Firefighting

Back from work, Sahil finds a big crowd spread in small groups across their basement. He notices that he knows most of them. They all peek at him frequently as he parks his car. His neighbour Varun splits from one of the groups and approaches him. He presses the lift button and throws a questioning glance at Varun. Varun averts his eyes and halts beside him to wait for the lift door to open.

Varun talks for the first time once they’re inside the lift. He says, “We’d tried to call you, Sahil. You never picked up the phone.”

Sahil sighs. It has been a terrible day. They were on fire since early morning. Some glitch in the client’s securities had depleted most of their CRM database. With a seasonal promotion around the corner, the potential dent would be worth a few million dollars. It was almost at six in the evening when, thanks to a tremendous effort from him and his boss Gautam, the hole was plugged and the old files retrieved. The services delivery manager had commended them both.

Inside the ascending lift, Sahil suddenly feels weak and famished. He hasn’t had anything since morning. The cafeteria was closed for the day before they could manage to wrap up their work and leave their cubicles. In fact, Gautam’s urgent call summoned him to work when he was about to fix breakfast in the morning. He recalls the time now. Drooping out of bed, he had stared at Snigdha for a second. She had piled herself somewhat like a turtle and, with the mess of hair blurring her pale face, looked miles apart from the ravishing beauty that she otherwise was.

He staggered to the kitchen and fumbled with the matchbox as he turned the oven on with his left hand. This was the moment when the phone buzzed. He quickly switched the oven back off and rushed to pick up the call… his recollection stumbled upon a roadblock. Had he switched off the oven? Or was it on when he talked to Gautam and then, flinging on his clothes, rushed out to work?

He asks aloud, “Varun, do you know if Snigdha is all right? I can’t recall whether I’d switched off the gas oven this morning. I’d almost started fixing our breakfast when an emergency call dragged me to work.”

Varun opens his mouth to say something as the lift door opens. There’s a huge crowd on the corridor as well. An alarm rings in his heart as he steps out of the lift. Has he killed her? Inadvertently?

The alarm in his heart suddenly breaks and he lets out a big sigh when he spots Snigdha chatting with someone in the crowd.

 

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