The day of failure

“Driver, Bandra?” Prakash asked. The cab driver sitting in front of him was busy smoking his beedi while standing beside his taxi. The sound of the mechanic hammering the chassis was irritating Prakash’s ears.

“Driver?” Prakash uttered after getting no response from the driver.

“The car is not working, sir. Can you not see?” The driver’s response was blunt and obvious.

Prakash didn’t want to give up.

“I am willing to pay you whatever you want. Just take me to Bandra right now.”

Prakash helplessly started walking away from the garage to the bus stop. It was the start of the rush hour, but the bus he took started from here, so he was usually able to find a seat on the bus. The unnecessary honking of the cars and bikes on the main road didn’t bother him as he took a vacant spot on the bus stop seats.

“Failure is the precursor to success!” He thought. A TED talk that he had seen last month had proclaimed this statement boldly. Laden with examples, the talk had shown Prakash why most of the successful people were failures at some point in their life.

But that only made Shekhar sad. Looking back at his life, he had no experience with failing. How could he? In school, he was one of the top 5 in the class usually. He had failed at a few entrance tests, but failing an exam was not one of the failures mentioned by any of the inspirational talks. They explained a failure to be a big regret that troubles you so much so that in order to fix it, you do something extremely well. Prakash had none.

He had tried to aggrandize some of his minor failures in school. When he was in ninth standard, he had failed at making a girlfriend because she didn’t like him. When in the eleventh standard, he had failed to get his school a medal in Football as he failed to make a penalty. But the magnification of such small failures was not going to deeply trouble him. He knew very well that he had never failed like the people he had heard giving inspirational talks.

The thought of not failing was like an irritating pimple. Every time he scratched the thought, it grew bigger and uglier. By now, it had persisted in his mind so strongly that all he could think was about failing.

For the past six days, everything he did had a malicious intent. He intentionally ran late into meetings at work, freely made logical errors while writing code, erratically kicked off a few scripts that should not have, and also managed to sleep at work on a couple of occasions. Not just at work, at home as well. He started cooking without looking at recipes but discovered that he was actually good at cooking. None of his experiments in the kitchen tasted bad. Last weekend he had also made sure to get drunk to be able to do stupid things in the hope of failing.

Only his friends could tell how silent he went when he was drunk. There was not a single word that came out of his mouth.

The only relationship he had in life had recently ended, but Prakash considered that to be his biggest achievement rather than a failure.

At work, his boss pitied him, thinking that everyone had bad days in life. Though Prakash’s mistakes were often, she ignored them and didn’t term them as failures but areas of improvement.

Two nights ago, Prakash had realized that to fail, he had to try something radically different. He started his own Youtube channel that had a video with a collage of photos that he had collected since childhood. The video had been liked by 250 people, which was not terrible. If he kept posting new content, Prakash knew he would succeed.

Frustrated with this feeling, Prakash had woken up this morning determined to fail at least once in a big way. His day ahead was thus going to be packed with surprising events.

He had already left ten minutes late from his house, making sure he would miss the first meeting in the morning. This important meeting was regarding his future projects at the company. By missing the meeting, all the good work would be picked by others on his team, so he was assured of failure. To convince himself of the mistake, he intentionally asked the driver standing by the under-repair taxi.

If the taxi broke down on way, he would not be able to make the meeting with a good reason.

The bus that he sat in today was one of the new buses. BEST had recently procured new low-floor buses which had a pleasant, airy ride experience. The driver behaved as if his struggle lasting tens of years had come to an end as he calmly pushed the pedals. He couldn’t afford to have even a scratch to the new machine. As a result, the bus was going slower than usual.

“Do you mind if I postpone our meeting until afternoon? I woke up a little late this morning.” Prakash’s boss messaged while he was sitting on the bus. All the other team members responded with a ‘No Problem’ to the question, so Prakash had no choice. His forehead now had wrinkles.

He started thinking of alternatives. The bus took him to work in another hour. While he wondered if he should get down from the comfortable bus and think of failing by not going to the office, he knew this was not a foolproof option. Failing took more than avoiding working. He stepped off the bus and headed to work.

“Should I go to the kitchen?” He thought. The kitchen was busy in the morning getting lunch ready for the hundred plus employees of the company. If he was able to talk his way in to go into the mega kitchen and make a big mistake, such as dropping a big pan full of curry, he would end up making a mistake for which he would have to pay a price. No one at the company would be able to eat.

But he was not allowed entry into the kitchen at all. The chief cook mentioned he could go in the afternoon when the kitchen was a little more relaxed.

“Up the game, boy!” Prakash thought and thought for a few minutes while wandering in the cafeteria. Petty mistakes were not going to count towards a big failure.

