Rantu, Mantu, and Santu had shared a close-knit friendship for years, cultivated within the confines of their shared workplace. They spent five days a week together, engaging in lively conversations that spanned politics, cinema, books, and the daily grind of their jobs. Santu, the third member of their tight-knit trio, often joined these discussions, adding to the camaraderie they all cherished.
Their friendship didn’t end at the office door; it extended into the weekends. Almost every Saturday or Sunday, either Mantu or Santu and sometimes both, would visit Rantu’s home for lunch. Rantu’s wife, with remarkable patience and grace, would accommodate their preferences, preparing separate dishes to cater to Mantu and Santu’s tastes. Rantu viewed these gatherings as an expression of his friends’ affection and believed his wife enjoyed these cheerful weekly meetings.
Rantu, however, was no pushover. With an analytical mind honed by his creative work, he couldn’t help but notice that he often bore the brunt of certain situations. Office meetings invariably took place in his room, leading him to foot the bill for teas and snacks. Yet, he had never had the opportunity to see the homes of Mantu and Santu, both proud bachelors who refrained from inviting Rantu and his wife, seemingly to avoid disrupting their carefree lives.
The dynamics shifted when Santu tied the knot, bringing his new wife into their circle. Strangely, even with this significant change in his life, Santu continued to avoid inviting Rantu and his wife to their now-family home. In contrast, Mantu, a confirmed penny-pincher, resolved never to marry, fearing the financial burden on his single salary. This decision kept his friendship with Rantu relatively unscathed.
Despite these one-sided developments, Rantu remained committed to his belief that true friendship should be unconditional. It meant cherishing someone irrespective of their strengths or weaknesses. He brushed off minor disappointments as insignificant in the grand scheme of their enduring bond.
However, a day arrived when Rantu faced a significant test that would reshape his perception of friendship. This challenge came during a hectic period at their workplace, with a major annual event looming. Rantu was tasked with writing and compiling a book chronicling their organization’s rich history. He assembled a team and collaborated with a printing press, working tirelessly to meet the looming deadline. Despite his demanding schedule, Rantu made time for Mantu and Santu, adhering to his belief that even in the busiest moments, one can find a spare moment for loved ones.
To clarify, Mantu and Santu had no involvement in Rantu’s office work, as they pursued their own projects in different domains. On the fateful day when the dummy copy of his book arrived, Rantu had to follow protocol and seek final approval from the organization’s top executive. Rantu, known for his shyness and reluctance to assert himself, invited Mantu to accompany him to the boss’s chamber, believing it to be a gesture of genuine friendship.
Mantu accepted the invitation, and they entered the boss’s office with Rantu’s “baby” – the book – in hand. While waiting for the boss, Rantu admired the new paintings adorning the walls, taking a stroll around the room. Mantu casually flipped through the pages of the book.
As luck would have it, Rantu took a little longer than expected to return to his seat, and during this brief delay, the boss returned from the restroom. The boss cordially welcomed them, and they settled in for the meeting. Mantu, with a broad smile, handed the book to the boss and proudly claimed, “…have done it, Sir!” Rantu, caught off guard and unsure if Mantu had deliberately omitted the word “I” or “we,” found himself looking foolish.
To his horror, the boss began leafing through the book, all the while smiling and engaging exclusively with Mantu, discussing its contents. Mantu, although completely unaware of the book’s content, responded with monosyllabic answers. Rantu struggled to regain the boss’s attention, offering hesitant and bitter comments, but he was utterly ignored. The boss sealed his approval, handing the book to Mantu, and the two friends exited the chamber.
Rantu felt helpless and dejected, unable to confront his friend with a resounding rebuke, even though his trust in their friendship had been shattered. How could a friend betray another friend in such a manner? This question weighed heavily on his heart.
Fortunately, the truth came to light only two days later when Rantu encountered the supreme boss in the main lobby. The boss inquired about the book and why Rantu hadn’t shown it to him. Rantu, suppressing his surprise, responded, “But Sir, Mantu has already shown it to you!” The boss, now stern, questioned, “Who is the editor of the book, you or him?” He then instructed Rantu to show the book to him that evening.
While the prospect of receiving due credit for his work cheered Rantu, the issue of friendship continued to trouble him. He grappled with the painful realization that even the strongest bonds could be tested, and sometimes, they might not emerge unscathed.