"One is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason."
Oscar Wilde ( The Critic as Artist, Part 2, 1891 )
On an uneventful day at work, just when I'm about to pack my laptop and leave, my universe conspires against me... My boss, colleagues, friends and family are reminded of the fact that I'm at their disposal...
This is a series of unfortunate events that happened between 7:30 and 7:40 pm on that Wednesday evening... Disturbing my usual lack of occupation at work, and sending my thoughts spiralling into the inconsequential...
Boss: Tanmay is the calibration report out? (Err... No!) Make sure you send it by the end of the day.
I step out of the room, cursing my luck. I should have compiled it by now!
Unoccupied Colleague (wandering in the corridors): Dude, let's go for a smoke? That chick from Tower-A must be downstairs right now!
I wonder why he ALWAYS want to smoke??? I say no thanks and continue walking through the corridor towards the washroom. I enter the loo and run into a super focused fellow team mate.
Super focused fellow team mate: Hey man, could you please conduct five more assessments? Enter the data into the sheet I'm sending you.
Suddenly going to the loo is off my list of convenient hideouts at work. I say,"Sorry buddy, need to get home early today. Family scene."
I leave the washroom thinking I better finish that report and get the hell out of here before someone else corners me.
On my way back to my room, my cell rings.
Phone Call (Drunk Friend): Tanmay! Where are you??? (Err... Work!) Get your ass to TC right now! Ice is begging to be broken!
I want to scream Yes! Yes! Y-e-s-s-s-s! just like those women in the porn movies. Instead, I politely take a raincheck, knowing well that I had better meet my girlfriend today or she'll kill me or dump me or something. I walk on with this scary thought lingering in my mind.
Master Trainer (In the corridor): Tanny please come to my session. There's a teachback I want you to sit through.
I repeat the family excuse. After all worklessness and girlfriends come first.
I walk on.
Random Ex-Trainee (Outside my room) : Hey Tanmay! Long time... what's happening? Listen... I wanted to clarify something, is now a good time?
Oh God! Why? W-H-Y? Why Now???
My patience is running out and I snap at him. "Tomorrow! I'm busy right now!"
I enter my room. I realise while opening the door that my fist is clenched. A very sweet fellow colleague is standing facing me, as if the forces had informed her of my time of entry.
Very Sweet Fellow Colleague: Aur ji Tanmay ji... ki haal chaal? I just came to work. How are you? How's your girlfriend?
I smile and reply that me, my girlfriend and the entire cosmos is doing just fine. Inside of me I feel like taking a razor sharp knife and waving it in everybody's eye, especially those who can afford to make useless polite conversation in this time of crisis!
My phone rings, again. Mom.
Mom: Tanu please be home by nine today, you know Masi's leaving for London tomorrow and she wants to see you and your brother before she goes. And pay the landline bill on your way back please, it's overdue.
(Thought: Err... sorry Ma, not today! I'd much rather meet my girlfriend!)
I tell her I'm working late and stuck in office till midnight. She sighs in disappointment and hangs up without saying bye.
As I make myself comfortable at my workstation, the schedule incharge get's up and decides to waste some more of my precious time.
Schedule Incharge (My Team): Tanmay make sure you're in by twelve noon tomorrow, we've got lot's of assessments lined up.
(Thought: Yeah right! F*&^$%$(&**%%#$#@... I'm taking leave tomorrow... Naa na na naa na)
I give him a thumb's up sign which he doesn't really acknowledge. The sarcasm on my face might have something to do with it.
"She" walks in... (The one who's thoughts occupy most of my work hours...)
Hot colleague who thinks I'm worth it: Hey... dinner???
(Thought: Can we just have sex on friday night instead? I'm caught up in a mindless, brain numbing activity... the one they pay me for... so that I can buy you alcohol and get you drunk enough to sleep with me.)
Girlfriend calling. I disconnect the phone, almost panicking. I regain my composure and entertain the thought once again before answering the hot colleague.
The words that come out of my mouth: "No, I'm buried in work. Maybe tomorrow gorgeous! Sorry!"
She leaves, looking disappointed. My attention moves to the vibrating Nokia 6600 that my left hand is holding.
Girlfriend calling again. GIRLFRIEND CALLING!
I answer, sounding apologetic, readying myself for the humiliation and insults.
Girlfriend: How dare you cut my call! Who were you with?
(Thought: Err, those who we don't speak about!)
I say I was talking to my boss. My boss looks up at me in disbelief. I wink at him and carry on talking. I tell her I'll be half an hour late. She hangs up on me, cursing.
A disappointed mother, an angry girlfriend, two colleagues plotting how they would politley decline when I would approach them for my work and a boss who was waiting only for me to send him the data I should've sent an hour ago. Add to that my drunk friend, whose place I could've been at had I planned my appointments better!
I was fucked. One way or another.
I decided to calm my nerves, so I did the next best thing to having sex... I called up the pantry and ordered some food... Maggi to be precise.
I restarted my laptop. For some inexplicable reason, I created a playlist with songs from bands like "Cradle of Filth" and "Cannible Corpse."
Once the music was blaring in my headphones, I started compiling the data. The schedule guy, the sweet colleague and my boss all went out of the room.
I was alone. I took the opprtunity to voice my thoughts... saying "Bhenchod...", stretching it as much as possible.
I resumed my work.
In between typing a formula in the excel sheet, shaking my head hysterically to "Six feet under" and cursing my luck, I heard a noise. It must've been loud considering the volume in the headphones had been set to maximum.
I turned my head, only to find the remnants of another disaster. The two plates of maggi I had ordered had found their way to the floor.
I felt my heart sink.
