Arnav ran towards the exam board outside the school wall. The exam was a week away. “How come I didn’t know about the exam? Did I forget it? How’s that even possible?” It confused Arnav.
“Anyway, I should start studying right away.” Everyone else was already revising. Arnav hadn’t even started.
Akshay was trying to explain to him the antennas and their calculations. He seemed to know it all! Pooja started her second revision.
“But Pooja was not in my class!” What was she even doing there in his middle school? Although Akshay was in his school, so he focused on the study. He didn’t know what he was reading. He couldn’t even remember the subjects. But the exam was close enough. Before he knew, it was the exam day.
“What happened to the time?”
“How can I be already in the exam hall?”
Everything felt dizzy.
He used to be a lot more comfortable once he gets the question paper. Usually, he would be prepared, so once he gets the paper, he would know he could solve most of the problems, and everything will be alright. The trepidation used to last only until the beginning of the exam.
But today, he couldn’t explain it to himself. His heart started pacing.
Mr. Jadhav came to the class with a bundle of question papers and clean answer sheets. Arnav knew his preparations had fallen short. He knew he was going to fail. And if he fails this one, he couldn’t pass on to the next class.
Everything was on the line.
“Why didn’t I study for such an important exam?” He couldn’t understand.
Mr. Jadhav distributed answer sheets. He had opened the yellow envelope which contained the question papers. “God, please get me out of this one,” Arnav prayed even though he was an atheist. And now Mr. Jadhav started handing over question papers, bench by bench.
Arnav’s heart rate was faster than ever. He felt nauseated. His eyes were misty. He almost cried.
Suddenly, the Game of Thrones theme started playing. He almost felt comforting. But now he was more confused.
And he woke up to the doorbell rang by the housemaid.
Arnav felt scared and yet relieved. He was sweating. He felt tired.
It was Friday morning. The sun was already up. Arnav felt heavy. The head was throbbing.
“I need coffee so bad.” He went into the kitchen and fixed himself a coffee. He liked black only. Milk made him sick.
“Someone in here,” Rihan replied from the bathroom. “Just when I had to pee.” Rihan always used the bathroom for so long.
Kids from society were waiting outside for the school bus. The young ones had already started their day on the playground. He saw the milk-man handing out milk packets. Adults were getting ready for their jobs and taking their car out of parking lots.
Arnav was getting frustrated. “Can you please hurry?” Arnav asked. He didn’t hear any reply. Almost 10 minutes later, the bathroom was available. Arnav took a toothbrush, towels, and everything to do it all in one go. He was ready in half an hour.
He wore one of his old tee shirts and jeans and put on a hoodie. He got his ID card and took his helmet as he locked the door.
It would take 30 minutes every day, but today, it was going to be 45–50 minutes at least. It was almost 9 am. The office hour rush had already started. He was still yawning when the sun’s rays hit him like spears. His head started throbbing again as he heard the honking chaos.
What’s with Punekar and honking?
“Can’t we just wait for a few more seconds!”
“Stupid people!” He said in frustration.
The traffic stop reminded him of the pile-up work he has waiting for him. The signal turned green. As the office building came closer, he got the feeling as if he was going to the first day of school after vacations. The corporate buildings were next to the intersection. Thousands of people were driving the same way. The corporate area had many companies and thousands of employees. Perhaps lacks! Everyone rushing in with dull faces. The mundane morning made Arnav sick. The lift was full of people, almost 16–18 people.
* * *
Nishant was already there. Nishant was Arnav’s team leader. He was good at his job. He was an excellent leader, but a corporate one. Meaning, he would only talk about work if he ever talked. They exchanged morning greetings. Almost everyone exchanges fake “Good Mornings.” Sakshi was at the desk too. She always came in early and went home on time. Sakshi and Nishant went to breakfast as Arnav brought the coffee from the cafeteria. The cafeteria was nothing but corporate procrastination. Ashvini came late that day, as did she almost every other day. Ashvini was one of those people who clapped when they receive the salary deposit message. She seems to be always in the rush. By 10:30 am, they had their morning meeting. Then they started their work. The same old writing codes, testing it, fixing bugs, and the cycle continues. Writing systems for UI’s or the inbuilt systems, a typical day. The pileup was just getting bigger and bigger.
Arnav didn’t have many friends at the office. He always kept it to himself. His taciturnity made his screen closer to him than other human beings. As he was writing code with his head down, he saw Shreya across the corner of his screen.
