Finding the Balance

His alarm buzzes at 6:00 AM, exactly as it has for the last ten years. But he silences it, without a second thought, and dives back into his work emails before even stepping out of bed. The faint aroma of freshly made parathas floats through the air, but he ignores the call of breakfast. “Arjun, eat your breakfast before you leave for work!" Meena calls.  "I don't have time, Maa. Just pack me three Parathas in the box. I'll eat them in the car," Arjun yells back, his eyes still glued to his laptop. The breakfast table is a lonely place in the Sharma household. In the dining room, his retired father, a former scientist himself, who has just come back from his morning walk, sips his tea, eyes lingering on Arjun's untouched plate of fruits and nuts that Meena has set out for Arjun.  "Arjun is being irresponsible, Meena," the old man mutters, leafing through the newspaper. His voice is as dry as the summer winds, as he tries to address Arjun’s health with a mixture of concern and humor. Meena sighs, packing the parathas into a tiffin box for later. She looks at her son, the outline of his once robust figure now softened and rounded. Meena can see the toll Arjun’s work is taking on him. Conversations around the dinner table become strained, filled with worry and subtle admonishments. “He's not the boy he once was,” Meena whispers, with a heavy heart and tears slipping down her cheek. “Do you see Arjun’s bulging waistline, his pale complexion, and his constant fatigue? All signs screaming for attention.” Meena takes another deep breath.  But Arjun is oblivious to them, lost in the cosmos of his work, and universe of equations and theories. He takes out his car from his garage and drives away in a hurry without even shutting the garage door. His colleague, Vikram, often tags along, a friendship forged through shared passion and work. Arjun’s mornings are always like that — racing against time, like a satellite hurrying to reach its orbit. Vikram glances at Arjun's haggard face, concern growing daily. In the bustling Mumbai traffic, Arjun makes a quick stop at his favorite street vendor, indulges in three Vada Pav, and asks the shopkeeper to pack four samosas in a brown-paper bag. “Arjun, your taste buds are so attuned to the rich, oily flavors of street foods,” Vikram passes a sarcastic remark looking at the food. “This kind of food is a dangerous addiction, Arjun.” “Don’t be so silly, so… preachy, Vikram. I need to have something to keep me excited for food. I am sick of eating the same homemade food every day.” Arjun retorts by rationalizing the purchase of greasy, street food as a necessary fuel for his demanding job. *** At the ISRO research center, Arjun is a star, his mind a universe of equations, theories, and innovations. Arjun's lab is his sanctuary, filled with the buzz of computers, the click-clack of test tubes, and the intoxicating scent of discovery. His dedication is unmatched, as he relentlessly pursues his passion for science, often losing track of time. It's not uncommon to find him at the lab well past midnight, with the only company being a cold and greasy take-out box from the fast-food joint around the corner or packed street food parcels. His meals are more of an afterthought, a necessary interruption to his obsession. The quick bites of tasteless sandwiches and oily samosa chats replace the nutritious home-cooked meals he once enjoyed. Arjun's eyes are often bloodshot, his skin pale, and a constant fatigue seems to linger in his body, but he brushes it off, telling himself that his work is too important to slow down. Holding up a wilted piece of lettuce from one of his take-out meals, Vikram says, "Arjun, even the lettuce is giving up on you!" Arjun chuckles, his eyes twinkling. "That's because it knows it can't compete with the allure of scientific discovery!" "Or maybe it's trying to tell you something about your lifestyle choices?" Another staff member remarks. Arjun playfully rolls his eyes. "It's just jealous of my dedication!" The humor helps to defuse the tension, but the concern lingers. In the lab, Arjun's bad food habits become a running joke among his colleagues. "Arjun, are you trying to build a museum of fast food here?" One colleague teases as he finds yet another take-out box on his desk. Arjun grins, not missing a beat. "Call it my secondary research project. I'm investigating the long-term effects of samosas on human creativity!" They all laugh, but the humor is tinged with an underlying truth. Arjun's obsession with his work and negligence of proper nutrition are both endearing and alarming. One evening, a colleague attempts an intervention: "Arjun, have you ever considered a salad? I hear they're quite revolutionary." Arjun pretends to be horrified. "A salad? In this lab? That sounds like heresy!" The banter continues, but Arjun gets back to his work station. His work is a blend of art and science. In the lab, filled with the hum of machinery and the soft glow of fluorescent lights, he's a maestro conducting a symphony of experiments, calculations, and discoveries. "Arjun, how are you planning to isolate this compound?" The lab assistant asks, peering at the complex molecular structure on the screen. Arjun's eyes light up, his voice filled with enthusiasm. "Ah, that's the beauty of it! We'll use a chromatographic technique, but with a twist. See here?" He points to the diagram, his finger tracing the lines and curves, describing a process that's both innovative and daring. His colleagues are often left in awe of his creativity and brilliance. The long nights in the lab are punctuated by triumphs and setbacks, each one a stepping stone