack up my desk””? This time I frowned. And this time I did get his meaning, but he explained anyway.

“The company has decided to let, uh, some employees go,” he said slowly, as if explaining to someone with intellectual disability. “You know how it is, with this recession going on, and, ahem…your name came up.”

I stood there, shocked and disbelieving. I am being sacked. Came up, my ass! I thought angrily. As if they had taken out draws to see who would get the axe. They had – must have – checked who was the least important, without whom the machinery could keep running. Whose absence would not make the slightest difference to anyone. And my name was at the top of the list! And there I had been smiling like an idiot, like the lucky guy!

I felt mortified. My face went red as I now, too belatedly, understood the puzzled look my colleagues had been giving me. I avoided looking at them directly but caught the expression of sympathy that now clouded their faces. Bloody hypocrites! They were just glad that they hadn’t been retrenched!

Ears burning and head humming, I missed most of the instructions my boss – my ex-boss – was giving me. But I caught the name “Vinay” through that drone. I somehow understood that I was to hand over my charge – the projects I was working on, the files I had with me, the software I had developed and all that crap – to Vinay, who sat there smiling at me smugly. Never shied from sucking up to the boss. It had stood him in good stead though! I had always let my work speak for me and got the sack. Words do speak louder than actions it seemed. I shrugged and sighed.

What did it matter now? I could have handed over my charge to the peon for all I cared. There was no need for me to be there any longer, to sit through the regular ordeal of meetings, lectures, seminars, trainings, instructions. Small blessings. Silver linings and all that optimistic crap!

I packed my things. They all fit in a cardboard carton, with some space to spare. I looked at my computer – the company’s, my desk – the company’s, my printer – the fucking company’s. Even the phone in my pocket belonged to the company. Everything I had thought belonged to me hadn’t been mine, in spite of all my small, vain attempts to “personalise” them with stickers of smileys and all that cheerful bullshit. I thought of taking them off but what good were they going to do me? There was no place for smileys in my life any more. I left them there for Vinay for all they were worth.

But I wasn’t going down without protest. I opened my system and looked at the program I had debugged just before the meeting, hoping to get some pats on the back for it. I selected the file, and with a malicious grin, pressed the delete button. Let the asshole do it all on his own, from scratch. On a wicked impulse, I also changed the password. The meeting was over and my colleagues, ex-colleagues, came out of the conference room. I scanned their faces to see who else shared my fate. From their expressions – relief, wariness, delight – I realised I had been the only one shown the door. My mood soured all the more. Some of my “friends” came over to my desk, reluctantly it seemed to me. Perhaps no one wanted to catch my infectious fate.

How Dinkar Lost His Job and Found a Life

Excerpted with permission from How Dinkar Lost His Job and Found a Life, Gurpratap Khairah, Speaking Tiger Books.