"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




As far as he could remember, he had never seen his father. He had never enjoyed fatherly love first-hand, yet he knew the concept well; firstly, from observing the fathers of his friends, and, secondly, from the detailed accounts his mother told him about how caring and affectionate his father was. The son yearned to see his father, yet he never could come face to face with him.
 
"Your father does a lot of hard work for our sake," his mother would tell him, "he travels far and wide so he can earn a lot of money. That money is what takes care of us."
 
"But why don't I get to meet him anytime?" the son would pleadingly question.
 
"That's only because whenever he comes home either you are at school or fast asleep. On many nights, he has kissed your forehead before he left for work. Haven't you felt the kiss anytime?" mother would ask.
 
"No, I haven't at all..." and then he would think to himself, "I should sleep light next time."
 
His mother would show him photos of his father, and then show the gifts and toys that the father brought for him. "Look at this grand house," she would say, "and the nice furniture, the food we eat. All these are provided by your father. If it wasn't for him, we would be on the streets."
 
His mother's words were sacrosanct for him. He never doubted her love, care or her stories. She was his world, his holy spirit, and he was thankful to the father for keeping his mother happy.
 
Every night the mother would narrate tales of the father's travels, and he would sleep in rapture. He would dream of himself going on those expeditions some day.
 
One day, when he got home,  he had a strange question for his mother. "Mom they were debating about the existence of God at school today. Most of my friends believe in God because they are scared of him, but I told them I believe in science. As long as there is no solid proof of God's existence, I don't think we should believe in him. Isn't it ma?"
 
"But you see his pictures all around. Isn't that proof enough, son? And there are so many tales of his adventures that everyone talks about. Can't you believe those?"
 
"Anyone can make up those stories ma! And those photos are just someone's imagination. I think I need more solid proof. Something that science can accept."
 
There was silence in the house. Mother paused from her cooking, turned back to look at the son, smiled once, and got back to her cooking.
 
"Okay, I got it. I will ask dad when I meet him. I will be meeting him soon, right ma?"
 
"Indeed, my son..." and the mother flashed her angelic smile once again.
 
 
 
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The kid froze, partly in embarrassment partly in fear, as the mother stopped to hand over the food packet to the dishevelled beggar on the pavement. It was her daily routine. And as was his routine, the beggar would sit up, receive the packet, and thank her by briefly folding her palm into his hands. There would be routine tears of joy in his eyes.
 
"Why do you bother so much about him mummy?" asked the kid.
 
"My son! Just because someone is on the street, it does not mean they don't deserve care." replied a proud mom.
 
"But mom, there are so many people walking by. Why don't they care too?"
 
"I can't speak for the others dear. I just know that, for me, humanity means caring not just for our near and dear ones, but also for those who are disadvantaged and ignored. It's what makes us a good human being dear," and the proud smile shone brighter.
 
"But isn't it dangerous? He touched you with his dirty hands. What if it causes an infection? And what if he is mentally unstable and attacks you? Or follows us home mom?"
 
"Yes those risks are there, but that does not mean we stop caring, do we? And I will just get home and wash my hands thoroughly, isn't that alright?"
 
Kid agreed. And they walked on, towards home, dodging the uneven pavement and scurrying walkers. They had walked a few yards when the kid abruptly stopped and bent down to pick up a comb lying on the pavement. It was a shiny artefact that had fallen off some pocket or purse that was in a hurry.
 
"Hey what are you doing? Throw that away. Are you stupid to pick up like that?" thundered the mother.
 
"It looks so shiny and it was on the street. I don't think it belongs to anyone mummy!"
 
"Do you just pick up something lying on the street just like that? Do you have any sense? Look at all the people walking by. Is anyone picking up like that?"
 
"No mummy. But I was just..."
 
"Don't you argue with me. You should know it is absolutely wrong to touch something lying on the streets. Moreover, the comb may have been used by someone. It will have lice and dandruff and what not.."
 
