He had just finished his work for the day. It had been a productive day. Productive days at his work weren’t the norm for him the past few months. There was way too much paperwork to get little things done. For example, that training he had to take would take all but 16 hours. But the process of getting approval was of a ridiculous four steps that involved participation of three company resources and filling out two forms. This was all because the training was provided by an external entity. Whew! He was fed up with it, but four hours is four hours and time passes. After the hoola hoops, he was through it. Then on, it was much easier – all his territory. He quickly logged onto the site, got the virtual machines downloaded, logins and documentation organized, had figured out the navigation and was ready for the actual 16 hours of learning.
As he looked out, he saw the brightest and crispest winter day yet. The sky was the deepest blue he had seen in many days. There were few clouds. Every moment, the Sun seemed to be outshining his very own past moment. He needed a break. It was long time coming. The past seven days were literally hell. For one, he had caught some virus. Never in his life had he been in bed for more than two days. But maybe it was the age that was catching up with him. He hadn’t ignored even the innocuous cold that had started eight days back knowing the winter was deep in the season’s belly. Whatever started it must have been due to his recent array of social activities or that bravery in stepping out to help the utility company tech. It was maybe a minute or so in just light clothing; but that was enough. The nightmare started on day two. Bone-chilling cold within that was beating the bone-chilling cold outside. Four layers of blankets and comforters were just not enough.
There are times when a man doesn’t care about anything else than his integrity. And his integrity was in question. He had never intended for what and how things had transpired. All his validations had just gone for a six. Many times he felt he was alone on the field trying to talk things out only to realize that there was no party on the other side. He had tried so many times and even had wondered if he was hallucinating about these attempts. Everyone had abandoned him – well almost everyone. No one would listen to him anymore. All his followers had been together over many occasions. There had been so much fun and laughter. The screams and shouts from the young children was still ringing in his ears. It was just three weeks back that they all had come together for yet another of those events. The rules had been same since the beginning. Who started it, nobody knew. Why there were such rules, no one would discuss. But there were rules. And nobody bothered about them because they had gotten used to it. It appeared to him that only he had observed that some few in the town wanted things to stay put. All they cared was the get-togethers every now and then and that must have meant something significant for them. Changing rules meant a big risk and they weren’t ready to take such risks.
He remembered when he had come on the scene three years ago and had become one of them. He remembered the welcome he had received then. It had felt very heartening and encouraging. It was a long time since he had found such goodness spread in so few people. Over the years, he had gained everyone’s trust and respect. Attending just a few of the events, he could see the same pattern. One after the other, they would perform and entertain the crowd with the same sort of entertainment that all were used for years. If the panel was pleased and invariably they would be, the participant would be rewarded with acknowledgement and sometimes even appreciation. If they succeeded in pleasing the panel, they would be invited again and that meant a lot. In times of necessity, good food and fun at such throwaway prices were always welcome. And they didn’t bother to make any changes as at least once a month they could eat and stow-away enough for another couple of days. It took very little time for him to feel the rote. Then he had made his proposal. The whole panel and the town was in utter discomfort. He couldn’t fathom why those were such drastic changes. They were just not used to hearing any change at all, that he was sure. It is hard to break tradition as the saying goes, he recalled. In a matter of a few weeks, things started changing. He could feel the discomfort wherever he went, eyes lowering or turning aside, briefer conversations and less and less participation in the activities he led. Even his staunch admirers started dropping off one by one. Then the rumor-mill became alive. What he heard was enough to shake him at his very core. His belief of fairness, justice and opportunity for all was what had driven him all these years in keeping them all together. But when he heard his integrity being questioned, he felt as if the ground below him had collapsed. That was just the beginning. He tried to reach out to the members and explain his position. But no one would listen to him. His emails got no responses or those he got were meaningless ones. No one was willing to listen to him or given him a chance any more. That was when he could hold it no longer. First he felt his ability to reason no longer existed. As he waited to hear back even an iota of response, he could no longer think straight. He could feel the distrust that had driven him long before in his childhood had started to surface again. It was very easy to misread body languages and misinterpret any response. The more and more he saw and read, the more his fears grew. Such a large group of people he had influence over and now all of them now were questioning his motives. For them, adding up the things he did was now inevitably leading them all to see why he had done what he had done. All the good work he had done so far had just vanished or was no longer a consideration. His fears grew by levels of magnitude every moment he thought back of the incident trying to figure out what he had done wrong. His analysis of the communications and response seemed, even to him, to solidify ulterior motives in the eyes of the group. He could take it no longer. First he felt those waves of pain in his brain. They were mild at first and got progressively stronger. There was no time for the medications to take effect. He didn’t know when he passed out.
The murmur of the hushed voices brought him back to consciousness. The room was dark. How long he had been there was not evident. His head felt heavy as though he had hit something. At first he wasn’t sure why he was at an hospital. Only when the nurse came in and inquired how he was doing, he realized something hadn’t been right. There was no use trying to think what had happened. Maybe it was the pills or the drug that had taken effect. The nurse said he would get to know once his recovery was through.
That was a week back. The nurse was someone he already knew. If it wasn’t for her, his nightmares would have continued. It was surprising that she had a simple solution to his challenge. He had been preaching it all along. But once he heard it, it started to take effect. There were still the ebbs and tides of his emotions at what transpired would take over him and seem to drag him back to the darkness. Time was the cure and definitely it was. Once he resigned to the facts, knowing he couldn’t control it anymore, knowing he was at peace with his decisions, knowing that God approved of what he had done – it was then, he started to get a grip of himself. Each passing day he could feel his strength returning. He started to feel no longer bothered by what had happened. There were still moments where he could feel the that inner sheath of sadness try to surface and drag him down, but all it took to not get sucked into them was to recognize what that would lead to. Next when he heard one on the panel come up to him and talk to him with the same regard as before, he knew he had crossed the bridge completely. Now it was up to them to see what he had in mind. He had vowed to himself to continue what he was doing, to keep his spirit up and lead by example.
Many months later, he still wonders why he had to go through such strong under currents in his mind. There was no apparent reason he could see after all the things he had done right. But he was determined not to go back to the analysis. Let it be was his motto from now on. He was at peace once more.