Umanath stood transfixed with the promotion list in his hand. He was too numb to realize the rage that would soon follow that moment. His name was missing from the list. That was not the shocking part. The last name on the list was Raja Singh, his manager. 

“For his incredible work on the ‘file compactor’ that has generated significant cost savings by reducing memory for storage,” read the description below his name.

“Raja is getting promoted. He must have done something really effective, huh?” asked Saina, his colleague.

Umanath nodded with a blank expression on his face. Raja Singh did not work on the ‘file compacter’. He did not even know what it did. It was Umanath who had worked on it, in his own time. Umanath had put his heart and soul into the project only to have it shot down. He remembered that day very well. It was a little over two months ago.

“A file compacter? What would that even do? Wait a minute … I don’t care. We have so many deliverables and you are working on something to save space? That is ridiculous. You have so much promise but you have a problem. You think you know better than us,” said Raja when Umanath showed him the project.

“What do you suggest I do with this? This has cost savings for the company and I mean significant savings,” said Umanath with his eyes widened.

“Send it to me. I’ll take a look at it. Perhaps we can make some use of it somewhere else. Who gave you the idea that saving space is a good idea? Memory drives are so cheap nowadays. You need to concentrate on our deliverables,” said Raja with a look of disappointment on his face.

“This has applications in …” said Umanath trying to reason with his boss.

“Umanath! You are a bright kid but you need to be humble. You need to trust my experience. Concentrate on what I tell you to do. What you have done for a year, I have done for ten,” said Raja dismissively. He patted Umanath on his shoulders and spoke with a condescending voice. “You will get there. Just don’t be in a hurry,” he said as he gestured to Raja to leave. 

Umanath was brought back to the present by someone nudging him. “They want the list,” said a middle-aged woman frantically. She grabbed the paper from his hand and left without saying a word. Umanath looked at her with disbelief. His work was stolen right from under his nose and the thief was getting rewarded for it. Umanath walked to the washroom and splashed water on his face. He was alone and that was when the rage hit him. He screamed and banged his fist against the wall. After a few seconds, his throat was sore. He was not feeling any better. Then he heard it. The sound of the toilet flushing in one of the stalls behind him. He froze and stared forward in horror.

“Hmmm,” said a familiar voice. A man stepped out of the stall. He was dressed sharply and wore a suit that cost more than Umanath’s salary. Donald Wesley. 

“I’m sorry,” said Umanath involuntarily.

“What for? We all need a good scream every now and then,” said Donald cheerfully. He walked towards Umanath and let the nearby tap run. He washed his hands while whistling a familiar tune.

“I didn’t mean to …” began Umanath trying to find the right words.

“Sure, you did. Why else would you be here in a supposedly empty washroom?” asked Donald.

“It is … I don’t know …” began Umanath. As angry as he was, he did not know if he could rat his boss to the vice president of their department.

“Let’s go for a drink,” said Donald suddenly.

“I don’t drink,” said Umanath before he could stop himself.

“Not that kind of a drink,” said Donald with a smile.

Unlike the washroom, the break room was really empty. After very little coaxing, Donald Wesley had got the truth out of Umanath. To Umanath’s surprise, he was beaming.

“He stole my work and he got a promotion for it,” said Umanath desperately.

“So?” asked Donald, raising his eyebrows. He looked like he was sympathetic to Umanath’s plight but Umanath was in pain. “Let’s be practical here. Nothing is going to take away his promotion. No good is going to come from challenging it. This isn’t a movie. That does not happen in the real world,” said Donald calmly.

“He stole …”, began Umanath earnestly.

“He taught you your first lesson in the corporate world,” said Donald sharply.

“Which is?”, asked Umanath, rolling his eyes.

“Don’t trust anyone blindly. When you have an idea, fight for it,” said Donald with a smile.

“He got away with it,” said Umanath feeling helpless.

“He is not the first person to claim credit for another man’s work. He will not be the last,” said Donald indifferently.

“What do I do?”, asked Umanath.

“Pick yourself up and move on,” said Donald, patting him on his shoulder.

“He gets away with it?” asked Umanath weakly.

“You get to walk away from it. Remember this, Umanath. We live in a competitive world. This is like a battlefield. You cannot trust anyone. You have to sleep with one eye open. The sooner you realize this, the better for you,” said Donald.

“What about Raja?” asked Umanath.

“You need to decide who is more important. You or Raja? There is no upside to going after him. Put your head down and work towards your betterment. He will be forgotten,” said Donald.

“Is that fair?” asked Umanath.

“No. It is the only way out of this. I know it seems complicated but you have only one simple choice,” said Donald. He stood up, smiled weakly and left. 

Umanath would take some time but he knew what he had to do. 


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