It seemed like just another evening. For Vishwas, it was not, may be. He looked too torn and exhausted for someone who was just thirty. His shirt was creased and clumsy, partly tucked in, partly out. A tiffin bag hung on his shoulder as if it did not exist. His tie was slackened; it was just about hanging in there just as Vishwas himself was. A white envelope peeped from his shirt’s pocket. The dusty prints on the envelope suggested it was opened several times.
More than his appearance, it was his morale that looked shattered. Stress at office seemed to have taken its toll on him.
“Lift out of Service” a handwritten placard hung loosely on the lift door as Vishwas neared it. He stared at it for a second and gulping the disappointment, he moved on towards the staircase.
He drowsily climbed the staircase. Each floor seemed like a mountain to him.
‘503. Siya & Vishwas’ beautifully carved in cursive letters on a wooden plate welcomed Vishwas as he reached fifth floor. He rang the doorbell.
‘Coming’ was heard from inside the house.
Siya, in a loose t-shirt and pajama with casually knit hair, opened the door. Her utterly gorgeous face lit up on seeing her man. Though, even her supremely beautiful smile failed to hearten Vishwas.
As if her usual beauty was insufficient, pregnancy had brought more charm to everything about Siya. Seven months into pregnancy was enough for her face to seem as cute as that of a little baby.
“Where is your laptop? You forgot at office or what?” Siya asked, as Vishwas handed over the tiffin to Siya.
“There was some issue with it. I had to leave it at office.”
“I see. Anyway, how was the day?” Siya asked as she headed to the kitchen.
“Just the usual. Tiring. Nothing new.” As Vishwas untied shoelaces, he wished he could untie a lot more knots as easily as that in life.
“Didn’t you have lunch? The tiffin is full as it is.” Siya questioned from the kitchen.
“Didn’t get time. I was busy the whole day.” Vishwas said closing eyes right there on the sofa.
“Vishwas, the dinner is ready.” Siya called setting plates for dinner. She uncovered the bowls to serve.
“Vishwas?” a little louder. And a couple of times more.
Upon no response, Siya pauses for a second and walked up to the bedroom.
From the door of the bedroom Siya saw Vishwas sleeping on the bed with an arm over his head, another on the stomach and the legs crossed over each other.
She came back at the dining table, covered the bowls and put the plates back.
Wall clock tirelessly swung the pendulum. It marked 3:45 in the night.
Vishwas lay on the bed, staring pointlessly at the fan. The fan stared back at him. A tiny corner of the white envelop peeked from underneath Vishwas’ pillow.
Siya, sleeping curled on a side with her back facing Vishwas, stared blankly at the stream of moonlight that made its way through the little gap between the curtains on the window.
Birds chirped at just another morning, the good morning.
Siya opened the curtains to unleash a flood of sunlight that brightened the room.
“You skipped the meals yesterday. You must be hungry. Freshen up. The breakfast is ready.” Siya said tying the curtains aside.
At the rush of sunlight, Vishwas woke up. He stretched his arms, scratched head and silently plucked the envelope from under the pillow and slipped it deep between the bed and the mattress. He made sure Siya did not notice it.
Trying to act as normal as he could and avoiding eye contact with Siya, Vishwas began the day with an apology, “Sorry, I was too tired last night. I didn’t know when I fell asleep.”
“I know. That is why I didn’t wake you up even for dinner.” She acknowledged.
“I couldn’t call you even once yesterday. I am so sorry. How are you? Nausea?” Vishwas was sincerely apologetic reviving the previous day.
Siya folded the blanket and said, “Oh, that’s ok. I’m, I mean we are, doing great.”
She smiled and put her palm on belly as she mentioned the ‘we’.
“He kicked a lot yesterday. Seemed to be excited at something. Or maybe something else. I don’t know. Anyway, are you ok? You seem a little lost since yesterday.” Siya asked as Vishwas was apparently lost staring at the floor.
Faking a smile, he pretended, “Yes. Yes. Of course, I am fine. Absolutely.”
To avoid any further interrogation, he quickly got up and went in safe havens of the bathroom.
Vishwas picked up the newspaper from the center table and rapidly flipped through it. He flipped the whole newspaper front to back, page by page and back again.
“Looking for this?” Siya asked from behind.
Vishwas turned around. Siya stood there with a page of the newspaper.
Stunned at the sudden revelation, he fumbled with words, “What? What do you mean? Why would I be looking for that page?” he said pointing at the page of the newspaper in Siya’s hand.
Siya, then showed a white envelope with a couple of postal stamps to unearth the next stunner, “Yesterday morning, after you left for office, a copy of this came by post too, honey. That is what is bothering you. I know.”
Siya handed over the envelope to Vishwas. He slipped out the paper from the envelope and folded it open. It was the copy of the burden he had been hiding under his pillow the whole night.
Mr. Vishwas Sharma,
Subject: Letter of Termination
It is hard for us to convey this as you have been an esteemed employee for years. But considering the financial crunch that the organization if facing, we are left with no choice but to terminate the employment of more than half of our workforce.
Please treat this as the notice of your termination with immediate effect. Kindly submit your official assets, i.e. laptop, phone and others (if any) before end of business hours today.
Your outstanding compensation for current month will be credited to your official salary account within 7 business days.
Human Resources Department
Vishwas stood stunned. Siya held his hand and gestured to sit on sofa. She sat by his side.
Without looking up into Siya’s eyes, Vishwas said, “I didn’t want to hide. But I could not gather enough courage to tell you this. I didn’t want to give you this shock. I didn’t want you to panic, especially at this stage.” He put his palm on Siya’s belly.
“Why did you think I would have panicked?” Siya asked.
“Why wouldn’t you? Why anyone who is on the verge of having a baby wouldn’t? I was supposed to be the one to give you all the luxuries and comfort in these times. I was supposed to be the one to take care of you and the baby. And now I am sitting jobless with this.” Vishwas’ eyes reddened as he waved the letter.
Siya took the letter, put it away and said, “You are still the one to do all that. And right now, even though apparently you don’t, I trust you.” with a hand on tummy she continued, “WE trust you. You are much beyond this job for us. And so far as our needs are concerned, you are more than capable of taking care of it and much beyond. Gather yourself and get up. Nothing is actually lost until you accept the defeat. You are not alone in this. We are together. The three of us. Together.”
Vishwas looked straight into Siya’s eyes. His eyes welled up.
Siya wiped his eyes with a cheerful smile, “Ok now if you are done with this, have a look at this.” She showed him the missing page from the newspaper.
It was the Jobs page. Five job advertisements appeared distinguished, marked with red circles.
Puzzled, Vishwas looked at her.
Excitedly, she answered the question his eyes asked, “I went through all of them and these are the ones where you should apply. They match your qualifications, experience and all. You know!” she said proudly.
Vishwas, still in the awe of Siya’s positivity and faith, turned to the marked ads.
“This one seems perfect for me, I think. See? This one?” he said pointing to one of them.
“Yes, I think so too. And…. I think, someone else also seems to be approving.”
Siya felt the baby kicking. She grabbed Vishwas’ hand for him to feel it too.
The laughter and a hug overpowered the gloom as the Letter of Termination was terminated by determination and faith.