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Seven Steps

A relatively sleepy neighborhood turns on its beds; the white Qualis blares, screeches at the turn and finally halts. A frowning, round and stubble face spits something out of the driver's window. Each sound is picked up by Clime; his white ears readying for the next sound byte.

Months of early morning head smacks have disciplined him to be quiet; even when this red-eyed idiot comes blaring at these hours. Aadi forgets to hang the company card on his neck, to take the cigarette pack and most importantly, the charger. Today, he's getting his due. All those long hours with his team, alone and sometimes with Tim are finally going to pay off. A teal leather bean bag came first on his list. He feels his neck while shutting the door behind him; he's too immersed for the card.

Even as the car makes his bum feel the difference between foam and uncertainty, Aadi types words that he will say in the afternoon 'concall.' He looks up and then behind, through the glass. The moon is between the quarter and halfway mark, yet luminous on a clear Tuesday night. It's 2:30 am on the car clock.

Once he opens his door, to his left, are some dozen colleagues waiting. A collective 'look who is here' comes his way. Later, after the welcome smokes, when they vanish inside, Aadi steps onto the black granite stairs. There was always this thing about these black stairs. They never failed to take him back to the first day he entered this seven storied landmark. He whipped his phone out and dialed Trishna.

'Babes pray for me. Yes, it's finally happening!' He turns and the seven steps to the lobby are cut short by Devender Yadav, the night guard. 'Sir, I-card.' Aadi puts both hands to his neck, right hand fingers trying to fish out the ghost card from his blue and white shirt pocket.

He then turns and jumps down the remaining stairs. Running towards the white stream of parked cars, he shouts - "Gurmeet! Gurmeet ji!" Gurmeet's sleeping hours were strictly regulated by the taxi supervisor - 3:00 AM to 5:30 AM and then from 8:00 AM to 10:45 AM. Gurmeet places his left hand on his eyes and forehead, the other hands rests on the floor of the car. You can see a jumbo pair of feet pressed against the side windows at the back..either left or right. The second of Aadi's urgent calls makes him first remove the hand covering his eyes, and then squint at the clock - 3:02 AM. Feet pressing against the side windows, he slides up on the back seat and looks out.

'Jaldi drive karo!' Aadi knows this is against company rules, but a hundred to Gurmeet would take care of policies. For Gurmeet, life starts, moves and stops on the grey towel-clad seat he is perched on. His spirituality twinkles on the dashboard - blue, green and red lights around a plastic figure sitting with one leg over the other. The right hand of the figure, palm facing out is directed towards Gurmeet's bloodshot yes.

The street lights at this time of the 'day' are off. The roads are empty and Gurmeet likes it this way. For him, the tail lights ahead always determine the speed of his car. Today, there are no tail lights; just free dark roads. 'Sir, vaapas bhi aana hai?' 'Haanj. They called his dad at 5:30 AM. Alok, Vineet, Karan, Shoumik, Tilak, Ashu and Trishna were present when the pyre was lit. When they found him, the red, green and blue lights were still shimmering. The week after, Daniel was on Aadi's cubicle chair. Pinned on the blue and green board, was a list.

The header: Operations Manager Aadi's wish list. 1.) Bean Bag (color: teal)..

Contributing Story Teller:  Indrajeet Writer, patriot, change-seeker, generally lazy, dormant, explode in new activity every 3-4 years, want to work from a great home someday, run (at least for now..believe its the only calorie/fat buster),love intelligence and that order, the only thing that can put me off is lack of intel, love this world, believe that by the time our grandsons will be adults, women would be there at almost all seats of power--globally, believe in Linda Goodman, the only pets I like are fishes and dogs
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