The alarm tinkled but he shut the mobile up. He had an hour before his day began. He would steal five minutes from that. He had made so many compromises so far, how did an extra 5 minutes of sleep matter?
This was the only period in Vijay’s control. The moment he got out off bed some unseen force took charge of his life. He had his big car now yet he longed for the train journey to work. He would have to wait for another year or his next job for a driver.
His boss was a tyrant. Targets, deadlines, office jealousies… Unpretentious Ravi always seemed to please the boss. And Anita took full advantage of her sex to avoid any additional tasks. The earlier boss had moved up acting the Pied Piper for his old team! Vijay had again lost out to Hussein in that race.
Vicky their son, had to be dropped to school everyday on his way out. Asking his wife Sonya to do so meant inviting another round of arguments. Cosmo women fought tooth and nail to share every duty. Vijay wondered if village women were half as vocal or their voice ever heard.
Sonya’s job paid for the EMI on this swanky flat. His pay packet took care of the car, plasma TV and European holiday installments. His fat salary shriveled to peanuts even before it reached the bank.
With both of them working, Vijay’s elderly parents looked after Vicky. Sonya argued they too would benefit from Vijay’s success. Any way it was better than living alone in the village and looking after the fields.
Weekdays zoomed past, each day undistinguishable from the other. Weekends meant putting in that extra bit at work, the new boss expected it. Sonya would never understand. Lazy Sunday mornings were his only luxury before getting down to more work.
Behind closed eyes, strains of a Kishore Kumar melody stirred his mind. He rarely played the harmonium these days. Where was it anyway? Sonya must have junked it somewhere. Vijay had been an avid mountaineer in college often leading expeditions. Now he had difficulty in figuring out the easiest route around vehicles on the road. Amma faithfully dusted his books and read out stories to his son. Vijay remembered playing carom and cards with Dad but he had forgotten when he last played cricket with Vicky. Did his parents deserve to care for a child at sixty plus?
Suddenly he was gripped with the futility of it all. Where was he running? What for? Vijay was pushing forty and Vicky’s childhood would not last forever. He had to be a part of it. His parents needed to retire.
Through swirls of mist he saw yet another EMI for Sonya’s diamond necklace and a corner office beckoning him. Vijay felt himself being sucked into a vortex of his creation. The snoozing alarm tinkled again urging him on in the rat race. He shrugged away his blues and dragged himself out of bed remembering Robert Frost’s lines “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep”.
This was my very first attempt at fiction but is obviously heavily inspired by urban life in India today. I was confident enough to submit it in a contest, the entry went nowhere but I now have taken heart to try my hand at fiction!
As we get ready to welcome another year, let us assess where we stand, what are our goals and how far are we from achieving them. Let quality of life not be the first victim in this race.
Seasons Greetings and Best wishes for 2008!