The shrill sound of the alarm woke up Santosh Patil. With sleepy eyes he looked at the clock, silently cursing it for waking him from his sound sleep and for disturbing the nice dream that he was having – relaxing under a beach umbrella on a sunkissed beach with large glass of beer in his hand !!
The clock showed 6 am, Santosh chided himself for not waking up at his regular time of 530 am and silently cursed his wife for postponing the alarm to 6. He quickly got up , realising he had lost half an hour of time and he would now have to rush through his daily chores to reach the station on time. The 7:12 am local train to CST had been his travelling companion for close to 30 years now ever since he landed a job when he was fresh out of college. There was hardly a day when he missed that train and he was sure that he would catch it today also.
Like a precision clockwork programme, Santosh went about his work, like he had been doing for the last so many years – making tea for himself and wife, glancing through the days newspaper while quickly finishing his tea, taking a bath. All this while his wife Shobha was still asleep in bed oblivious to all that was happening in the house. Santosh also tried to make as little noise as possible, so as to not disturb her. He remembered that she had been watching a late night serial and had most probably slept past midnight.
Santosh was ready by 650 to step out of the house and travel to the station, about 10 minutes later than his usual time. But it was ok, he was sure that if he rushed he would be able to reach on time. As he was about to step out of the house – he glanced to look back and Shobha was still fast asleep. He thought of going up to her to check whether she was unwell, as she never slept this late. He also realized that his lunch tiffin was not ready because Shobha was still sleeping. But there was no time for doing all this and lunch could be easily had in the company canteen.
Santosh stepped out of the house and began a brisk walk towards the station. Normally it used to take him 15 minutes of leisurely walk to the station. He was close to the station when his phone rang. It was Shobha calling. Since he was in a bit of hurry, he cut the call and continued his fast walk towards the station. While entering the station premises, again the phone rang, again it was Shobha and again he cut the call. He thought Shobha must be calling to apologise for not waking up early, and he would call her once he boarded the train.
He quickly ran up the staircase, the almost sprinted through the overbridge as if racing against time. He was at the top of the staircase leading to Platform 4 when he was shocked to see the 712 local slowly start moving out of the platform. He rushed down the stairs dodging his way through the typical Mumbai crowd. Reaching the end of the stairs , he quickly ran to the platform, but…. Alas, the train had picked up too much speed for him to possibly board it. He was LATE !! He looked at the departing train as a jilted lover looks at the person who has spurned his love!!.
Forlorn and dejected he pushed himself to sit on the nearest bench. He was starting to miss his regular friend circle in the train, the card playing gang in the train, his favourite seat next to the window, all the regular passengers in the compartment. The sadness of missing the train was compounded by the thought of getting a memo for arriving late to office. There was hardly a day in his whole service life when he had been late in office.
All these thoughts were crossing his mind when the phone rang. It was Shobha again; Santosh realized that he had not picked up her calls all this while and she must be worried now.
“Saaantooooosh , where are you ? Why are you not picking up my calls ? Do you know how worried I was ? And where have you gone off so early in the morning ?” Shobha’s shrill voice drilled through his ears. “What a foolish woman, doesn’t she know where I will be at 715 am in the morning of a normal working day” Santosh thought. He was about to scold Shobha when her shrill voice again came through the phone “Santosh, are you at the railway station ? I can hear the noise of trains passing by. What are you doing there?” Now Santosh got really angry. “Foolish woman, have you gone mad ? What has been my schedule for the past so many years, have you forgotten that? You also forgot to pack me my lunch tiffin. How can you be so careless” Santosh shouted hoping his voice would reach her over the din on the platform.
What Shobha said later, shook Santosh. “Santosh, are you out of your mind. You have retired now!! Yesterday was your last day in office. Don’t you remember that ?”
All things started to fall in place in Santosh’s mind – waking up late, alarm set at 6 instead of 530 am, Shobha sleeping till late, lunch tiffin not ready. He was retired – free to do as he pleases, get up at any time, relax on the beach like he had seen in the dream. Then want happened why did he turn up the station ??
Slowly Santosh started trudging back home thinking as to what had happened. His life had become so programmed in a set routine that even though the day earlier he had a send off in his office, a small party at home for his retirement, the next day morning when he woke up , his mind as if deleted everything of yesterday and the set program of daily routine functioned as it had for the past some many years!!