• 29 Sep - 05 Oct, 2018
  • Nadeem Alam
  • Fiction

I have been following Saima for the last few days. She comes out of the office and goes straight to her home. She always strolled the way and I followed her on foot, too. My curiosity kept increasing and so did my obsession with her.

She worked in my office. I ran a small software house in the midst of a big metropolis. My clients were mostly from abroad. My software house developed various applications and utility softwares for some very renowned foreign companies. I had a staff of nine people working for me. My office comprised of a small room, a hall and a kitchenette. The small room was my office and rest of the staff occupied the hall. Out of nine, one was our peon/chef. We called him Fazlu Baba. He was my oldest employee and I trusted him the most. The other eight were programmers, which included Saima as well.

She would come daily exactly at nine and would leave at sharp six. She did not talk much with anyone in the office. She always brought her lunch from home and did not spend time in the usual office lunch parties. I paid my staff depending upon their workload. She was always paid the highest, as she worked the most. She never wasted her time. It was a common saying in the office that she does not spend more than one minute speaking to anyone. I tried many a times to indulge in a discussion with her but she would agree to anything I say and that was the usual end of discussion, as well as the end of her one minute.

I had always kept a strict account of my office property. Lately, office things started going missing. Someone was stealing from the office and for some absurd reason, I believed it was her. I had ignored when some of the stationary items went missing but one morning, a router disappeared and then we could not find a couple of external hard drives. I talked in confidence with every employee. When I inquired about it from her, she showed complete ignorance about the missing hardware. However, she did not take anybody's name unlike everyone else who put blame on others. My suspicion was getting stronger but I needed evidence. My main concern was not the petty missing office stuff or computer hardware but the doubt that anyone who can steal these things can also steal valuable client details or programmes that are under development. There could be a thief who can sell the software for a hefty payment. It could not only hurt me financially but also tarnish my reputation.

I spoke to a friend who advised me to install a hidden camera in the office. If I catch the hardware thief, then I will surely prevent any software pilferage. Last week, when everyone left, I with the help of Fazlu Baba, installed a miniature spy camera in one corner of the hall. It had a wireless transmitter, so there was no need of installing cables. I had its display unit in my office and I could see her table very clearly. Only the camera battery required changing or recharging once every two days.

On the first day of monitoring, I kept watching her on the display screen throughout the day. She remained focused on her work and did not take anything from the office. Over the period of one week, I intentionally kept unwanted stuff on her table but she did not pick any of them. Strangely, when I kept this stuff away from her table, it usually went missing. I continued my routine for two weeks till I got fed up. It was then that I decided to follow her and see her activities en route.

I had seen her home during my surveillance ventures. She lived at a 20-minute walk from the workplace in a township comprising of small houses. One day, I got up from my office at noon and went to her home. I had a clear plan, as I wanted to see her home from the inside. An old man on crutches opened the door after I knocked for almost ten minutes. I introduced myself as a representative of a verification agency. I further told the old man that Saima has applied for a job in a multinational company and that I have come to verify her credentials. The old man took me inside and offered me a chair. The house was neat and clean, which reflected good housekeeping skills. The old man told me that Saima is his only child. His wife expired last year after a long illness. He told me that he is a retired school teacher and has spent his entire life teaching good values to his daughter. She wanted to study more but was forced to take care of an ailing mother and a diabetic father whose foot had recently been amputated. The house rent, utility bills and medical expenses were enough to break her back but she never lost her courage to face the cruel realities and hard challenges of life.

The same night I returned to my office. The building supervisor knew me, so he let me in. I opened my office with my set of keys and adjusted the hall camera. I installed another camera in the kitchenette. Next morning, I found out that my most trustworthy employee, Fazlu Baba, was not only drinking the milk but was also stealing stationary items. In the next few days, I also discovered that every other person working in my office was stealing the office stuff except Saima.

I recovered most of my stuff from the employees after threatening them of giving the footage to police. I also fired the nasty ones including Fazlu Baba. One thing was still missing. It was a little piece of my heart. I knew for sure that Saima has stolen it.

The next Sunday, I sent my mother to ask for her hand. She treated my mother with a lot of respect and asked for some time to think about it. She also stopped coming to office from the next morning onwards.

After a few days, I mustered up some courage and called her up.

Her phone rang for a long time.

When I was about end the call, she received it immediately.

I could not think of anything at that moment, so I just inquired about her father’s diabetes treatment.

“How do you know about my father’s medical condition?” she asked me.

“My mother visited your home a few days ago and she told me about your father,” I gave her a weak broken response.

“But my father was not at home at that time and I certainly did not have any conversation with your mother about my father’s medical condition.”

I could not think of any response, so I changed the topic and sincerely apologised to her for sending the marriage proposal.

She did not say anything and I also kept quiet.

This conversation had certainly exceeded the one minute mark.

After some silence, she asked me, “Do you want me to come to office even after marriage?”

I just could not control my excitement and instantly said, “Yes.”

“What?” she asked in a loud voice.

“I want to see you 24/7,” I told her.

She laughed and hung up the phone.