“What if I go eat some wild stuff today to get sick? What if I abuse my manager so much that he fires me from work? What if I put all my money today in falling stocks? What if I kill someone? Will I be a failure then?”

All these thoughts, he realized soon, were leading him to petty mistakes. In normal scenarios, these mistakes would lead to failures. But most of these would also create a bad image in the eyes of everyone, which he didn’t want. All the TED talks he had listened to were of the people who had failed in life but had not necessarily earned a bad name for their failures.

The thoughts revolved around his mind as he went to his desk.

Writing code for new features that were due to release three weeks later, he finally had a notorious idea. What if he leaked the new phone his company was launching? Prakash was developing the company’s website and had the webpage ready for the phone launch. The webpage was going live two weeks later.

“Wait a minute, will that be a failure of mine or just a small mistake?” He asked himself. “It will be a failure. I would fail at keeping the company’s biggest secret. The boss would definitely hand me a pink slip. There is no chance I am surviving this one. Finally, I am going to fail. I hope this one leads me to a lot of success in the future.” He would get a bad name at the company, but no one outside of the company would know or care.

He decided to push the buttons. The webpage went live in less than a minute as Prakash sat in his squeaking chair. He had finally made a big mistake.

Nothing moved, however. For the next fifteen minutes, while Prakash thought he would be called in for interrogation by someone above his ranks, there was no one.

The office functioned as usual. People sitting beside him still had their earphones plugged in. His boss was sitting opposite his cubicle, minding her own work. The water purifier machine on his left was frequented by people from time to time, but none of them turned towards him. The air around him didn’t feel any different. There was no resentment or hatred for him anywhere.

“What the hell? Has no one noticed?” He googled the phone to see if it had been creating a buzz in the media. There were three articles already written about how fabulous this phone was and the articles had been generating a huge amount of traffic.

“It is a matter of time before I am kicked out of this place.” Premature releases were bad because competitors got hold of the phone’s pricing and features. The phone was this company’s best work yet, labeled as a budget phone that everyone would desire to have. The company had invested almost Rs 10 Crore in the research. The production was due to start next week, giving enough stock before the phone could be made available in the market.

Prakash sat in his seat while no activity happened. He went down to lunch with his colleagues, talking about the IPL match last night where Kolkata had beat Rajasthan in a nail-biting finish. Prakash was worried the whole time but made no mention of what he had done.

He checked his phone during lunch to see all the hype this new phone was generating. Several Youtube videos had come up, phone reviews were starting to populate Google’s search results and the overall sentiment about the phone was quite high.

It was finally when the Customer Service Department was bombarded with phone calls that people noticed that the phone had been leaked. No one pointed a finger at Prakash, though. The market was excited about the phone, which was lauded by the customer service department.

A sentiment analysis that the marketing team ran indicated that the phone had an overall positive rating from the public and the traffic generated towards the phone’s website had grown three times, which indicated people were excited to buy the phone.

Prakash finished lunch and reached his desk when a message popped on his screen. “Can you meet me on the third floor? My office?” It was the company’s CEO who was calling Prakash in.

“Yes, of course,” Prakash replied. It was his moment of failure. Once he was out of this job, his struggle for success would start. He would be able to deliver his own TED talk sometime. Not that that was his intention of failing.

“So, Mr. Prakash,” the CEO noted. “I see that you have raised the company’s valuation by at least ten million dollars. Based on the trend that we are seeing in the market, the phone is poised to do really well.”

Prakash was confused.

“I want to congratulate you for making this happen. My secretary told me you were the one who made such a strong push for the phone in the market.”

Prakash was dumbfounded at this point.

“I want to congratulate you. Also, looking at the existing demand for the phone, we are starting production today itself and should start delivering them in a couple of days. Would you like to oversee the supply operations? I want to make sure the demand is satisfied.”

“What?”

“You’ll be reporting to me. We were missing a Supply Chain Director for a long time anyways. Work the logistics out with my secretary.”

“But, sir…”

“Don’t worry. I am sure we pay well.” The CEO had to rush to a meeting. Grabbing her laptop, she started pacing outside the door. “Once again, congrats. We are excited to have you here.”

Prakash was disappointed.

Instead of being kicked out, he was promoted to get a huge responsibility at the company. The fear of their competitors grabbing hold of the leaked phone and coming out with similar products was wiped out if the phone release was preponed.

The CEO played a brilliant game. By putting the responsibility on Prakash, he ensured that the mistake would be paid for by his work.

“Maybe I fail at failing,” Prakash uttered and chuckled his sadness away, to enjoy the promotion and the pay raise.

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