He sits waiting, patiently, for six-o- clock to happen, turning his prized Parker between the fingers of his left hand. His right palm cups the electronic mouse; the fingers clicking away, continuously refreshing his mailbox. There are ten minutes before he can leave.
He’s not expecting any emails at this time of the day. At least not very pressing ones. The constant refreshing is borne out of habit, formed over hundreds of meaningless hours that he has idled away. Around him, his colleagues bustle around, engrossed in their own methods of appearing busy and important.
With less than five minutes to go, a mail appears. He curses softly under his breath. Its from the HOD. The subject line informs him that it is a reply to the long chain of mails that he has helped lengthen through the day, wilfully frustrating attempts from another team to enlist his assistance. They want access to a document which he is in possession of. He is unwilling to give it, for no other reason than that they want it. The HOD’s mail is short and crisp, as most HOD mails are. It contains a name, two words and a comma. His name, then the comma, and the two words – please expedite.
He considers his options. He doesn’t have many. He can delay, just leave for the day and think about it when he returns the next day. Or he can reply to the mail and stand by his position, which he cannot do since the HOD may not take kindly to such behaviour. He considers discussing this face to face with the HOD, explain to him why the document need not be shared but decides against it, for it is too trivial a matter.
For a while, he fantasizes. He imagines himself typing out ‘I will not’ and other stronger variants in reply. He conjures up the consequent face-off in the HOD’s cabin, where the man screams at him in hysteric disbelief. At which point, he calmly lays his resignation on the table and laughs in his face, before walking out with his hands in his pockets and a whistle on his lips.
He finds the document, attaches it to the mail and sends it to the other team with a word or two by way of apology. He checks his watch and finds the long hand shifted two cuts beyond twelve. He curses again, a little louder this time, switches off the computer, picks up his backpack and races out.
Out on the road, he spots the train sliding into the station on the opposite side. He checks the oncoming traffic on both sides of the road, at highspeed for it is an expressway, times himself and sprints. He hears automobile brakes in the background but doesn’t turn to check. By the time he enters the station, the train’s begun to move again. He quickens his pace, elbowing out a couple of college boys who seem to have admitted defeat, reaches the platform just as the train starts to accelerate, races past half a dozen other people, grabs the iron pole in the middle of the compartment’s wide, open entrance with his right hand, jogs two more steps before jumping aboard.