“Trrrrring……Trrrrrring”, the alarm buzzing away didn’t seem to breach through Jayant’s sleep. The repeated buzzing forced Ma to come down from the adjoining room and snap “Stop Alarm” on the mobile screen.
“Jayant”, she went once. No response. “Jayant, Jayant. What happened?” “Are you unwell?”
Still, a fumbled, “No Ma. I’m fine”, left her worried. She touched his forehead. “All seems well. Why don’t you wake up? The alarm has been buzzing for a good twenty minutes. I think you are going to be late to work.”
“No, don’t worry. I won’t be late.” He assured her, though deep inside he felt uneasy. He did not want to pass on any worry to his mother as he himself was unsure of what the future held. As it is his divorce had been an immense emotional setback. More for his mother as for her marriages were meant to last a lifetime. Jayant’s uneasiness grew. Each passing day seemed harder and more burdensome for him to face the day.
He stumbled for slippers with half-open eyes peering through the envelope of darkness in the room. It was a month now, that every morning Jayant dragged himself out of bed, at times staggering to the shower as if purposely delaying himself.
For long, he had been contemplating a change of place. The house, though his Dad’s legacy held overwhelming negativity, most significantly, the turbulent times of his now broken marriage. It had taken long to overcome the void of his partner walking out on him.
Was all this fuelling the present stage of uncertainty? With ambiguity looming large, it was time for introspection. Jayant was not sure where and how, but he would have to find the answers.
Stuck in melancholy of thoughts, Jayant considered it wiser to report sick at work and just walk down the dusty lanes of the city. The thought of calling the boss was unsettling to him. Ever since the change of reins happened at Sunshine Publishing House, the ‘fun place to work’ had started to develop a tint of gloom. Given the fact that he was still drawing monthly salary cheques, there was no option but to call.
“Hi, Abhimanyu, this is Jayant”
“Hi, Jayant” (a pause followed) “How come I don’t see you at the desk? It is 11 am!”
“Don’t we begin work at 9:30 am?” the exasperation in Abhimanyu’s voice was evident. An unwelcoming remark for an old employee was unsettling for Jayant. While still connected on the call, he mumbled, “Do you care to hear my side of the story?” “Or is this supposed to be one-way traffic?” Jayant just did not want to give explanations of any sort as he was already emotionally drained.
Wanting to end the conversation he retorted sternly, “I’m just calling to report sick. Will not be able to show up for a couple of days. Thanks!”
Hastily shoving the phone into the pocket, he walked towards the kitchen. “Mom, I’m leaving. I may get late in returning so don’t wait up for dinner.” “Bye”
“Bye son.” “But what about breakfast?”
“Not needed”, Jayant looked at her as he gulped down the cold cup of tea.
Once out of the door, he walked, and walked, and walked. Directionless but unaware that fate had other plans.
He was roused from his reverie by the riotous chatter of children. Startled, he quickly gained his composure as he stood facing about thirty slum children engaged in a cricket match. Something tugged inside as he chose to sit down on a broken chair and be the lone spectator. Soon he was not just sitting, he was cheering, clapping and surprisingly laughing out loud. The children reciprocated his show of support by victory displays. Jayant felt transported to another world.
Once the match ended, the children hugged and congratulated each other. Jayant could not hold himself from walking up to the children, smiling……and then laughing. He gathered them around and ushered them towards the lone shack behind him. Signalling to the owner he shouted “Chocolates for all of them.”
Suddenly, Jayant felt lighter, the clouds of confusion seemed to be clearing. He knew tomorrow will be a new day with new hopes.
He was back to the same place next evening. But not alone. There were bags full of elementary education books. Standing next to him was his mother, ready to cut the ribbon and inaugurate “Rising Stars Night School”. Jayant’s future had found a definition and so had the children around him.
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