towards something groundbreaking. "Damn it!" Arjun exclaims one night, frustration evident as an experiment fails. "I am so close!" "Don't worry, Arjun," a colleague reassures him, patting his back. "You'll crack it. You always do." Arjun's brow furrows, determination in his eyes. "I have to. This could change everything." The endless coffee cups, scribbled notes, and the intricate dance of pipettes and beakers become a testament to Arjun's dedication. His work is more than a job; it's a calling. Whether he's synthesizing a new compound, analyzing data, or brainstorming innovative approaches, his energy is infectious. Yet, beneath the fervor and excitement lies a dangerous edge. The obsession with his work consumes him, pulling him away from the rest of his life, including his health. The very passion that fuels his brilliance is also the flame that's slowly burning him out. “I am planning to take a walk along the canal. Do you want to join?” Vikram says. “Weather is very pleasant today.” "I don't have time for walks, Vikram. You know the project deadlines," Arjun brushes him off, his eyes darting back to the blueprints on his desk. His focus is unbreakable. "So, you don't have time for breathing fresh air for a change?" Vikram mutters, but his words are lost in the whirlwind of Arjun's focus. *** Arjun's routine remains unbroken, a vicious cycle that wears him down. His relentless work continues. The warning signs are there – the breathlessness after climbing stairs, the constant fatigue, the subtle pain in his chest. But Arjun dismisses them as trivial nuisances, ignoring the storm brewing within him. The day of the company-wide health screening dawns, a routine affair that Arjun approaches with the same detachment he reserves for his meals. "It's a waste of time," he tells Vikram as they stand in line for their turn. "I'm fine, just a little tired." Vikram just shakes his head, his eyes filled with a worry that Arjun fails to see. But the health screening is anything but routine. When the results come back, they hit Arjun like a bolt from the blue, a cosmic explosion that shatters his universe. "Mr. Sharma, we've found some concerning abnormalities in your tests," the company doctor says, his voice clinical and cold. "I strongly recommend you see a specialist as soon as possible." Arjun's world spins, the words echoing in his ears like a distant thunderclap. This isn't possible.  I’m fine. I'm just tired.  But denial can no longer shield him from the truth. The storm has arrived, and Arjun is forced to face the reality of his neglected health. His journey has only just begun. *** Arjun's life is always governed by facts, numbers, and equations. He thrives in the logical realm, where everything can be calculated and analyzed. But the numbers staring back at him from the medical reports are a mystery, a puzzle that he can't solve. "It seems like a case of Type 2 Diabetes, Mr. Sharma," Dr. Desai, the specialist says. Her voice is steady and professional. "Your cholesterol levels are also alarmingly high, and there are signs of early heart disease. You should have seen this coming. It’s not rocket science to understand the consequences of poor diet and no exercise." The words are a blur to Arjun, a distant galaxy that he can't reach. He is only 35. How can this be happening? "You need to make immediate changes to your lifestyle," Dr. Desai continues. "Your diet, lack of exercise, the stress – it's all contributing to your deteriorating health." Arjun's mind flashes back to his mother’s worried face, Vikram's concerned eyes, the ignored breakfasts, the skipped walks and his father’s concerns. He dismisses them all, lost in the arrogance of his youth and the passion for his work. He is no longer a scientist analyzing data. He is the subject, and the prognosis is grim. "What do I do, Doctor?" Arjun asks, his voice breaking, the facade of confidence crumbling. "We'll start with a proper diet and exercise plan," Dr. Desai says, compassion softening her eyes.  "We'll also begin medication to control your diabetes. But most importantly, Mr. Sharma, you need to take this seriously. This is not just about popping pills; it's about changing your life." Changing my life. The phrase echoes in Arjun's mind as he leaves the hospital, a new prescription in hand and a heavy burden on his shoulders. Back at home, Meena's eyes fill with tears as Arjun recounts the diagnosis. His father sits in silence, the reality sinking in. "You have to change, Arjun," Meena says, her voice trembling. "You have to take care of yourself." "I know," Arjun whispers, a newfound determination rising within him. "I know, and I will." The following weeks are a whirlwind of change. Arjun's plates transform, filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Gone are the oily street foods, replaced by homemade meals lovingly prepared by his mother. "Try this quinoa salad, Arjun," she says one day, her eyes sparkling with hope. "It's good for you." Earlier, Arjun's life was like a hamstring on the wheel: precise, complex, and detached from the earthly concerns of health and family and always running. Now, as he chews thoughtfully on a bite of his mother's quinoa salad, the simplicity of its flavors speaks to him. His work still involves numbers and charts, but living healthy, he realizes, is not that hard. The answer is in the love and care in each bite, the support in Vikram's persistent encouragement, and the pride in his father's eyes. Arjun's taste buds rebel at first, longing for the rich flavors of his past. But with each bite, he begins to appreciate the subtle nuances, the natural tastes that he has ignored for so long. Exercise