"But I will wash it as soon as I get home mummy!"
 
"You won't understand.. " and mother plucked the comb from the kid's hand and threw it away. She kept cribbing about their soiled hands until they got home.
 
 
 
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He looked at the commotion in the office, all the software engineers running around, trying to fish their way through Corporate waters, while the managers sat on the benches sipping tea and bantering.
 
That was how the corporate world was designed - a game of snake and ladders. One had to think like a snake, to climb the ladder. He laughed to himself about it and, though reluctantly, he rushed around too. Their project was neck deep in troubled waters, with deliveries slipping and all, and this was the best time for the software engineers to impress their managers. It could be their trump card up the ladder.
 
He looked at his manager, perched so disdainfully on his bench, ever so relaxed, while he rummaged through the project mess, hoping to find success. He watched the manager playing the crowd, as he baited some of the engineers with tasks, which they instantly jumped at and competed with each other to do it hook-line-and-sinker. He ran around too, because he did not want to be left behind, in impressing the manager.
 
Though he went up to the manager with a smiling face, deep inside he hated the man. "What a monster," he thought, "sitting up there like some God, while we run around. How haughty of him to be so insolent towards us. He gives us menial jobs that kills our self-respect. Treats us like some dumb fry. How can there be so much imbalance in the value of life, that he gets to sit there and I have to run around?"
 
Manager gave him the task to do a bunch of photocopies. So off he went to the machine with a curse whispering in his mouth.
 
As he photocopied, he imagined a day when he would be a manager himself, "I would earn a lot of money and take that long break that managers get," he imagined with a smile, "and then I would go fishing. Oh! how peaceful and enchanting it would be. That Mormon lake is always teeming with fishes. It would be so nice to sit on one of the lake benches, throw the bait in the water, and watch while the fishes run around. And I could catch myself a good one and make a nice fry. Oh so yummy."
 
"I got to somehow climb this ladder and get to where I can enjoy the goodness of God's great world," he concluded and got down to finishing the photocopying faster...
 
 
 
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That was his location - the hub of traffic - that open space just beyond the steps which everyone in the office took to reach the cafeteria. And everyone came to the cafeteria at least once a day, either for breakfast or lunch or a simple platonic coffee. He knew those peak hours when the crowd came and those were the hours he would man his location. His location was prime as all the cafeteria crowd passed through it and gave him an opportunity to watch his entire target group.
 
He was very experienced in this feat now. He would stand at his vantage point for hours watching over the ladies that came to the cafeteria, stealing glances, intently watching their eyes. Searching for those eyes that looked back at him, and trying to find an invitation in them. His office was full of single mothers and divorced ladies, and that was his target group.
 
Many of the ladies would invariably look at him - given the weird combination dress he wore to attract their attention. And when they looked, he knew which ones were weak, and he could pursue.

"Just for one night..." was all that he would want. The strategy had worked for him many times and he had managed to get one-night stands with several ladies in the office. Yet it would not fill him, he still stood there and hungered for more. He had so much greed (read: libido) still alive in him...
 
He did not find any suitable ones today, so decided to cool it off and head back home. He would come back the next day and try again. There were always innocent ladies out there that he could prey on...
 
As he drove back home, the slow moving traffic irked him. He honked repeatedly to vent his anger, until he came to a traffic light. Now, this was one of those long-waiting traffic signals. So he shut down his car and waited.
 
As he waited, his eye fell upon a salesman, going from car to car, selling boxes of paper napkins. It seemed the guy was experienced, as he did not target the cars at random. He would stand at a vantage point and watch the drivers intently. That traffic junction was his location - the hub - where all traffic came to a halt and gave him an opportunity to watch his entire target group. The salesman somehow seemed to know which driver was weak enough to be pursued for a sale. He knew that amongst all the drivers in that traffic hub, there were always some weak ones that could be preyed upon. He seemed to have made some sale for the day, yet was greedy to pocket some more. So the salesman kept looking around...
 
