Finally! My post on this month's discussion "The Art Of Giving". I know its extremely long, so please have patience. Also its not one of my best works. I literally scribbled this in 20 min. So please concentrate on the message, rather than my poor writing skills :P
Now that we've cleared this, READ! :D
Shruti sighed as the traffic light changed to red again. Why did the whole city have to be on the road on a Saturday morning? Stupid traffic, she grumbled to herself. She had no choice anyway. Stupid manager had called the whole team on the weekend, the weekend before christmas!!! Urrgghh! Stupid job, stupid life! There was no end to this stupidity. She sat in the back seat of her Skoda, staring out the window and brooding as her driver tried to maneuver the traffic and get ahead. Stupid life indeed. An hour later, and after numerous calls from her team lead asking her why she hadn't reached office yet, she turned into the huge familiar gates of the IT Park. Not a person in sight, except for the cleaners and sweepers. She had to cancel all her plans of going shopping with her friends and meeting her boyfriend for lunch.
As she reached the front desk, the security ladies stopped her for checking her bag. As usual they were more interested in catching up on their daily gossip rather than checking her bag. Such a callous attitude! They should be fired! What if she had a bomb right there in her bag? They dint care one bit! She fumed and walked away in a huff. The same thing every day! Every day she felt like saying something to them but then it wasn't her business. As she stopped by the twelve elevators, a maintenance man said "Madam you need to take the stairs, all the elevators are under repair and maintenance for today". "What do you mean ALL of them? All twelve?" she asked incredulously. Great. Just awesome. Now she had to climb six floors. This day was going to be just perfect.
She entered her ODC and was greeted with chaos. That was how her project was every single day. As usual they were far far behind on their schedule. "Shruti, I've already assigned 15 components for you to test", her team lead rambled on as soon as he spotted her. "Also have a look at the defect sheet. The CICS team is waiting on us. Unless we fix the priority-1 defects they can't get started on their testing". She sighed, switched on her computer and got to work.
2 hours later
"Shruti, coming for chai?" her teammate Anita called out. Wow, I've worked for 2hrs Shruti thought and said "Let's go! Am dying for a break". They passed the security ladies again and Shruti heard snippets of their conversation. "I think her husband hit her again, That's why she din't come today" said the first lady "I know poor woman, it seems her son has been sick since the past one week, and that drunken bastard has still not given her money. He is still seeing that other woman too" the second lady responded. "Come! Before our torturous team lead starts ringing us again!" Anita shouted, pulling her forward. It wasn't the first time Shruti had heard them talking about such matters. But she had never really bothered. There was always some other immediate distraction. A colleague greeting her, a "Why are you not at office yet?" message from her team lead, or she was busy chatting with her boyfriend. But something was different today and it pricked her.
She sat on the little plastic stool at the tea stall, sipping her tea when she saw that old woman again. She'd been there since the first day Shruti had joined her job. She was an old woman, with a shaven head, tattered clothes and kept mumbling something under her breath. Her 'home' was beside the tea stall. A few tattered blankets, the most filthy looking clothes(?), all bundled together. For the hundredth time Shruti thought about her, why was she here? Where were her sons and daughters? Was she really crazy? Was she eating daily? What if the old lady fell sick? "Fifteen rupees madam", the chai waala said, interrupting her thoughts. "What?" she spluttered "Fifteen rupees for this measly little cup of watery tea?" "Madam its a Saturday, and its fifteen on Saturday" he said. "What kind of nonsense logic is that! You are looting people! Just because you have a chai stall in Hi-tech city, doesn't mean you can charge Hi-tech prices" she raised her voice. "Mam the prices are fixed" said the chai waala raising his voice and pointing to the little piece of paper mentioning all the rates that he had stuck to his stall, "You should have checked the price before buying my tea then" he said. "Let it go Shruti, we don't have time for arguments" Anita said, digging into her purse to pay up before Shruti started one of her famous arguments again.
Muttering and fuming, Shruti headed inside with her friend, when she spotted a third security lady. The three of them had their heads together and were discussing something, there was an urgency in their voices. "Uhh.. Hello? Aren't you going to check us again", Anita asked them. It was then that Shruti noticed, the third lady had a black eye and she was crying silently. The security lady barely glanced into their bags and said "Done madam". That must be the woman they were talking about, the one who was being abused, she thought as they headed to the stairs.
