Sidhharth collected the prints and began to study the various graphs and charts that showed the various aspects of the work being done at various levels in the company.
“Crap!” He frowned and drew a big circle at one of the bar charts, highlighting a data input mistake. He checked the time on his mobile and walked back towards his desk in a hurried pace.
“What about lunch Sid?” Aakash said while Sidhharth passed right beside him.
Sidhharth made a quick turn towards him and said, “Two minutes, that’s all! Our conversation is still pending!”
He corrected the mistakes, entered the print command, picked up his lunch box from under his table and ran towards canteen.
“Over here Sid!” Aakash shouted as soon as Sidhharth entered the canteen.
Sidhharth walked towards him, sporting a forced smile.
“I saved you a seat here,” Aakash said.
“Thanks man! I am humbled. So, what were you saying back at the office?” Sidhharth asked as he opened his lunch box, only to find four rotis and mashed up potatoes in it.
“I don’t believe in any of the religions or stupid rituals that we are told to follow,” said Aakash. The brown lining between his teeth shared his secret, of him being a tobacco addict, with Sidhharth yet again. The scratches on his teeth made Sidhharth wonder whether he used sandpaper instead of a toothbrush. Sidhharth was continuously avoiding looking at Aakash, the scratches on his teeth reminded him of the eerie sensation passing through his body when his maid swept his apartment’s floor, full of dust and sand, with a bamboo broom.
“So, what do you believe in?” asked Sidhharth, gulping down a huge chunk of roti down his throat.
“Nothing! Religions are full of bullshit ideologies which are forced on us. We don’t need religions today. We can do better without any of them,” Aakash explained.
Sidhharth, himself an atheist, smiled on the discovery that there was someone else as well who thought about religions exactly the way he did.
“You know, you are just like me! I don’t believe in the concept of religions as well. In fact, I hate the idea of religions so much that I chose to renounce Sikhism two years ago and I don’t repent my decision of doing so. Yes, it did caused lots of problems for me and my family initially, but now everyone has accepted me the way I am,” Sidhharth said.
“Family is family, Sid. No matter what you do, family will always forgive you in the end.”
“I never said they forgave me, I said they accepted me. There is a difference between the two,” Sidhharth clarified his situation as if this misunderstanding could cause the beginning of third world war.
Aakash had begun to shake his head in disagreement even before Sidhharth could end his sentence, “Is there? I doubt. They forgave you. That is why they accepted you!”
“No, they didn’t forgive me. I know because they are still angry on me for being so bold and brutal about the concept of organized religions. They accepted me because renouncing Sikhism didn’t change me as a person at all. Inside, I remained what I was. I continued to feel the same way about my family, my friends, about strangers, nothing ever changed, nothing has!”
“Then why did you renounce religion?”
“I renounced religion because I believed that being good has nothing to do with being religious. I could be a good person even if I was not religious. Many people continued to love me for what I was as an individual rather than how I looked. Yes, I did went through a lot of trouble while convincing my parents that nobody was going to put me in hell,” Sidhharth chuckled.
“That’s a really great thought!” Aakash exclaimed, looking towards Sidhharth, who was hurrying through his lunch. Aakash noticed the vein on his forehead bulging out as if he had hidden a serpent under his skin. Both of them kept eating silently amid the buzz of talking, laughter and discussions of other employees.
While walking backing to their workstations, Aakash said out of nowhere, “You know, sometimes I don’t understand the meaning of life.”
“Why are you smiling?” Aakash asked.
“Why do you find meaning in life? Why don’t you find motive?” asked Sidhharth.
“How is motive different from meaning?” Aakash asked.
“It is very simple actually. Finding your life’s meaning is like wanting to know the reason of your existence,” Sidhharth explained.
“Motive is when you know the reason,” Sidhharth declared.
Aakash’s eyes sparkled with the sudden realization.
“You’ve made me speechless,” he said after a long pause.
He busied himself in the work at hand, constantly thinking about what Sidhharth had just told him. He was shuffling through various pages lying at his desk and stealing continuous glances at Sidhharth who was reading an article on the internet.
“Do you know there is a plan on airtel that gives you nine hundred local and nine hundred STD minutes free?” Aakash said, yet again out of nowhere.
“Is there? I have a postpaid number. I don’t need to worry about recharges and prepaid plans.”
“Ok, but I am telling you because I got it done today on my number.”
Sidhharth gave him an irritated expression and asked, “Really? And what difference does it make?”
“The difference is that I didn’t pay for it!” exclaimed Aakash.
“Oh, did your girlfriend pay for it?”
“No, somebody did the recharge on my number by mistake.”
Sidhharth suddenly turned towards him, “By mistake?”
“Yes! Somebody must be wanting to recharge his phone when he accidentally punched in my mobile number and voila! I got sms confirmation that the recharge has been done!”
“Didn’t the guy contact you? I mean he must have realized his mistake ultimately!”
“He did,” Aakash said casually, “He called me up and said that he had recharged my number by mistake. Two digits were replaced with each other while entering the number for recharge.”
“Oh. Poor guy. He must be relieved when you recharged his phone”, Sidhharth said, resuming his reading.
“What? Why would I recharge his phone? He made a mistake. I told him clearly I can’t do anything about it.”
Sidhharth’s face turned grave. His eyes stopped travelling across the black trail on the white webpage.
“Isn’t it great? I mean how lucky I am!” Aakash beamed with happiness.
“I am sorry but I made a mistake. You are not at all like me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I would have recharged the guy’s phone.”
“What difference does it make anyway? You take things very seriously.”
“That is the only difference. Spreading goodness and trust is more important for me. I renounced religion to do just that so that people wouldn’t associate my goodness with any religion. If I am good, I wouldn’t reap benefit of someone else’s helplessness and if I have that much of goodness in me, no religion in the world can make me better than what I am.”
Aakash didn’t say anything, he didn’t know what to say. They didn’t talk to each other the rest of the day.
The day passed hurriedly through its course. Sidhharth didn’t realize that it was time to wrap up until his Lumia pinged with a text message notification. He took out the phone to check the text but was startled on noticing the time. He opened the call log, and typed a quick text to Kaaya.
As he walked past Aakash’s desk, he saw him filling his card details on Paytm website. He felt a fresh wave of happiness passing right through him. He decided not to disturb him. While walking towards the bus stop, he checked his phone to read the text that arrived on his phone earlier.
It was from Aakash. I am sorry, it read.
To be continued..