It was one of the worst days at work for Kabir. Not that it had really been a great year but today was perhaps the worst of all the previous days. He was struggling with the numbers at work and on top of that he was in a big financial mess. He wasn’t given a raise for the last six years in a row now and the economy, as usual being the bitch it is, jeered at him. He always had the option to move on to some other, well paying job but didn’t do so because of his loyalty toward his employer. He was employed with the same company for the last 24 years and in all these previous years he was approached several times by the competition but he never changed his loyalties because the employers’ father had given him the job when he most desperately needed it and treated him like his own till the last breath of his life. Things really started going downhill for him after that, when the sons took over the business seven years ago. There was so much of pressure year on year to perform, to keep up with the employers’ unreasonable expectations as was also to take care of the needs of his family.
His only child, Shaina was a bright kid. She was always a class topper ever since she started school. Now she was in her final year at school and wanted to become an engineer, specializing in the nanotechnology. The cost of her education had shot through the roof especially in the last two years with the various coaching centres charging exorbitantly. She wanted to go abroad to pursue her higher education but Kabir couldn’t afford it, matter of fact was that he couldn’t even afford getting her educated at any of the private colleges if she didn’t make it to any of the ranked government colleges and that’s why he was trying to provide her with the best of coaching that was available. However, he also longed for the best for her. He too wanted to send her abroad but did not have the means for it. Although he had saved for her education but when Zia, his wife took ill he had to exhaust his savings. She was a chronic diabetic whose kidneys had eventually failed and was now on regular dialysis till the time she would get a donor and even then, he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to afford the transplant costs. Kabir had to bear all the expenses himself till now as the insurer had declined Zia’s case and consequently the funds saved for educating Shaina were spent in saving Zia.
Every single day was a struggle since the cost of surviving had almost trebled over the last six years whereas the income instead of increasing had decreased. Kabir’s salary remained stagnant and on top of that Zia had to give up her job due to her medical condition. The monthly budgets had gone so crazily haywire that Kabir started abhorring even the sight of an excel sheet. There had been many times they had to make several sacrifices but there were also occasions when it was imperative for him to fulfil his family commitments and as a result he had to use all of his three credit cards to their limits. Initially he was paying their minimum amounts regularly but then came a time when he couldn’t even pay that and had to forcibly become a wilful defaulter; so besides the other problems in life he also had to tackle the abusive recovery agents both at home and at the office. It was very embarrassing handling them, especially at the office since he was aware that because of his misadventures with these agents he was made the butt of all the jokes in office. His colleagues belittled him without even trying to understand the real reasons and his plight at least once. The bottom line being…Kabir’s life was a gigantic mess.
Today was the day that he had dreaded the most for the last seven years. He was rewarded for his years of loyalty and was handed the pink slip. His world had come crashing down, for a moment he thought that he was having a heart attack as his head spun, he couldn’t breathe, had a gush of perspiration, his chest felt as if it was being crushed and his heart pounded heavily….but it was only a panic attack which subsided soon. He had somehow always had an inkling of this day, but his heart never believed that any of this could ever happen to him because of his loyalty and hard work but alas, the inevitable had happened. He had literally begged his employers, but they showed no mercy. He was given a week’s time to go. He was 46 years old and getting a job would really be a tough task at this age, forget about getting it sooner. How would they survive? What about Shaina’s dreams? What about Zia’s transplant? He cursed himself for having been such a moron, for having sensed the inevitable ever since his original employer’s dying and yet doing nothing about it.
He was sitting within the confines of his cabin wondering how to break this news to the family, when someone walked in. It was his subordinate Jatin, the only one amongst the whole lot of his colleagues who was his sincere supporter.
“I heard about what happened sir. I feel so miserable today that even I want to quit. What is the point in working for such people who do not value honesty, loyalty and hard work?”
Kabir wanted to burst into tears but with great effort held them back, “You will do no such thing, promise me that!”
“Sir, these people are disgusting! If they can do this to you today, they can do this to anyone tomorrow.”
“At least find a job before acting in haste and regretting it later.” advised Kabir.
“What are going to do now, sir?”
“Look for a job, what else?”
“What about the expenses till then?”
“Well…they would pay me a month’s salary and then my provident fund corpus should be enough to let us survive for at least five months. Hopefully, I should be able to get something by then.”
“Sir, why don’t you talk to Smith & Bros? They always wanted to hire you desperately.”
“No Jatin, I will not work for the competition ever! Whatever are the consequences.”
“Why are you making things more complicated for yourself than they already are? You know how niche our domain is, so if you don’t work with the competition then your experience is no good anywhere else. Why are you still so bothered about these jokers who have not shown any sympathy toward you or your situation?”
Kabir had no answer but just a wry smile on his weathered face and then he lowered his head because he couldn’t face Jatin anymore.
“Just let me know if I could be of any help, okay!?”Jatin left the cabin as he sensed his boss’ discomfort and didn’t want to see him cry since he could figure out that Kabir was on the verge of breaking down.