Such was the magnitude of disappointment, that I almost didn't notice the pantry guy. I noticed him only when he made an attempt to get up from the floor. Man, he really should have chosen a better day to screw up!
Anyway, I motioned for him to get out and get housekeeping to take care of the mess he had blessed me with. I don't think he heard me, because he just stood there smiling helplessly for close to 20 seconds or so.
I turned to him in a swift motion indicative of aggression. He asked me if he should get two more plates. Now I lost it. I shouted at him, and told him he could feed as much maggi to the floor as he wanted, but I wasn't going to have any of it!
The smile vanished from his face. He left the room in a hurry, not paying any attention to the maggi on his clothes and hands. He was limping.
I continued to work. A couple of housekeeping guys came in and cleaned up the mess.
I had about ten minutes of work left when I got up from my work station to stretch my back. I was about to get back to my chair when I heard a knock on the door. I looked through the glass door to find the pantry guy standing right outside, with a half-smile on his face. I motioned for him to come in. He disappeared for around 20 seconds and came in. He was holding two plates of maggi. The half-smile had now become a shy grin.
Before I could say a word, he had carefully placed the maggi on my workstation. Then he turned to me, his smile became even wider (something I thought wasn't possible given the small mouth), and he held out his hand.
I shook his hand and he said "Sorry Sir, my fault!" (In English)
I smiled at last, trying to fathom why I was touched by his gesture.
His next words were in a language he was more comfortable with,"Sir hume maloom hai aap naraaz ho mujhse. Aapka kaam itna tension vaala hota hai, upar se meine maggi gira diya. Sorry."
"Arre nahi yaar, aise mat bol... tu to sharminda kar raha hai!", I said, cutting him short.
I looked at him in the eye and for some reason I had a rush of emotion. Then there were random thoughts. I think I wanted to burst out crying. I wanted to tell him that he was important too. I wanted to tell him that I respected him more than I would ever respect myself. I wanted to tell him that the server is greater than the servee. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him one day it would all be ok (Something like a Jaadu Ki Jhappi). I wanted to tell him that I'd teach him how to read and write, and then maybe he could get a job, a real job I mean.
Instead I asked,"So where are you from?"
"Bihar Sir, Madhubani."
"Arre, phir to hum bhai hein, mein Bhagalpur se hoon!", I replied, feeling a sudden ease after having found something in common with him.
The shy grin emerged.
"Aur, dilli mein kaise? Kahaan tak padhe ho?", I asked.
"Sir, M.A. kiya hai Sanskrit mein. Dilli aaya hoon taaki bachhe achhe school mein padhe. Vo jagah safe nahin hai na, isliye..."
(Thought: M.A. in Sanskrit??? This guy is more educated than I am!!! Fuck!!!)
"Arre waah, yaar tu to mujhse zyaada padha likha hai...", I said, backslapping him, appealing to him to be at ease with my presence.
He continued to smile at me, standing almost motionless, staring at me. I was wondering what to say next when a realisation hit me. In the middle of being preoccupied and emotionally upturned, I had forgotten to pay him.
I gestured for him to move aside and went to my work station. I picked up the wallet, which was lying next to my laptop.
"Kitna ho gaya? 4 Maggi ka 60 Rupees na?", I asked him, in an attempt to confirm. Also indicating that I was willing to pay for all the damages as well.
"Aap 30 rupees de do mujhe Sir. Jo gir gaya tha uske paise aap kyon doge. Vo hum dekh lenge", came a swift reply.
I was a little puzzled and I guess it showed on my face. He gave me a reassuring smile as I handed him the thirty rupees. He took the money, and left the room after saying thanks. As he was leaving the room I called out to him, "Bhaiya... Pakka na?", feeling sudden guilt about him having to pay 30 bucks out of his meagre pay.
"Are Sir, don't worry! Apni setting hai...", he said with a laugh and closed the door behind him.
I finished my report. I checked my watch, 8:55 pm. I had to meet my girlfriend in five minutes, and there was no way I was going to make in time even after having rescheduled. Surprisingly, I wasn't angry, irritated, worked up... nothing! I guess I had resigned to my fate.
I called her up and told her that I would make it by 9:30 pm. She said she didn't want to see me ever again. I laughed, in helplessness and amusement, and she hung up on me for a second time that day.
I sat there staring into space. It was then that my thoughts spiralled into the inconsequential.
The first wave of thought was about the strange and predictable ways of the world (geography notwithstanding). How certain fundamental aspects of existence would never change. How there would always be the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the alpha and the omega. Always.
The second wave of thought was mostly in what ifs and how could I have... I thought about my state of oblivion, and how most of my mental comfort had its roots in the ignorance that stemmed from it.
I thought about those who I care about, love, respect, work with, want to be with. And how their expectations of me had wrecked my nerves a little while ago.
I thought about how each person is a universe, including the pantry guy. There was so much to know and so much to learn about anyone at any given time in this world that it could overwhelm the google server a couple of times over. I was so intent on admiring the light being emitted from the stars in my universe that I overlooked the fact that it was me they were blinding.
My mind started giving up on me. I yawned. I wanted to go home, now. I packed my laptop, picked up my wallet and keys and headed straight out of office into the elevator lobby. I waited for about five minutes and finally got into an empty elevator.
On it's way down, the elevator stopped on the 4th floor. It was the pantry guy again, smiling as usual. I immediately rejected the thought that it was an omen.
There was an awkward silence in the six by six confines. We had exhausted all possible conversation in my bay before. I pretended to stare at the screen which indicates the floor and temperature. When the elevator gates opened, I stepped out. There was a rush right outside, a lot of people got in even though the lift was going to the basement first. I negotiated my way through the restless crowd.
As I walked on, the elevator gates closed, physically reinforcing the gap between our universes.