He watched the salesman from inside his car and thought, "What a wretched existence! He seems strong in body and mind. He could very well have put it to good productive use, but look at him, doing such a useless job, running behind stupid individuals, trying to earn something that is so unsubstantial. Whatever he earns will only serve him for how long? Probably just one night? Oh how temporary! what an unsubstantial life indeed... huh!"
 
The salesman seemed to come towards him. He rolled up his car windows and began honking at the traffic.
 
 
 
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"So I just ported my number out.." said the dude on the call with his friend. "What do they think they are, man? Such a slow data connection. It takes ages to load pages. Browsing had become such a pain. And when I called the customer service they give those fake apologies..."
 
"Yeah totally agree dude," replied the friend, "their customer service is so pathetic these days."
 
"Yeah man!" said dude, "These guys don't understand our generation man. We are the fast paced dudes. We can't wait like our boring parents did. Whatever we need, we need it here and now. If I need a song, it has to play right away. If my friend post on Facebook, I need to get the update immediately, else we fall behind man."
 
"Seriously dude. I don't know how our parents waited in those long queues and spent weeks waiting for their letters to reach home. They really wasted their lives."
 
"We are the 'Now' generation man. Whatever we need, we need it right 'Now'. Those customer service guys better get that. Else they wont stay in business for long. Okay I gotto go now man. The show is back on TV. Bye now!"
 
And dude got back to the TV.
 
"Son, have you finished that assignment that dad was guiding you for?" shouted his mom from the kitchen.
 
"There's still time ma. I will wrap it up over the weekend."
 
"Okay! what about your tomorrow's test. Did you finish revising for it?"
 
"Ma! I shall do it later. Will you please let me watch the TV? Why do you have to bring up everything right 'Now'? Damn!"
 
Dude upped the volume and immersed himself into the TV show.
 
 
 
 
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"It's time to sleep my son," said the father, trying not to be stern with his boy who kept working on his school project late into the night. "I admire your interest and passion, but please don't ignore your health dear."
 
"But this is my favourite project papa," replied the son.
 
"I know, and that is why I let you work an hour past bedtime. Enough now. You still have time to submit it right?" inquired the father, "so why do you want to finish everything in one night dear?"

"I am the one who always submits the project first. I want to impress my teacher again, so I want to finish it..." the son continued working
 
Upset, the father strode into the room, tugged on his son's shoulder and pulled him to bed. "You should listen to daddy. C'mon get into bed now. You can finish the rest of it tomorrow. I know having a good impression is nice, but keeping good health is more important than that. There is no future without health my son."

The son was forced into bed, covers draped, goodnights wished, and lights switched off.
 
Dad then hurried back to his room, where an office conference call was waiting for him. It was his project team back in India. He sat in front of the laptop and addressed his project team. They had slipped on a deliverable and he was upset at them.
 
"Sir. We are working hard to wrap up well before the deadline. There were some setup issues which delayed us, else we could have finished it yesterday," said the team lead on the call.
 
"Don't give me those last minute excuses. You know we had discussed about surprising the client with an advanced delivery, didn't we? I don't wish to miss out on that chance. Can you finish it by your end of day today? That is my tomorrow morning?" asked the stern father.
 
"But sir, that gives us just a few hours into our day time. We will need a few more hours than that. Can we get two days please?"
 
"Why don't you get it man? If we delight the client, it brings so much more work for us. Impression is everything in our careers man. Look, I can only get you a day. Worst case, I want it by evening my time."
 
"Okay sir, that would mean we have one day and one night for us. Fine! I think we can do it. I will ask the guys to work the whole night. Should that be fine sir?"
 
"Yeah, please do that. Tell them to do some sacrifice. It's good for their future itself. And by the way, days and nights don't matter in the offshoring model. We live in a flat world now; where the flight of man goes beyond the cycles of Nature... So I will expect your mail latest by my evening tomorrow. Have a nice day. Bye" and father closed the call.
 
 
 
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