One day at his workplace, in a cluttered space. Which was more like a cross between a kennel and a circus ring. It had stench of exhaustion mixed with despair and an ever ready whip that could strike at the slightest provocation. A normal sweatshops most of us work at. May not like it exactly but then the loan payments, house rent and kids school expenses keep digging into the bank balance like an excavator.
In one of those dark moments when his wife had been unusually silent in the morning, with kid raising a tantrum before going to school, he arrived in the office, already loaded with a baggage. A baggage of irritation.
On top of it, his boss had arrived earlier than him. So he had to endure to a long talk about punctuality and dedication. In that mood he returned to his table and kept staring at it for some time. On calming down a bit he started working on his assignment. Reading files, checking the boxes and uploading documents, . Going through it like a robot. But an irritated robot.
It was a average day like any other day but the morning had sort of disturbed his balance. Every added assignment, kept adding to his anger and frustration. A thought started raising its head in his mind. A radical thought. To just let go of everything and leave the office. Go for a walk in the crowded lanes of the city or sit in some park, under a tree. But then these were all just fantasies. Never to come true. Nowadays, life felt a bit more overwhelming. With no perfect way to deal with it.
He thought about his youth. A young man from a distinctly lower middle class family. Who had to always settle for bits and pieces that came his way. Never the complete package. Never the complete deal. Neither was he greatly motivated. Had understood early on in life, that the rewards are never commensurate with the efforts. So he had cruised along in his formative years. No great efforts nor less. Somehow ended up working overtime almost 14 hours a day at an office doing menial data entry work.
Working there for a long duration and interacting with people, had made him better informed about life in general. He had learnt a lot about the world and its complexities. Things which he had never thought about. He learned that there are ways to improve himself. He could take up an online course. Or he could take up a full time course that could add to his CV. Of course that would mean no income for at least a year. But then he had saved a fair amount working overtime, in that hell hole. That was one good advice one of his colleague had given him on the first day of his job. Don’t spend money on non essential things TJ he had said.
The path his thoughts were taking cooled him down and rather made him feel happier. He started searching online for courses. Called up a few friends. By evening he had almost finalised the course and the college from which to do it. He had checked and double checked his bank balance and calculated everything thing atleast thrice. Made a note of everything on paper. After going through it he felt satisfied that this was an achievable endeavour. For once in his life, he’s was taking a decision rather going with the flow. Most of the times he had been pushed on the path that he walked on. Sometimes he had accidentally landed on it. He also had kept walking without any second thoughts. For obedience came naturally to him. With a father who was emotionally distant and who felt that earning a monthly pay, is the only contribution that is required of a father. Mother, ah! She was busy all the time in house work and pampering his fathers fragile ego. So his was much of an emotionally fulfilling childhood. On top of it, his father never allowed him to go out of their house to play with the neighbourhood kids. “You will fall in the wrong company” he used to say.
So he was a loner who hardly had any friends in the school. On coming home he just withdrew more into his shell.
Till he joined this workplace he never had real friends. Close ones in whom he could confide. Talk about his dreams, his troubles and his silly nonsensical thoughts. Though a hell hole, he had come to learn of a lot of things here. Things he wished he had understood earlier. There were a few colleagues with whom he had connected well. They also had understood his naive and uncomplicated nature. Rather than making fun of him, they had taken him under their wings and helped him bloom. Though it was a bit late in life he had started blooming. He learnt that things are not black and white. Not every black is completely black and not every white is completely white, at all the times. He learned to understand people. Their motivations and the way they behave and why. His roots were learning to dig deep in human experience and nourish his trunk to create more branches and leaves. In that state of mind, a rare moment had arrived today in which he took a call to enhance his education, that would help him get a better paying job and a better life. With all the cobwebs of doubts blown away he had decided to apply for further education and as and when the application was accepted to put in his papers at his current workplace.
At the end of the work day he was in a hurry to reach home and talk with his wife about the exciting things he had thought and planned. The future looked bright right now. And he wanted to share it.
As he reached home he found it surprisingly locked. His neighbour on hearing him outside, opened his door and gave him the keys. “Your wife kept the keys with me before she left in the afternoon with your kid”, he said. This was puzzling. Never had his wife left his house without informing. Confused he entered inside and closed the door behind him. Tried calling his wife on her mobile. But it was switched off. Now he was getting worried. As he was about to call his wife’s brother, he noticed a piece of paper fluttering on the dining table. A bottle of pickles was placed on it as a paper weight.
Not thinking much he opened the folded paper. It was a note from his wife. “ Dear TJ, I am leaving the house and your life. For long have tried to cope up with our finances. But things have never improved and I think, will never improve. I have my dreams and desires and I don’t think living with you they can be ever fulfilled. It’s better that we go on our separate ways. In a way, it’s not only about finances but also about you. You have been a distant husband and father. You are lost in your own world and never have tried to look into ours. I have tried hard to communicate, but you have shut yourself down. Nothing seems to go inside nor come outside from your mind. It has been seven years that we have been married and you have remained the same throughout this time. I am a different kind of person. Love life and love to enjoy the good things. You have no other inclination apart from following the routine. There’s no love left in our marriage, rather there was none from the start. And there’s no life in our relationship. I can’t waste my life any longer. Will be sending the divorce papers soon. Don’t wait for me nor have any hopes about me coming back. I won’t be changing my decision.
Reading the letter was like being torn apart with multiple knives. The words kept dancing in front of his eyes, mocking him, even when he had placed the note away. Sometimes they acquired his wife’s voice and kept repeating in his ears. He was stunned into a blank state. Couldn’t think straight. He sat down on the floor dazed. Kept staring at the walls and the ceiling. The wall clock kept ticking away. Sometimes he felt it had taken a pause. When he looked up at it he would find it ticking rather laboriously. There was an empty silence in the house. Not for the lack of sound but for his temporary loss of ability, to hear it. He got feeling that the decorative paintings on the walls, which he had bought off the streets were staring at him sympathetically. He used to look up at them with a start to find them as they were always. Worst part of it was, he was at a loss on how he should react. He felt empty and helpless. Disgusted with self, that he was not brimming with rage. Saddened with his inability to think straight. It was long after midnight that he got up from that position and went in the bedroom to lay down on the bed. Looking at nothing specific he started thinking feverishly. Suddenness of the event had blunted his emotions. But now they were coming back. He tried to analyse his behaviour with his wife. Found nothing wrong in it. With this revelation he started blaming his wife for the situation. Especially for the timing. When at last, he was changing and making efforts to change things. A radical decision for him, yet he had taken it. She had put him down exactly at the moment, he had found courage and sprouted wings. With these kind of thoughts running in his mind, he dozed off sometime early in the morning.
Tomorrow would be just another day at work. One of many more. He won’t be late again. Work with his head down, without any complaints Won’t ever dream of leaving the job. He would be returning home late after working overtime. To an empty house.
Really heartbreakingly realistic story. Well written.
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Thanks a lot for going through it. And your feedback gives me a boost. Please feel free to mention any shortcomings, you may feel the story has.
A story that many can relate to Shashi.
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