Less of driving more of expert manoeuvring through the traffic; Harry was on his way to work. It would take him another forty-five minutes to reach his office located in the center of the town. This was despite the fact that he had been driving for the past twenty minutes from his home which was well within the city limits! Harry was late to work.
The Spring season was over. Looking at the sky from his windscreen, Harry could see the harsh summer sun peeping from behind the white clouds; waiting to increase its heat to unbearable temperatures within weeks. The car air conditioning would soon become ineffective; his city had no beach and there was no family holiday planned for the summer. Harry was not looking forward to the summer; he was annoyed. It felt hard getting through a normal work day any way. The hot weather months made it worse. The morning rush to be ready on time and beat the snarling traffic; finding a suitable parking spot where his car wouldn’t get grazed by someone’s bike or another car door; rushing to squeeze himself into the overfilled elevator which would take him up to his 13th floor office. It was getting to him now. Harry was disgusted, bored and quite fed up.
“It’s been over twenty-five years. Doing some crap job or another. It was okay when I was young. Climbing the ladder of success felt so good. The new job was always better than the previous one; the pay check certainly fatter each time. It’s not that way anymore. I have been on the same salary, the same designation and in the same organisation for nine years. Things are going from bad to worse. My income stubbornly refuses to go up and the expenses defiantly refuse to come down!”
A loud honk from behind brought Harry out of his musings. He looked up at the rear-view mirror to see if it was an impatient motorist trying to get past him or an accident had occurred. Multiple bumper to bumper collisions during peak times was a common sight now. Thankfully, this time it was the former. The culprit simply being the wrist watch reminding everybody on the road that they needed to get to work fast. Both motorists exchanged agitated looks knowing they were unwillingly bound together by the morning madness. Reaching office an hour later, Harry knew he would need to stay back late today. He had to make up for the fact that he had come in late to work thrice this week; there was also a pile of work which seemed to make its way to him from all directions. Some of it wasn’t even a part of his job description!
Harry dropped himself into his chair and signalled to the office errand boy for a cup of tea. That third cup of tea in the morning was a necessity. It was expected to work its magic and help Harry gear up for the long day ahead. His wife often admonished him for his need for tea. The first one in the morning when he woke up, the second which he drank on his way to work from his silver colored insulated mug and the third cup at office as he began his work day. Harry couldn’t function without tea though he had reduced the number of cups to five. The remaining fourth one mid-morning and one before he drove back home.
Harry stared back at the screen in quiet silence. He wanted to shout. He was tired. He was dejected. He was done already but the day had just begun. It looked long and gloomy. There was no excitement, no learning, no fun and no opportunity. Nothing to look forward to.
Countless emails had sprung up overnight like wild mushrooms; they stared at Harry from his computer screen. Each screaming for immediate attention like a ticking bomb ready to explode if not diffused immediately.
Are you coming for lunch?” asked his friendly colleague as he approached Harry’s desk. “Lunch? Already? What time is it?” Harry quizzed aloud while glancing at his wrist watch. It was 2pm! The morning had miraculously passed. In a robotic manner Harry had gone through his emails – deleting, answering, saving some in a multitude of mailboxes and ignoring a few. He had taken calls from those with questions and made brief ones to those from whom he needed answers. Nodding in agreement to his colleague, Harry carefully saved the cumbersome presentation he had been working on and signed out of his computer. He picked up his lunch bag and headed towards the elevators with his colleague chatting about the changing weather. The café was on the 3rd floor. The lifts going down were now as crowded as they had been in the morning on his way up. Harry squeezed himself into one again.
The small talk over lunch with colleagues was a pleasant distraction for most people at work including Harry. The meaningless chit chat about politics, rising prices and weekend plans drew them all out from the monotony of the day that awaited them when they returned to their respective desks post their meal. Harry was feeling relieved, he had just got some good news. He had invited a colleague and his wife for dinner over the weekend; the guests were now having to cancel due to an unscheduled visit from an out of town relative. It would give Harry the perfect excuse to have a super lazy weekend where he would sleep, watch television, eat and sleep again. His wife would be annoyed though. She had already made the prep for two of the four dishes she was intending to serve at the dinner. Anyway, she could freeze it for later. Harry was happy. No agenda, no set program. Nothing. He had a free weekend to himself where he could take it easy. A blissful weekend. The thought made him smile but he couldn’t in front of the invitees!
The day finally came to an end. Time to leave. To brave the traffic again. The weekend was still a few days away; yet it was good to wrap up and head home. He would call his wife once he was in the car. The invention of the hands free calling system was perhaps the best one for safe driving. Harry’s wife refused to talk to him until she ascertained he was using it. It annoyed him, but he loved the feeling of concern. It was a warming feeling. He needed it. It was the love that kept him going.
Knowing that his family adored him, was waiting for him and looked forward to being with him made Harry feel like a King.
An hour later Harry was home. There was an aroma oil burning somewhere in the house emitting an appealing lavender fragrance. After being stifled for an hour in the car, it was liberating to breathe in this fragrant air. The house was warm and inviting. Harry was dead tired but the moment he entered home he felt alive again. He could hear the television. His two daughters, three years apart in age were watching Gossip Girls. The older one had informed him last evening that it was the “IN” thing to watch. Harry wasn’t so sure. His wife waved to him from the kitchen. She was putting the finishing touches to dinner. They would all eat together as soon as Harry had a shower. Dinner was the only meal in the day the whole family could eat together. Everyone looked forward to it. The food was simple. Grilled chicken, spiced baked potatoes, and Caesar salad. Good, hearty food; just what he needed. Harry gave his wife an appreciative smile.
Dinner over, the children were in bed; they had school in the morning. Harry sat in his living room on his favourite sofa; he enjoyed sipping a cup of green tea everyday after dinner while he chatted with his wife. She was telling him about what was happening at school and how he would need to schedule his work calendar to adjust the upcoming parents evening. Harry was happy with his children’s school. The school fee was high but there was a good education system in place at this school and his girls were doing well. At least there was something that wasn’t giving him sleepless nights! It would soon be morning again thought Harry gloomily. The morning would plunge him back into the never ending rat race. He did not want the night to end. Harry wanted to sit longer and talk to his wife but he knew that he needed to go to bed now; to catch as much of the disturbed sleep as he could in the few hours before the sun dawned. He needed to sleep.
Harry crawled into bed and pulled his blanket over himself. It was a large, soft one and years of usage had made it even softer. Under the blanket Harry felt he could take refuge from the world. It felt like a child’s cradle, in which his frayed nerves felt soothed. The blanket comforted his aching body, hid his worries and cuddled him like a mother. It made him feel safe and calm; rested enough to take on the next hard day that lay ahead.
Harry’s blanket was not just a blanket. It was a friend. He fell asleep thinking “Who says strong people don’t need softness in their lives? I sure do. We all do.”
Written for you by
Urvashi Kumar Trikha