1250 words. ( a 5-min read )

“I hope I don’t get fired” – a thought crossed Vihaan’s mind. He was stuck on a task for two days now. He had tried debugging the code, looked up solutions on stack-overflow, tried asking for help from colleagues, but nothing worked. The deadline was nearing, and the other team was continuously asking him to complete this task – ASAP. Frankly, he didn’t know if he could even do it. He went into the kitchen to make another cup of instant coffee. While pouring the milk, he heard – tum da dum click-click, tum da dum – the dreaded Skype ringtone. He ran out to the living room, put on his headphones, and picked up the call. “Hello Vihaan, how is it going?” He knew what this call was for, “It is not going that good, can you please arrange for someone who can help me with this, because I have tried everything I could” he sighed. “I am disappointed in you Vihaan, this the third consecutive time in this month when you have been unable to deliver on your work. The upper management had again raised questions about your competence, and this time I couldn’t defend you. The organization’s financials are also stressed and the organization can neither afford to pay such a high salary, nor the delays in the software deliverables. It was hard for us, but we have to let you go. The organization has hired your replacement.” As he was trying to process what he had just heard, the manager added, “You will get a call from HR soon for further information. We will onboard the new hire tomorrow, and I need you to give the Knowledge transfer sessions to her, while you are in your notice period. I hope you will take this professionally.” “But …”, before he could ask anything, the call had already ended. His worst nightmare had come true. Still in shock, he heard the loud ringtone of his phone. But it was coming from the laptop. He was confused, felt like something’s wrong. In that split-second, his subconscious suddenly realized that this isn’t real, and it thrust him into the material realm from the imaginary realm as it woke him up. He was short of breath, this was a pretty scary dream. He could hear the ringtone from the nightmare continuing, this time, from the phone. This was real indeed. He shook his head to clear his mind and picked up the call – “Hey Vihaan, I was calling you on skype but you didn’t pick up, so I tried your cellphone. I understand your pain, but this is a pretty busy week for us. Can you please try solving the issue for today and if you’re still stuck, I will arrange for help from some other team?” asked the manager. “Okay, sure.” – came a meek reply.

At this point he was frustrated. What else was left to ‘try’, he had already done all he could. He felt like he hated this job. He did not hate it, but there were situations like these when he felt he did. But then he thought about the nightmare he just had. He realized that he was blessed to have landed a job during this terrible pandemic, that too right after graduating. He felt sad thinking about the employees who had lost their jobs, the graduates who had got their offers revoked, some of his peers who couldn’t even get an offer because no organization was recruiting new people. “And here I am cribbing about a stupid issue. Let me have that hot chocolate and get back to work.” He went into the kitchen and took two tablespoons of chocolate powder in a glass. Then he added one tablespoon of sugar, and as he was about to pour milk in the glass, he heard his mother call his name. He went out in the living room to find a bearded bulked-up guy asking him “Why didn’t you pay the electricity bill ?” That was his gym-freak roommate. But his voice sounded like his mother’s. The roommate screamed “Vihaaaaaaaan …”, but it seemed to be coming from far away and he was damn sure that this was his mother’s voice!  He was confused. “OH, Not again!” Again, his mind suddenly came to its senses and snapped him out of this elaborate dream sequence.

Photo by Илья Мельниченко on Unsplash

In the Sharan household, the day started very early, 6 am to be precise. Mr. Sharan had a habit of having half a cup of coffee, and Mrs. Sharan preferred plain milk. After having their beverages, the happy couple would go out for a walk, in a nearby park, then share gossip and news with their park gang, and then return home refreshed, to start their work for the day. But for their son, consistent with his name, the day would start even before the first ray of the sun could kiss the earth. This was not an acquired habit, even as an infant, he would sleep peacefully in the dark hours of the night, but as soon as the birds started chirping, he would start crying, so loudly that the entire colony didn’t feel the need to set any alarms. This child had also brought hope with him in the form of growing business. Just a few days after the couple received the good news from the doctor, the chef at Desi Twist, Mr. Sharan’s café, quit the job and decided to start his own place in another city. Desi twist was already struggling from retaining its loyal customers, and the chef leaving was a big blow. But just as the dawn brings new hope, they got a new chef. He was recommended by the wife of the same doctor that had given the news of Mrs. Sharan’s pregnancy. And boy was he good! He had a magical mastery over flavours and people couldn’t help themselves but recommend this place to their friends and family. This was free publicity for Desi Twist. Mr. Sharan attributed this new dawn in their business to their to-be-born son and named him Vihaan, a Sanskrit-origin word meaning dawn. This boy was always bubbling with positivity and carried an aura of cheerfulness wherever he went. But the last few weeks had been very difficult on him. “It is 7 am already and he hasn’t even woken up yet. He does this only in situations of severe stress. I cannot see him suffering like this Shashi!”, Mrs. Sharan sobbed. “I know, it is difficult for me too. I will talk to him today, in fact, let us both sit him down and talk to him.” “Okay, Shashi. But I need to wake him up now. Vihaan? Common beta it is 7 am already, I have your chocolate milk ready.” Vihaan didn’t respond. He was still engrossed in the elaborate dream, his mind incorporating Mrs. Sharan’s voice in it. Before calling Vihaan again, Mrs. Sharan asked Mr. Sharan, “And why didn’t you pay the electricity bill Shashi? It is due in two days. Please pay it today.” “Vihaaaaaaaan …”, she called, this time a little louder.

“Ha maa, I’m awake. I’ll be out in 10 minutes.”, came a dull reply after a few seconds. After snapping out of two dreams, he was now skeptical. He pinched himself and repeatedly splashed water on his face to make sure that this was indeed real. He looked around if anything looked or felt weird or unusual. Everything seemed perfectly normal. Except for one thing.

To be continued …

– Nagraj

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