By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
Harieth had been working as Bakari’s secretory for more than 25 years.
She loved her profession and was proud of it.
She admired her Boss and tried her best to keep pace with the workload.
Because of the nature of Bakari’s business, besides the routine secretarial work, half of her time was consumed in receiving guests. Sometimes some of the guests were irritable and irrational people, but she maintained her professional smile though sometimes it was a bit artificial. At times her lips were smiling but her nostrils were flaring.
She was not beautiful but had a unique smile. The dimples on her cheeks were deep enough to get drown.
Her voice was husky, she could never raise her voice. If she did so, then the husky voice became inaudible, it remained as a wheeze only. That negative part of her voice had helped her to maintain her low, polite tone. She knew the situation well and used it for her advantage.
Technically she kept herself very much up to date.
She took her secretarial course during the era of the huge, ugly manual type-writers when if three, four people were typing together at the same time, it sounded like a heavy machinery workshop. Then arrived the era of electric type-writers, and then followed the feather touch.
Bakari always considered it as an asset to keep the office tools up dated. He used to send Harieth for short, orientation courses whenever new technology changed. Since the IT era came, all the antic type writers had been distributed to whosoever asked for it. It helped him to decongest his store room. The oldest type writer had gone to Harieth’s house. She treasured it; it was that type- writer which made her earn her first salary in life and continued earning a living.
Several times it had crossed Bakari’s mind to update his secretary also, replacing the old model with a young, modern, slim and beautiful face. Whenever Harieth was on annual leave, Bakari had hired the modern secretaries several times, but all turned out disastrous at least with him. He accused Harieth for spoiling him.
She was a secretary to him, but to his wife, she was the most reliable, trust worthy friend.
Bakari had learnt to trust her also in every respect. She kept official and personal matters strictly segregated from home matters. He knew very well that she knew some of the visitors to his office were not for official work, but for pleasure. Some unnecessary business trips were made with unheard names. She believed that a true secretary should protect a Boss’s secrets.
On certain occasions, Bakari’s heart skipped few beats after seeing Harieth at his house talking, laughing and chatting with his wife. After Harieth’s visit, he expected thunderstorms from his wife; instead she showered him with love. That was when his respect for Harieth grew to trust.
Bakari had met John, Harieth’s husband few times at his office but for brief moments only. He did not unnecessarily hang around his wife during her working hours. She seldom talked about her family. She forbade her children from coming inside the office.
Sometimes Harieth could be very commanding and demanding, but the outcome was always for the benefit of the company. Within the 25+ years they had understood each other very well, adapted to the mood swinging of each other.
But of late, the working atmosphere had changed.
At first Harieth thought that the problems she was facing with her teenage son might have reflected on her routine work.
But then on those days when she arrived in the morning with a real good and calm mood, also the same tense atmosphere lingered on. For small problems, she had been insulted. Even if it was, very clearly not her fault, still she was accused.
She tried her best to control and remain calm, but she was failing.
She tried to explain to her boss, but she was not given the chance. Two/three times Bakari had seen her in tears, that escalated his anger and insulted more. He even told her that her hormonal deficiencies were making her performance deficit.
Harieth had visited Mrs. Bakari wanting to probe whether there was any family tension which had contributed to Bakari’s recent egoistic behaviour. No signal seen. But strangely enough Harieth found very comforting to chat with Mrs. Bakari. It helped her to ease her anger towards her boss.
She had discussed briefly with her husband about it, but he ignored her. He would not like to meddle around in her job. He simply asked her to ignore the insults. She scolded him for not helping her.
She had talked to several of her friends, age mates, who were entering peri menopausal periods like herself.
All of them had expressed different difficulties-hot flushes, bloated feelings, getting fat, getting angry quickly. But nobody had mentioned about getting lazier or reduced efficiency. She knew she had some of the symptoms, but within tolerable limits.
Sometimes, when the boss had gone out she sat down and rechecked the mistakes which she was accused of making. More than half of them were clearly the mistakes from the boss’s side. She had to find a way to make him realize that.
Silently, she had started making plans of retiring. At least she needed few months more, minimum of 6 months to arrange of her plans to start a small secretarial cum stationary shop. She did not like to be a failure; once started she wanted it to keep going.
She wanted to know whether her health status would not be jeopardized with that menopause and related problems.
She took an appointment to go and see her family doctor.
Her doctor explained everything concerning menopause, gave her few booklets and assured her that it was a very normal process experienced by everybody who are in their forties and fifties.
She wanted to ask the doctor whether men also undergo such difficult times. She just started saying “what about” and stopped. She could not continue. The doctor insisted on completing the question. She was feeling uncomfortable. The doctor himself was in his sixties, could be nearly the same age as her boss. With the doctor’s insistence, at last she managed to ask him about the possibility of male menopause.
The doctor smiled and told her very few people asked about that question. But he cleared all her doubts. Even before the doctor completed explaining, Harieth started pouring out all the symptoms and signs she had seen in Bakari. The doctor continued nodding and smiling.
When she completed, Harieth was sobbing and told the doctor that she could not tolerate him anymore and was going to resign.
The doctor waited till she calmed down. “Yes, your boss is ageing. Few people can become more aggressive, demanding and commanding with age. Your understanding and tolerance is very important at this time.”
When she was through with the doctor, Harieth felt much more comfortable.
She let out her sigh of relief “Poor man with his menopause”.
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