Half an Hour Past Nine

Half an hour past nine, yet another day at work. Some of white lights continue to leisurely shed their ghostly whiteness over the souls scattered across the space divided into cubicles, mini fortresses. The walls, the ceiling are a shade of white, serene many would argue, pale I insist. The dull lavender cubicle walls and the dusty grey browning carpets patterned with strange rectangles seem to absorb any colour into their bosoms. My only solace at these hours are the slits on the window blinds and the glass walls beyond the blinds, reflecting, refracting, allowing faint light from the high-rises opposite, a strange shade of aquamarine and white, the silhouettes of trees rustling in the soundless wind, the encroached upon lake shimmering in patches, the night sky, often purple, often orange, starry on summer nights, moonlit at others. I often near the glass window and part the blinds to stare at what lies beyond, the everyday. Funny from afar my gaze is uninhibited but when I am close to the glass walls the ghostly light begins tinting the glass with its pallor fogging my view. I see my reflection approaching me every step that I take, measuring me up, till I come face to face with the other me and I peer through my reflection, cupping my hands around the corner of my eyes, into the ever-changing vastness. The aquamarine building, the concrete skeleton of an under-construction building across the lake, palm trees lining the road that meanders through the glass towers, the glowing and diminishing headlights of cars that never seem to stop, always rushing, the slow moving cranes, construction workers in their florescent jackets, and yellow helmets scurrying, and rather tiny, like mice, the orange of a distant street light breaking into a million sparkling pieces over the lake. A silence, save the earphones blaring an inconstant list, and when I am not weighed down by deadlines, overtakes me at these hours. I ponder, wonder, ruminate, reflect, and drown myself in the whirlpool of thoughts and if you were to ask me what they be, I would find it difficult to narrate any. They are incoherent, suddenly hitting a crescendo, fading into nothingness at other times, elusive, shards of incidents from the past, near and far, conversations, laughter. My high school Chemistry teacher always warned us, ‘Don’t think! It is dangerous to.’ Right she was, but not entirely. Thinking, helps me preserve my sanity and pushes me into the crumbling cul-de-sac of misery. An intermittent flow of work, the norm for over a week now, certainly fuels the thoughts of nothingness lest, at other times, I find myself computing, calculating, optimizing, saving, and cursing when the software suddenly stops responding. And how can I miss out on the not so humble emails; emails on reminders, emails stressing on deadlines, further emails, emails on work plan, emails on work status, emails on work progress, emails on queries, emails, more emails! Maddening indeed!

At these hours, when not weighed down by deadlines, I often walk down the stairwell to the coffee vending machine running my fingers over the steel handrail, chipped somewhere, dented here and there, shiny elsewhere and I sense a subtle chill rushing through my arm, spreading and fading through my veins. There is not a soul to be heard, only my footfalls on the grey stone. The gurgling sound of the frothy potion filling the paper cup breaks the eerie silence. I remember, climbing back, that I have to fill up the time-sheet, send out emails, work status emails, work plan emails; emails sure dictate a major part of the time spent at work. Routine, monotony, home, work and work, wake up, tend to plants, cook, tidy up, work, simulation, results, proposals, project, reviews, queries, a never ending spiral, I reflect on the usualness of every single day. Not entirely happy nor wretchedly unhappy. Do I seek an escapade, a breakaway, a difference, a change? Would not the change, were it to occur, metamorphose into a dreaded routine someday? Would the present be any different if I could redo the past? Would I know, were I to be transported back in time, what must I change to usher in a change? What stops me from realigning and readjusting the course of everyday? Fear, rejection, failure, or am I happy to be confined within the slippery walls of contentment or am I being an escapist? Do I lack conviction? The ‘what ifs’ never cease from traversing my mind. I promise to myself that I would sow a change and I fail. I must commit to myself and not promise, I chuckle at the thought!

The last song on the playlist fizzles out and suddenly the stillness booms into my head. There was a companion to talk to at these hours about anything, serious to dumb, to chuckle with, to complaint with, narrate incidents to, until he left for greener pastures and the quietness of the ghostly hours seems to have burgeoned sans the conversations, the harmless bickering, the serious deliberation on the strange device in the men’s room, movies to F.R.I.E.N.D.S, to Joey moments, to my impending deafness that the loudness of the earphones perpetually plugged onto my ears will bring about, to anything dumb to everything serious. I should call him one of these days, I make a mental note. Uncannily welcoming that I chanced upon a crazy, happy, like-minded, eccentrically humorous set of people here. We certainly are blessed with an unparalleled sense of observation exemplified by the surreptitious glances directed at the tall, rough, pretty, chic, fat, bald, traditional, trendy men and women around us. We have a quirky imagination that only unleashes peals of unstoppable laughter and we leave no stone unturned to dissipate the settling dullness from any glum situation come what may, we promise to grow thinner, and break it each evening, one of us is deliriously desirous to get married with criteria that would leave any hapless soul exasperated, some of us are fashionistas in our own terms, and we are good at our work too, a few have voices that can shatter glass while with a few one needs to crane his head to hear better, we have christened men and women here as ‘his girl’, ‘her guy’, ‘his guy’ and we have become infamously famous for not being able to maintain the decorum of staring without making it evident! Thick as thieves to our glory and much to the annoyance of the higher power! Truth be told work place quintessentially becomes play, tolerable with the eclectic group here.

A new playlist. May be the modernized Tagore renditions or may be the old Bollywood numbers, may be both! May be James Bay or Damien Rice or even the recently discovered Kodaline. I have often wondered at the pertinence of these tunes at night, does it dispel the silence or does it become a part of the silence at these hours, enchantingly orchestrating the silence, the pauses, the footfalls, the diminishing lights, the humming of the air conditioner, into its melody? I must meditate over this. The piano notes and Shreya Ghoshal’s magical voice reach a crescendo. Utter bliss! Kodaline croons their melodious song and a shiver runs down my spine, haunting, serene, soul-stirring and I realize the song had reduced to a background score while images, conversations, people, memories, good and bad alike flash before my eyes, they confound me. Can I trust these images or are these a concoction of what I remember, what I would like to remember? Funny that I had come across these lines in the book I have been reading and they run thus, ‘But that was the work of memory, and remembered things, he knew, had a tendency to subvert the things remembered. As a consequence, he could never be sure of any of it.’ (The New York Trilogy, Paul Aster). Certainly, I can never be sure of what I have been recollecting. Did that really occur or is it all make-believe? I know not.

The endless continuum of thinking, one leading to another, another leading to yet another and the repetition. I gather myself and teleport to the world of reality (or is reality an illusion?), to the world of emails, time-sheet, booking a cab, saving the work for the day, in essence gradually transforming into a robot. Outside the night grows darker, the lilting hum of the air conditioner reverberates through the white silence inside, the lights dim and suddenly blink into existence the moment a soul stirs underneath them, the echo of a phone ringing breaks the eerie silence, and the watch declares an half an hour past eleven.

Image source: http://www.gettyimages.in


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