proves a more formidable challenge. Arjun's body is a reluctant machine, rusty and resistant. The first attempts at jogging are pitiful, a slow shuffle that leaves him gasping for breath. But Vikram is there, a constant companion, pushing him, encouraging him. "You're doing great, Arjun," Vikram says, his voice full of genuine praise. "Keep going, just one more lap." Arjun's progress is slow, each step a battle, each breath a victory. But he is moving, breaking free from the chains of his past. At work, the changes are subtle but significant. Arjun's mind is clearer, his thoughts more focused. The late nights are replaced with balanced hours, his creativity rekindled with a fresh perspective. "Have you noticed how Arjun's work has improved?" one colleague whispers to another, marveling at the transformation. "He's like a new person," the other replies, admiration in his eyes. Arjun's journey is far from over, the road still filled with challenges and obstacles. But he is on the right path, guided by love, support, and a newfound respect for his own well-being. And yet, something lingers, a shadow at the edge of his consciousness, a hidden secret waiting to be revealed. His health is improving, but there is more to it, something that is yet to unfold. But for now, Arjun is content, basking in the glow of his transformation, blissfully unaware of the storm that is still brewing on the horizon. Months pass, and Arjun's life continues its remarkable transformation. His waistline and weight have dropped significantly. The scientist who was once lost in the maze of his own mind is now firmly grounded, his life a harmonious blend of work, health, and family. At the ISRO research center, Arjun's new approach to life begins to reflect in his work. His projects are thriving, his ideas innovative and fresh. The balance he has found in his personal life is translating into a balanced approach to his scientific pursuits. "Arjun,  your new proposal is brilliant," his supervisor praises during a team meeting. "It's like you've found a new perspective on things." Arjun smiles, the compliment warming his heart. He knows that his journey to health has unlocked a new dimension in his thinking, a creativity that had been stifled by his old habits. A new vitality permeates Arjun's presentations, and his ideas are sharper. His breakthroughs are remarkable, not just for their ingenuity but for the newfound balance he exhibits. His personal life is equally rewarding. Meena's worry lines have softened, replaced with the glow of a proud mother. His father, too, seems rejuvenated, basking in the joy of his son's success. "You've done it, Arjun," Meena says one evening, her voice filled with pride. "You've changed your life." *** Despite his improved lifestyle, Arjun begins to notice subtle changes in his body that aren't reflected in his medical reports. A persistent fatigue that lingers, a weakness that won't go away. His medical reports are improving, but something feels off, a nagging doubt that grows with each passing day. He returns to Dr. Desai, his face etched with concern and eyes wide with fear.  "I don't understand, Doctor," Arjun says, his voice filled with confusion. "I'm doing everything right, but something doesn't feel right." Dr. Desai, a seasoned medical doctor, looks at him, her eyes narrowed in concentration, her mind working through the puzzle. She orders more tests, leaving no stone unturned, diving deeper into the mystery. In the next few weeks, the uncertainty grows, a cloud hangs over Arjun's life. His work begins to suffer, his focus shattered by the unknown. "Are you okay, Arjun?" Vikram asks, his eyes filled with worry. "You seem distracted." "I don't know, Vikram," Arjun replies, his voice hollow. "I don't know what's happening to me." In the next visit to the doctor, the answer comes like a thunderbolt, a revelation that shakes Arjun to his core. "Mr. Sharma," Dr. Desai says, her voice tinged with both relief and concern. "You have developed a fatty liver because of your previous lifestyle and it has been masked all this time. Your improved diet and lifestyle has changed your health but it will take time to bring it to the surface." Arjun's mind reels, the words a whirlwind of confusion and disbelief. "Yes, Mr. Sharma," Dr. Desai continues, her voice gentle. "But the good news is, we can treat it. Your journey to health has, in fact, saved your life." Arjun's world once again shifts, but this time, there's a clarity, a purpose. His journey has not been in vain; it's a path to self-discovery, a road that leads him to the truth. He embraces the new challenge with a determination that only he can muster, a warrior ready for battle. Healthy diet with a regular exercise regime became his routine. He stops eating street-side food. Morning jogs have become his routine. His life is no longer only about equations and theories. It's a living testament to the power of change, the strength of human will, and the magic of self-belief. Arjun's life continues to thrive, his health restored, his work reaching new heights. *** “Just a small bite, Arjun,” Vikram teases, offering a delicious samosa during the break. But Arjun's resolve is strong, and his eyes are fixed on the future. Arjun smiles, squeezing his friend's hand. “I lost myself, but I'm finding my way back.” “You're doing it, Arjun. You're turning your life around.” “You are right Vikram,” Arjun answers with a beaming smile. “I have found balance, and in that balance, I have found myself. It's not rocket science, it's simply the art of being human and taking care of yourself and your health.”   Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!