It was already four months now since Kabir had lost his job. Time had flown past so fast. Although the whole family was suffering but they were braving it out together. Both Zia and Shaina were extra careful not to broach upon anything that may hurt Kabir’s feelings. All his efforts to get a job were in vain, forget about the personal interviews he wasn’t even getting a call from anywhere. He was under immense pressure now since the funds were almost exhausted and moreover, he was losing sleep over Shaina’s education as her final exams were due shortly post which he would have to arrange for a hefty sum for her admission. Besides that, he also had to take care of Zia’s expenses. Kabir’s situation was dire and nothing short of a miracle was needed to salvage it but God seemed to elude him until now.
He was sitting alone, lifelessly on the terrace of his apartments gazing at the early evening azure sky when his phone’s shrill ringer shook him out of his stupor. It was his insurance man calling.
“How do you do, Mr. Singh? I just called to inform you that your insurance renewal amount shall be due the next month. So when can I come to collect the premium cheque?
“When is the last date?”
“I will call you before that.”
“Sure sir. Have a great day.”
It seemed as if God had an agenda against Kabir that’s why problems kept coming at him without a pause. His roller coaster ride like life was just going downhill with no sign of any elevation…but…HOLD ON! There was a sudden glow and a huge smile on his face, which seemed strange as he had not smiled in ages because of all his worries. Had he finally lost it or did that phone call give him a solution to his problems? He dashed seven floors down to his flat, shot straight into his bedroom, onto his cupboard, dug out the insurances’ file and started going through it, page by page, meticulously. Besides the other investments he had been very particular about his insurances. He had completely forgotten about his policies in the melee, which he remembered as soon as he got through with that call. However, after having gone through the last page in the file his mood became sombre once again. He had two Unit Linked plans which he had started a couple of years ago so he was banking on surrendering them to en-cash their corpus to allow himself some more time to hunt for a job but unfortunately both of them were under a lock-in period phase so he wasn’t allowed a surrender, lest lose all the money that he had already paid. The other plans were all Pure Term plans which had no corpus per se but had a huge Sum Assured in case of his death. These plans had a cumulated amount of one crore rupees and an additional crore if he died in an accident. Kabir was completely crestfallen by now. He knew that he had to do something drastic to salvage the situation; prompting him to go into profound thought and after a lot of deliberation he finally took a decision.
It was around 4am; the morning walkers had just started their daily routine when the quietude was rudely shattered by the sound of a loud thud. As soon as some of them reached the spot they saw Kabir’s motionless body lying there in a puddle of blood.
As soon as the bright light faded and he could focus on his surroundings once again, Kabir found himself sitting alone in a big room with a huge uncluttered desk. It was a very bright yet colourful room. Suddenly the wall on the right-hand corner gave way to what seemed like a door and an old man entered through it. He was attired in the most expensive of finely hand-crafted suits, which was spotless and white in colour. He had the most charming and glowing face. His silver hair and beard looked so majestic, soft and pure. As he approached Kabir he extended his hand toward him for a shake, “I will come straight to the point son. I am afraid I do not have good news for you.”
“I understand that I am dead because I saw people gathered around my body just before I drifted here through the dark tunnel before I got consumed by the bright, white light. So, what could be worse than being dead?” asked Kabir.
“You committed suicide yesterday, so….”
“So…? Well they all will think that it was an accident and I fell off the terrace since it has no railing.”
“And what if they discover the truth?”
“So, what?! Even if they discover the truth the insurance money cannot be denied to my wife since my policies were all very old and they are liable to pay even in suicide cases if it happens after a year of the inception of the policy….if that’s what you meant?”
“No. That is the least of my worries at this juncture and yes, you are right about the insurance money. My dear, the point that I want to drive home here is, that a human body & life are the most sacred creations by God and choosing to destroy them you have committed the gravest of sins.”
“But I had no other option. God saw my desperation but never came to my rescue.” argued Kabir.
“You always had options son, provided you were not so obstinate and impractical. God has given you the brain to figure out the right from wrong. I am not promoting disloyalty here but when you knew that you would not get a job elsewhere owing to the speciality of your domain and more so since your bosses had fired you, you should have gone ahead and taken up a job within your own industry without any inhibitions but you stuck onto your weird principles and caused yourself so much of agony and now, for your folly of committing the gravest of sins you are banished from entering the abode of the angels for eternity.”
Kabir looked dejected, “I think that’s a small price to pay to keep my family happy. At least they would now lead a comfortable life with the insurance money.”
“Are you sure of that?” asked the old man.
“What do you mean by that?”
“The forbidden sin that you have committed will surely have a domino effect. You know how much Zia loves you. Do you really think she will live without you?” Looking at the perplexed look on Kabir’s face, the old man sighs and then whispers, “look down….”
As Kabir looked, his vision zoomed down instantly and he saw Zia. She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf….Fright seized Kabir instantly but then on a close scrutiny he realised that Zia was unhurt and the relief was evident on his face immediately, “She is not bleeding, that means she is alright. Oh my god, what a scare…but...?” he stopped.
“Whose blood is that on the knife? Is that what you’re wondering? Well, do you think she would leave Shaina behind all alone in that bad world, to fend for herself without a support mechanism, huh?”
Kabir’s face froze.
“And as for Zia”, continued the old man, “she has just finished her cup of coffee mixed with Sulphas tablets….Kabir your stubbornness, impracticality and finally taking your own life, was it really worth it?”