Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lifetime (Micro Fiction)

It was her last day at work. She collected herself and entered the imposing black gates one final time. There was some trepidation, also a state of wonder at what the place had come to mean to her. How could a concrete space take on life in one’s gut, she berated herself silently.  It really hurt! 

Butterscotch light and sharp green reflections beamed off the red of the school building. She dreaded going up to her class room to look out of the window at the brilliant white canopy over their basketball ground with that thought that she would never again stand there in a teacher’s capacity. Oh yes, it was a bonnier, sunnier campus now that she was leaving. 

“Was it just the lighting and the wide open spaces punctuating the concrete structures that made the organization so appealing?” She had heard many voices credit the school’s inherent cheer to the proximity of temples close by. How wondrous that a brick and mortar place have affection and humour drip off its columns, the corridors humming with cheerful chatter. Smiles hovered on faces in that building and there was time for the purely human. Impervious to the world spinning busily outside, the school went about the business of learning and teaching at a calm, confident pace.

“So much to etch in the mind for a takeaway!” she told herself on that final meandering.

It felt terribly alone on the climb up the stairway to the top floor. Her mind kept up the monologue to self, “There are inanimate places more powerful than living, breathing souls.” Pausing at the landing, she exhaled. The air washing over the bannister pulsated with bits of those who had built this institution. There it was, enveloping her, the pride, the pain, the appreciation and lack of, the investing of selves, the presence of an entire community gone by.

There was also the other, slightly acrid note "Like the oasis in a punishing desert, organisations keep you going, just about paying you to exist”.  At the end, you get to leave with gratuity, pension, provident fund and this echo in your ears, if at all “I kept the legacy going”. There are no great riches, no grand growth except for the sum total of a 7th pay commission or so, bonding with colleagues over half-pay leaves, rainy day holidays and staff welfare events……hail the sisterhood of harmless, half-serious, posturing office politics that keeps the juices flowing.

At the entrance to her classroom, she paused, remembering the first day she had entered the space all of those thirty three long years ago. It was going to be a busy day. There was a farewell tea in her honour and a few formalities to be tied up with the administration.
By way of gesture, there was also an audience with the institution head, “We wish you all the best Madam. But we cannot write you a letter of appreciation or recommendation. Staff in the past has taken us to court, claiming promotions or increments based on our commendation letters. We wish you the very best Madam.”

Not all that many hours later, she stood outside the structure she had helped breathe life into. It felt like a shorn stone, chewed around and spat out as though by a giant, placid, unmovable giant anaconda. All that throbbed in her mind were the words, “Thirty three long years.”

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