“Just attempt the interview. That will be your achievement.”
By: Subhanghi Anandarajah
Charumathi’s friends lovingly teased her for moving more sluggish than a seahorse. She consecutively completed her meals last. In public, they needed to routinely glance all over to ensure she was nearby. So it was no shock that as she perused and then reread each characteristic of the several memberships Costco offered, she distractedly swung her legs.
Unemployment had accompanied Charumathi for four years now. Once she turned 18, she started her first job at the A&W in her hometown, Richmond Hill. After her first three months there, a manager told her she needed to improve her agility and proficiency when handling unfamiliar responsibilities in order to remain there. Considering Charumathi would flee whenever her father chopped meat and she didn’t count on herself to operate any heated cookware appliances at home, she floundered when preparing burgers. Regardless, she quit two weeks following that revelation since her work consistently influenced her panic attacks. Blending her terribly inadequate cooking practice and her apprehensiveness of settings where she wasn’t shining, Charumathi dreaded curbing the team’s abilities, exhausted from persistently confining herself in the bathroom as she willed her tears away. Her mother, Luxmi, didn’t appreciate that Charumathi hadn’t brought up her decision to quit before she handed in her apron. Anyhow, since then, Luxmi only reminded her to apply for available roles.
Last Wednesday, Charumathi had been seeking positions on job boards when she came across the cashier posting for a Richmond Hill Costco. Her mother had fulfilled the exact job there for six years. Each of Luxmi’s visits back ensured presents for their family from her coworkers. Coincidentally, Luxmi’s peers had brought a few potential cashier roles to her attention that day.
So here was Charumathi, agonizing over details about the corporation, including their widespread stocks and where she would need to direct customers based on the location’s layout. She had succeeded on the applicant test and was readying herself for her interview the next day.
“Charumathi!” Her mother shrieked as she slammed Charumathi’s door.
Seeing Charumathi jolt and take a deep breath, her mother chuckled.
“Sorry.” Luxmi sat down and passed her a packed, plum folder. “Charumathi, make sure you read these.”
“Wait, what are these?” she questioned her mother, her breath growing quicker by the second.
“Every time your sister and I have gone through an interview, we write down all the questions we can remember. Read through all these so you’re not caught off guard by any questions you didn’t predict.”
Charumathi withdrew 10 pages with questions and suggestions printed down on them. There were even a few stray pages recapping guidance for interviews.
She clasped her hands and pressed them against her chest. Her right foot was thumping. She needed to devour chocolate. Charumathi then began sobbing.
“Amma!” she wheezed.
Astonished, Luxmi shut Charumathi’s bedroom door and embraced her.
“Why are you weeping like this? Is the interview terrifying you?”
Charumathi gripped her mother closer.
“Please, can I just miss the interview? Let me have some more time to read through all these papers and the online interview recommendations I made notes for, and I’ll go to the next interview for sure. Amma please, I can’t prepare myself in time for tomorrow.”
Luxmi gazed at her and pinched her cheek lightly.
“Charumathi, I don't need you to get the job. What I wish is that you just attempt the interview. That will be your achievement.”
Luxmi wiped her tears and Charumathi rested her head on her mom’s lap, practicing the questions together. At 10 p.m., Luxmi suggested that Charumathi go to sleep so she wouldn’t struggle to wake up early.
The morning of, Charumathi donned the white lace dress shirt her mother had purchased the same day she filed her application. Once she had readied herself and prepared for the interview one final time, her sister Divya drove her to Costco since their mother was at work.
“All the best, Charumathi. Don’t panic about the interview, and show them your terrific answers,” Divya told her while showing the peace sign.
Charumathi walked over to customer service, where she was notified that they were carrying out interviews at the back. She sat down, and after a few minutes, Norbert spotted her. Well, of course, she didn’t realize it was him until he reached out for a handshake and offered his name.
Norbert had been her mother’s manager and Luxmi often talked about him with the family after her shifts. They had become cherished friends, yet, thankfully, he’d never met Charumathi. She didn’t want her mother to have any influence on her getting this job.
The interview commenced once he put her application in front of them.
“Charumathi, what are a few of the tasks a cashier fulfills at Costco?” Norbert began.
“They carry out financial transactions for customers, pack the goods they buy, maintain their registers, and deal with memberships, among other tasks,” she said, doing her best to show how earnest she was as a candidate.
“Well done!” Norbert grinned, looking impressed. He stared closely for a few seconds before glimpsing at her application and then her. “Charumathi, are you Luxmi Sathiyendran’s daughter?”
She smiled with reluctance.
“Yes, I am.”
“Oh wow, I didn’t realize you were her daughter. I’ve listened to her go on about you and your sister, but for once, I’m finally meeting you.” With an enormous smile, he asked, “So did your mom brief you on everything?”
She fixed her posture. “No, I thoroughly reviewed all the cashier details. I researched on my own about the job so I wouldn’t depend on my mom.”
Leaning back, Norbert nodded.
The interview lasted another 30 minutes. Since she hadn’t been employed for quite a while, whenever questions about her work experiences came up — such as how she resolved errors without a supervisor nearby — she discussed her present situation as a volunteer at one of the city libraries. Norbert would also outline his profession and the occurrences he faced at Costco when she asked about the atmosphere and his duties.
“Alright Charumathi, any last questions you want to bring up?”
She pondered about how to express her question for a moment.
“Well Norbert, when would Costco reach out to me if I get the position?
He beamed. “Charumthi, you succeeded in this interview.”
“Oh, thank you, Norbert! So, will I have a second interview?”
“No Charumathi, you already got the job.” She chuckled softly and swiped away tears as she gratefully thanked Norbert, who also laughed and shook her hand again.
After wrapping up the specifics of when the offer would appear, she power-walked to her sister’s car in the store parking lot.
“How was it?” Divya asked apprehensively.
“First, take me to Amma’s workplace!” Glancing at her little sister’s immense smile, Divya joyfully hurried to their mom’s work. When she entered, Charumathi noticed her mom speaking with someone else and lingered until Luxmi noticed her.
“Charumathi, how did you get here? What happened to the interview?”
“Amma, I got the job!”
Her mother’s face illuminated with ridges as she beamed and presented Charumathi with a thumbs up.
“Congrats! I knew you would receive this job with your brilliance!” Luxmi hugged her and they swayed side to side. “I’ll see you both at home after my shift, and we’ll head out for dinner!”
Pinching Charumathi’s cheeks, her mom embraced her once more.
As soon as the sisters were back home, Charumathi screenshotted the interview email as a remembrance of her triumph. A reminder that she always had the potential to surpass her own hopes — but what mattered most was that she tried.
This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue