Eyes scrunched in concentration, he peered at the luminescent screen with a fervent prayer on his lips.
It was a classic day at work, beginning early at 8 AM, and it was still going on, sixteen hours later. He knew he wouldn’t regret staying this late in office, he had no-one to go back home to.
The green line on his screen moved at an impossibly slow pace, forcing him to calm his hyperventilating lungs with soothing words. All the smoke within them from the thousands of cigarettes he had smoked seemed to be wrung out. A small red light blinked on and off nearby, screaming for attention but getting none in return. The phone line was open, there were twelve people on the other end of the phone, a million miles away and a few hundred longitudes eastwards, waiting with equally bated breath.
The cone of light from the single bulb above his head shone on a balding pate, equally harsh and soothing. Sunlight was barely encountered by people such as him, and he had the rare distinction of having seen a sunset a few months back. It had been a Saturday, but then no one cared for such particulars. The rarity of the event itself spoke volumes of his daily work-life balancing abilities.
The sleek new printer in the corner of the room belched out papers at irregular intervals, breaking the monotony with their quiet screeching. It sprung awake now with a fresh bunch of papers, scaring him. Still, he didn’t dare to move his eyes from the screen for fear of breaking that spell, for fear that he may never get another chance at redemption if he screwed up this chance.
The darkness surrounding the rest of the room enveloped the pool of light, and he felt its strength compress his soul as it did the light. Something on a metaphysical level was at work here.
The screen changed, The moment of truth.
“Hey, what happened ? “, asked someone from the phone. “Its done. I’m outta here. See you guys soon.”, he said, relief flooding his eyes, his mind and soul.
The screen said “CONFIRMED”. That was all he needed. He hit a couple of keys and the printer came to life again. As soon as they spewed out his papers, he snatched them up and carefully placed them in a folder in his bag. Then scooping up the bag, he slammed down the phone without even a good-bye and left the room, carefully placing the handwritten letter he had under the keyboard.
He had already booked a ticket on the Indian Railways website, after three hours of a mammoth struggle in the morning. This was his last deployment task before leaving. He was going on vacation for two weeks. He would come back and put in his papers, literally throw them in his manager’s face… The grin on his face couldn’t be erased even if he wanted to. He was going to keep this promise to himself, to travel across the world. And all these years of hundreds of hours slogging away to earn the money he needed were finally bearing fruit.
“Damn, I didn’t shut down the PC!” he thought, as he took a step backwards. Then he realised, it was this attitude he had to relinquish. He was no longer a slave.The step moved forward, the grin never left his face….