Shriram Pendse was pensive that evening. He was in one of those contemplative moods of his when he used to get lost thinking about his life, the complex (according to him) journey it had endured so far and where it was headed. As he sat there on the leather cushioned seat he had found for himself after a brief struggle similar to the one he endured every day, he was as they say, deeply immersed in self pity, the newspaper open in his hand for name only. For try as he might he just could not free his mind and get himself to solve the Sudoku puzzle. This was notable because he loved solving them since it was one of the few things (according to him) he could do properly and in time.
He had lived a tough life (according to him). As a Commerce graduate, he had committed the cardinal sin of not doing a CA mainly because he wanted to do something different and “hatke” (interpreted by many as the unwillingness to work hard). According to him a CA/CS/ICWA student was a big bore and not worth his time. The something “hatke” did not materialize and Shriram was soon part of the “unemployed” fraternity. What helped him in breaking away from the brotherhood were some connections of his father which helped him in getting a job in a bank in the MIS department. What did not help was the fact that he was now working with a few former classmates who were hired at a higher grade (and by extension, higher salaries) mainly because they were a “bore” during college. These people did not forget to remind him of his thoughts and what they led him to. It hurt.
Sriram had by now spent 8 years in the bank working harder than most to rectify the mistakes he had done during his college days. His promotion was stalled many times mainly due to his “B.Com only” tag. He tried to rectify that by doing an MBA course in correspondence. But that led to the “B.Com with a part time degree” tag. The tag just became longer. Sriram was getting more frustrated.
Now, as he sat there looking through the window grill, he was thinking about his next move. What was he to do? Workwise he could not do more. He was putting 14 hour workdays daily. Appreciation from the boss was rare. You know about bosses. If you run a 100 meter race in 9.01 seconds, they would say “you missed the 9 by 0.01 seconds, not good enough”. If you did it the next time, they would say “why didn’t you do it the last time, you are just too inconsistent.” He had virtually no social life. In reality he cared for no one. Except for one. His little son.
Sri doted on the boy. But he rarely expressed his love for him publicly to him. He just did not have the time. He was beginning to get the feeling that his son was drifting apart from him. Not his fault since how can a boy sustain affection for someone who was just not around home most of the time. Thanks to the efficient transport network of Mumbai, Sriram left the day when it was too early for his kid to even contemplate getting up. And he normally reached home at a time when every self respecting mother thought it a blot on their motherhood for letting their child stay awake. Sriram would often find it difficult to remember the last time he had seen his kid awake and moving around the house with his childlike enthusiasm. It was a pleasure seeing him playing and laughing. And it was painful not being able to experience that pleasure.
Just then there was a jerk. The bus had reached its last stop .The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus stood proud just a stone’s throw away from him. As if “jerked” into clarity, Sri decided that enough was enough. It was 9.20 PM in the night and he was again late. He felt enough is enough. Enough of complaining about past mistakes and injustices. His little boy meant more to him than ambition and more salary. This day, the 26th of the month of November 2008 was going to be the first day (or rather night) of his new life. He was going to reset his priorities. He just hoped that he was not too late.