One day he came home looking glum. Ever quick to notice, his wife asked him, “Is there anything wrong?”
He just nodded his head and sank into a sofa. Everything seemed lost.
“Our company will be restructured. My division will also be likely downsized” he replied in a way as if that had already happened.
His wife was more practical. She replied in an attempt to lighten his mood – “Is that all? I thought of things far graver” and resumed her work.
He didn’t like his wife’s non-concern. He raised his voice – “You don’t seem to understand! Do you know what can happen? Life as we lead it will not be possible! You can’t have your car and bungalow – you remember the high EMI payments, don’t you? We need a job to pay all that and more!”
At the end of his retort, his voice had come high pitched. His wife became alarmed but managed to calmly say “But you still haven’t lost your job, have you?”
Their children – a five year old girl and a seven year old boy – had worried looks on their faces, almost ready to cry. His wife glared at him. He checked his tone, while she herded them to their room giving them some books and toys.
“No. But the writing is on the wall. The announcement seems to be a mere formality now from what I’ve heard”, he talked in a calmer fashion now.“You can find a new job if that happens. You are experienced enough” she replied from across the house.
“But it won’t be the same! I’m so used to working there for the past ten years. I’ll have to put in more work if I go to another company”, he pleaded as his wife returned to the living room.
“I know. But haven’t many others moved?”
“Let’s stop this for now” he muttered and went to his room.
The rest of the evening was a dull affair. He ate a silent dinner all by himself and lay down in his bed, feeling sorry for himself at not being sympathized with.
He couldn’t sleep for a long time. She came to the room and without a word, lay on the bed, away from him. From her breathing, he figured that she had fallen asleep.
His gaze fell on a picture of Lord Ganesha.
“God! Why are you making me go through this? Everybody else seems to be so content. She doesn’t even sympathize with my plight. Who do I go to?” he cried mentally.
He felt Ganesha wink at him. “What do you want?”, the elephant-headed being seemed to ask him.
He prayed in his mind – “Please make my problems smaller”.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” He asked him.
“So be it!”
Our man felt relieved at this. Taking this to be a sign, he was able to fall asleep soon.
He was soon woken up in the night. His wife was shaking him.
“Wake up! We need to get her to a hospital”
“What happened?” he mumbled sleepily.
“She is vomiting uncontrollably.”
He started up pulling off his covers. He saw his daughter, a tender child of five and touched her. Her skin was scorching hot. He immediately wore whatever he could lay his hands on and ran towards his car. His wife held their daughter. His son was panicky – “What happened to Chikki?” he inquired anxiously.
He started the car quickly after everyone was seated. His daughter looked emaciated. The hospital was a good four kilometers away.
The car moved furiously. When he had driven past three intersections, a drunkard suddenly came walking in his path. Trying to avoid him, he swerved violently, only to lose control. The car somersaulted a few times and hit a wall. Everything suddenly was noisy and silent.
He couldn’t figure out what had happened, as dazed as he was. Through the smashed wind-shield he saw a few people running toward him.
The situation began to dawn upon him. He tried to turn his neck look at his family – but was physically immobile in spite of his best attempts. A few people tried to extricate the family from the wreck while he helplessly watched.
He saw the motionless body of his daughter taken out of the car. His wife and son were bleeding profusely. Using all his strength, he tried to get out of the car in one movement.
He opened his eyes to find everything dark around him. It took him a full twenty seconds to realize that he was lying in his bedroom, on the floor, looking at the ceiling; his body covered with sweat.
The breathing form of his wife on the bed came into view as he turned aside.
It didn’t take long after that to realize that had been dreaming. In a moment, his horror had changed to relief. He couldn’t believe it. He ran to the other room and found his children sleeping peacefully. Ecstatic, he ran all over the house. Rushing to his wife, he hugged and kissed her like one possessed. While she woke up bewildered, he ran to his children and coddled them with many hugs and kisses; they woke up with a start.
He turned on the lights and plopped into the sofa crying; tears of happiness flowing down his cheeks.
His son’s puzzle book lay on the floor. The page was turned up. He read the puzzle – “How do you make a line shorter without erasing it?”
He reflected with closed eyes and bowed gratefully.
Ganesha’s picture in his bedroom seemed to sport a mischievous smile.