He slicks his dark black hair back with his fingers. Outside, it was broad daylight, offering his dark brown eyes a view of the western part of the city. The neighboring tall buildings remind him he is on the 22nd floor of his workplace. He finishes off the remnants of his black coffee, already cold by now. The half-smoked cigarette burns out on the ashtray. He pulls the ropes of his French window and his cabin is no longer reminded of the world outside.
He turns his swivel chair with the support of his desk to face a laptop in front of him that wastes no time in taking him to another world altogether. The white striped shirt he is wearing with his dark grey tie match the colors on the back of his laptop that flaunt the initials “S. R.”.
An unexpected knock on her door wakes Sheena up from her siesta. She reaches for the yellow dupatta lying carelessly on the other side of the bed, as if it was equally tired from the previous day’s work. She wears the dupatta around her neck covering almost half of the orange kurti she was wearing, and walks to the door wondering who it could be. After all, it wasn’t time for her husband to be back.
“Ma’am, your parcel,” a thin man on the doorstep wearing a cap that shouts out he is a delivery person from an e-store reminds her she had ordered a book a week back. Usually she gets her orders delivered at her office address. This time she had mistakenly entered her home details- a mistake that turned out to be fate for she was home that afternoon. Taking a sick leave when she is not sick helped her this time.
She opened the parcel to find her book perfectly wrapped in thin transparent plastic – Managing Time, the title read.
It was a long and tiring day for Shravan and he kept looking at the clock at his office wall. He couldn’t wait to leave, every day. He couldn’t wait to go back to his home, sleep on the comfortable bed and pick up a book to read. The work drained him but what drained him more were the never ending meetings. He was attending one such meeting – his boss talking, his colleagues nodding their heads and uttering an occasional ‘yes’, him nodding his head as if in a trance where there was no effort required to agree to what was being discussed.
His boss congratulated him for having over-delivered his targets again – completing three projects by the time only one was due. His colleagues clapped - some inspired by his performance, some admitting that it was expected of him, some wondered if the projects were really that difficult and the rest plain jealous. Most of the times Shravan, an excellent reader of expressions, could tell who was feeling what. At other times he was too tired to learn such trivial details about his coworkers. He took another sip of what seemed like his 5th cup of coffee that day, as cold as the drop of sweat that trickled behind his ear. It’s been a tiring day. He couldn’t wait for the weekend.
Sheena tore off the sticker that contained her name and address from the wrapper of the parcel. She had a habit of destroying such stickers – she felt it was safe if her address and phone number is not found in some dustbin picked by some mad man. She had a last look at her name printed in tiny black letters – Mrs. Sheena Rao. Whoever invented salutation must have been a bachelor who made his life-long search of a soulmate easier. Soulmate. What a pretentious word leading to an entire Universe of make-belief!
Sheena decided not to tear the sticker but keep it pasted on the cover of the book with whatever glue was remaining on its back. Her cellphone rang a little to indicate her mail box had a new entrant. She picked up the overpriced cellphone and kept the book on its place.
It was a mail from work, a deliverable she had to submit yesterday but couldn’t. The subject of the mail contained the word ‘Urgent’, and so did the couple of mails right below the latest one. She decided to work on it before her husband came back from work.
Shravan decided to leave the meeting abruptly and go home early. His back was paining from the all-nighter he had put the previous night. As soon as he left the conference room, his boss shook his head in disappointment. The meeting the latter had conducted to inspire the others wouldn’t leave a good example for the other is the star performer had to leave this way. Nevertheless, Mr. Sharma apologized to the team on behalf of his star employee, defending how hard he had to work to deliver all his projects before time.
Shravan found himself in the parking lot only to realize he had left his car keys in his cabin. It took him another half an hour to get back to his cabin on the top floor, before he could run back to his car with the keys he was surrounded by his coworkers congratulating him and asking him why he left the meeting but not the office.
The meeting apparently was already over and he realized he could have just tolerated a few more minutes and save his boss another reason to reduce his increment in the next appraisal meeting. Shravan sighed and set out to go home, this time in a lot more slower and dejected pace.
He drives his car as slow as a man who had nothing more to be taken away from. All he wanted was his bed a few minutes ago and now he could hardly stop thinking of the bad decision he made at the meeting.
The watchman opens the gate for Shravan’s car to enter while gesturing him to stop for a while. Shravan lowers his window and the man hands him a couple of books. “Sir, some fans had come for your autograph on your book,” he clarified.
Shravan opens the book and writes his best wishes to the reader on the blank first page with a simple note – always value your present.
Sheena had hardly finished her work when the bell rang. Her husband was back and she hadn’t even completed her office work. She hadn’t even taken the rest she had taken a day off for. She opens the door to find her man with slouched shoulders. Another bad day at work. She hugs her husband, Deepak and reassures him for a better tomorrow, like always. She rushes to the kitchen to make tea for both of them. The book she had ordered lies untouched on the bedside table, probably to find the warmth of touch on another holiday. Managing Time by Shravan Rathore.