Within an hour she had forgotten all about the women and her problems. Her manager had come breezing in and began criticizing every thing. They were still no where near schedule for Monday, and with her manager breathing down her neck every few minutes she was finding it extremely hard to concentrate on work. They all had lunch at their desks while working, "We don't have time to while away in the cafeteria people" her manager had announced. What an idiot! He walks in at afternoon after having a hearty meal at home, and now begins his tyranny here. She hoped and prayed, she would get out of this project soon.
End of the day…
Phew! Done! I can finally go home now, Shruti thought as she was wrapping up for the day. "Excuse me, may I have your attention everyone", her manager suddenly announced. What now, she groaned. Everyone got to their feet uncertainly, because usually such an announcement was followed by 'We need to stretch until 8'o clock today'. "I just want to thank you all for coming this weekend. All of you. But one person has relentlessly put in their best efforts, and has come to office every single weekend without any complaint. And its because of her that we are going be back on schedule! Shruti, please come forward".
She was shocked. Was she dreaming? This was her manager right? The one who refused to give her a leave even when she was so sick she could barely walk? The one who piled up more and more work on her as soon as she thought she was done with her share? The one who was never satisfied by the number of defects she fixed, and always had something to criticize? She walked forward still amazed by this sudden gesture. "Here" her manager handed her a huge hamper full of sweets, chocolates and christmas cake. "Sorry I was always so hard on you Shruti", he said with a twinkle in his eye, "I just saw your potential" he smiled. She gave a huge grin and took the hamper.
Not a bad day after all!, she thought to herself as she climbed down the stairs. She saw the three security ladies again. The third lady was somewhat calm now but still very dejected. The other two were counting money and giving it to her. "Here, take this for your son's hospital bill. We'll ask the others and come up with something" they were saying. Shruti saw them looking at her and she smiled tentatively and hurried out. She wanted to say something but she din't know what. As she stepped out, she called her driver asking him to come to the front of the building. It was then that she saw the chai waala bending over that old lady and saying "Take this Amma, this should be enough for three or four days", and he handed her the money. Now she understood why he had charged fifteen rupees for a thumb sized cup of tea. The chai waala caught her staring and gave an apologetic smile. Shruti smiled back understandingly, cursing herself to have judged so quickly. Suddenly she made up her mind.
"Wait right here" she shouted to her driver and ran back inside. She skidded to a stop in front of the security ladies who looked up in surprise. The third lady had started crying again. Shruti fished into her purse and took out a few hundred rupee notes. "I don't know what's wrong with your son, but please take this and take him to a good doctor. If you need more, well, i'll be back on monday anyway so you can let me know then!" The lady gaped at her with tears in her eyes "How?.. How?… How can I thank you", she sobbed. Shruti fidgeted, "No no.. please.. I am happy to help, here take this too.. for your son, it'll cheer him up". She handed over two boxes of sweets from her hamper and gave it to her. She smiled at the incredulous look the woman gave her and said "You don't have to thank me" and left the woman with tears and happiness shining in her eyes. She ran out to see the chai waala packing up and walking away.. "Hey! You! Hey wait!" she called and ran after him. "Merry christmas!" she said and pressed a box of sweets into his hands. The shocked chai waala said with a toothy grin "Thank you madam… and… errr.. sorry i was rude earlier".
She waved him away and turned to give one to the old lady too, maybe she could just put it beside her and go away? She was a bit scared of the crazy old lady. But wait, where was she? She had disappeared. Wasn't she here just five minutes ago? Strange.. she thought and got into her car.
Shruti got down from her car and glanced at the chai waala's stall. He was busy with customers and the old lady was back! And she had a box of sweets beside her, a box that was from her hamper. Just then she saw a little boy about seven giving the old lady another sweet from the box, and then running inside the building with the box in hand. As she reached the front desk, she saw the security lady again. The little boy was clinging to her uniform. "Madam!" the lady called out brightly. "I can't thank you enough. My little boy is much better now and I have moved out from my husband's house. I am staying with my sister nearby" she said softly smiling at her son. "That's… great!' Shruti smiled back. I just changed that woman's life Shruti thought as she walked away. She felt all warm and fuzzy… on a monday morning! "Madam lift is still under maintenance" the repair guy said. Shruti looked at him, laughed and ran up the flight of stairs!
“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher
― Mary Anne Radmacher