The Last Bus
The bright orange streetlight showered on the bus stop. It was a very cold night. The last bus was at 10:30. Arjun waited at the bus stop staring at his watch, then at the halo the streetlight made, then towards the left side of the main road then to the right at the fading twinkling lights of the vehicles. Right across him was an ATM the only light on the other side of the road. Behind him was an IT park - brightly illuminated. Then he looked at the sky, the stars were dimmer than usual. He wondered why, as today was a clear night. The fog makes it difficult to see things clearly. His watch showed 10:00. Only half an hour more, Arjun thought. He was early today. Usually he just makes it in time for the last bus. He knew he worked very hard.
Last few months had been especially tiring. There was a major project delivery. You know how it is in the service industry. Arjun was at his desk at 9 AM and took only two small breaks in between. One for lunch, other for a stroll around the lush green IT park. He didn’t like coffee breaks. They were a hindrance to his carefully planned day. And what did people do in those breaks that was productive. They gossiped. Laughed at some silly joke, or wasted time worrying about appraisals and salary. Work for work’s sake, not for petty rewards. You should do things for your company and the company will make sure that you are rewarded for your effort. Who are we to doubt company’s decision? This is what Arjun thought. This is why he preferred his own company. He has been with the company for 8 years now. Every year he exceeded his manager’s expectations. Every year he received his due 20 % increment. Every year he requested for a team. He was a simple man, who didn’t have high demands from life, those who did, obviously didn’t understand how the world works. Mother nature always deals a strict hand.
It was 10:05.
There was still time. Arjun was almost freezing.
“I should go to the cafeteria. It will be open for an hour more.”
There was a group of employees still lurking in the cafeteria. As much as Arjun disliked these selfish people, he was looking forward to meeting them today. Today was his day. His work was recognized by the VP. This was a big deal. Everyone goes through those emails. They are from the top level. He certainly did, but it was not until today that he liked their content. This was probably the only thing that Arjun disliked about the company. They always praise the wrong people. Finally, they are realizing their mistake. He smiled at this thought.
The group had around 10 people. They had been joking in the cafeteria since eight. Arjun was on his stroll then. He could hear their laughter even at the bus stop. It made him sick.
Don’t these guys have work to do? He didn’t care today. He knew that as he walked past them they would definitely recognize him. His chest swelled at the thought and he assumed a straight posture, head held high. Arjun would acknowledge their greeting and pass only a smile. That would be enough; he was a senior now, praised by none other than the VP himself. They will surely ask him how he managed two projects at a time & that too without a team. By working with his heart of course, Arjun gave a chuckle of self-appraisal. Then they will ask him how he manages his personal life with this level of professional commitment. Well, he would say – for the greater good, sacrifices must be made. Isn’t that what commitment is? This is what they need to develop as well. They might also ask him about the project details but he wouldn’t share that. It was company policy. He might stop the conversation there. Well, actually it depends. If they insist on continuing it, he would oblige. However, he didn’t want to push it.
“One cappachinno please.”
“It will take a while sir. Please be seated”
“What do you mean by a while?” asked Arjun in a slightly higher tone of voice, throwing a side-glance at the group.
“I am closing down early today, will need to prepare a fresh brew. It won’t be long sir, 10 minutes max”
Arjun glanced at his watch. It was 10:10. He had 10 minutes, besides he could have the coffee in the bus as well.
“Ok. Make it fast; I don’t want to miss the bus.”
Arjun sat right across the group and waited. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember the name of the guy he was facing. There was a pretty girl next to him, she looked at Arjun. He instantly recalled her name - Aarti
It was 10:25
Aarti smiled at him and the dude next to her did the same. Arjun smiled back. Other heads turned as well, not all of them smiled. Arjun was ecstatic. It would be any moment now. Arjun waited sipping his cappuccino. The group was still busy talking.
It was 10:30 now.
“I need to start walking towards the bus stand.”
He did not. He took out his cell & started flipping through the menu. The barista cleaned the coffee mugs and placed each of them carefully on the overhead stand. It was routine.