Shreya worked in another department and sat 3 desks down the hall. She wore a green shirt with white long sleeves and her hairs kept open. She was 2 years older than Arnav. She was always happy and laughing. She was never alone, always had at least 2–3 friends with her. Her garrulous and candor nature always intrigued Arnav. She was everything Arnav was not. He envied her. He wanted to be more like her. He wanted to be in groups, out-going, be frank, and open. Mere eye contact with her terrified Arnav.
Every morning, she came to the water filter to refill the bottle. She would walk across three lanes of desks, fill her bottle, and walk back. Even for water, she came with a small group. Those 5 minutes of her trip were the most exhilarating 5 minutes of Arnav’s day. He almost knew when she would get thirsty and come back. She went back to her desk, and he returned to his screen.
Arnav was looking at the phone, trying to procrastinate, thinking he will finish his work on Monday.
“Did you finish your task?” asked Nishant from behind.
“Not yet, I am testing, and I found some bugs so I am fixing them now,” Arnav lied.
“You should finish your weekly task by Thursday so that the testers can test the features by Friday.”
“I am sorry. I will finish it before EOD.”
“It’s not about being sorry. Pick up the pace. You are not a fresher anymore.”
“Yes, I will take care of that next time,” Arnav replied, feeling guilty and angry at the same time.
He was trying to finish the work as soon as possible. Just couldn’t catch a break. He looked at the watch and started working again. He wanted to finish his task by the end of the day. He still had few hours.
His mobile ringed for a notification. Being distracted, he peered into his phone. It was Rose… something. He didn’t remember who that was, so he opened his Gmail on the system.
We have gone through your request, and we are happy to let you know; We have considered your story for next month’s issue. We did some changes. You can find a link to the preview here. Please contact Nisha in case of any issue.
Ashish, Rose publications
Arnav remembered; he had submitted a short story to the publications few months ago. He hadn’t expected to hear after a month. Arnav had written 6-7 short stories and thought he could try to publish them. He had almost considered writing a novel. But who was he kidding? “I can’t write a novel,” He thought.
“I had almost forgotten about the Rose publications.”
“Did I receive any other mail from them?”
As he checked his spam, there it was! The mail regarding the summer internship program. They had accepted him a few weeks ago.
Arnav had relentlessly applied to the Rose publications summer internship program, but he hadn’t expected to hear from them, nor that he was serious about the same. He couldn’t leave his permanent, well-paid job for an internship that may or may not lead to a full-time opportunity. Time had passed, and now he felt stuck on a corporate ladder. It made him feel suffocated. He wanted to do something. Lost for so long, now he could see the ray of hope. This could be my chance. He had to reply within a week.
He wrote back,
Thanks for your response. Forgive me for the rather late response. I will be most happy to accept the offer for the summer internship program at the Rose publications. Please let me know in case of any requirements. I look forward to talking to you in person.
To be on the safe side on the deadline, he replied. He hadn’t made his mind about leaving his current job yet, but he knew he had to write that reply. Something in him made it very clear. His heart bit faster and his throat was dry. He was happy and confused at the same time. He almost cried, but then he controlled himself, realizing he was in a room full of 500 people.
He kept his head down and turn his focus on the task. The office looked cheered up. He finished his task and let Nishant knew about the status before he was ready to turn off the system.
He collected his bag and was about to leave. Something stopped him. He started thinking about the offer and what he was going to do about the job. Feeling confused, he knew he had to decide as soon as possible. Overthinking will end it up on one of all the stones he left unturned. “Let me explore this pursuit,” he negotiated with his inner critic. The summer internship was to start within a month. He knew if he asked his parents, they will refuse and suggest otherwise. He was impatient. “I will need to serve a month of serving period,” He thought to himself.
“What do I want?” he asked himself. He thought for a minute, and the answer came easily. For the first time, his conscience felt clear.
I would like to submit my resignation today on 30th March. I will serve my month of serving period before I leave. I will finish all the tasks and work assigned to me before leaving. Thanks for all the support.
He took a deep breath and hit send. Something in him changed forever. He wasn’t feeling the way he was the same morning. He wasn’t feeling suffocated anymore. Within a day, everything had changed. He was brave to decide when he needed it. He felt something he hadn’t in a while, proud and happy. He took his bike out of the parking lot and headed home. Today the road, the traffic, nothing bothered him. He didn’t honk at the guy next to him when it took him a minute to restart his moped. The air smelled different. The breeze felt liberating. He came home.
He had told no one, not even his parents. He called his best friend and told him,
“I am going to be a writer!”