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Tuesday, 14 November 2017


Anita was late. Despite having got up earlier than usual, she had not been able to get out at the time she had aimed at. She had only herself to blame, of course. Because she had got up earlier, she had blithely taken up an extra chore: neatening up her cupboard, if you please! How was that for ambition? Of course that task could not be completed and of course, she had to listen to Harish’s smug pronouncement on her “disorganised way of working”! It did not help that she had had to stuff the rest of the clothes back into the cupboard, unsorted. It seemed like she was proving him right.
Calming herself down and rushing through the rest of her chores, she finally left for work. The high speed lift of their building seemed rather slow today, with people getting in and out at almost every floor. She finally reached the ground floor. Before she could step out when the doors slid apart, a group of twenty-somethings started entering the lift, laughing and talking. Something snapped in the usually cool and collected Anita.
“Excuse me,” she said in a cold, steely voice, “Can you let me exit please, before you get in?”
“Sorry Ma’am!”
“Sorry Auntie!”
At least the youngsters had the grace to look abashed. She had half a mind to lecture them on lift etiquette but let it go. Enough of a skirmish, already. As it was, she thought she saw a smirk and an eye-roll bounce around the group, as if saying, “Irritable! So early in the morning!”
She was miffed at being called Auntie, but realised that in her early forties this was what she should expect to be called by people twenty years younger than her.
“I guess I should be glad that one or two of them called me ma’am!” she sighed to herself.
The office day went by in a blur. The frenetic pace was not new to her; she was used to taking multiple challenges in her stride. However, she was like the proverbial swan:  though she appeared to be gliding serenely on the water, underneath the surface, she was swimming like mad! But a blip did come up towards the evening ---- Harish had messaged, asking her to please, please, pleeeease pick up a gift for his colleague’s housewarming party.
“Done! But you’ll have to get home in time to drop Ankur to coaching class!” she messaged in reply.
“Sure!” came the text from Harish.
Anita managed to leave a little early, promising her team that she would come online just as soon as she reached home. She then headed to the nearest mall, mentally running through gift options. Half her mind was on the office task she would have to resume from home. Preoccupied, Anita was just entering the doorway of a store when a tart voice arrested her.
“May I?” the voice said.
Anita brought back her eyes to focus on who had spoken. It was a lady of sixty five or so, who was exiting the shop just then. Had Anita gone through the doorway, she would have collided with the lady or at the very least, brushed past her. The elderly lady had stepped back so as to avoid this, and added, “Excuse me!”
                 Anita caught a mocking look in the older woman’s bespectacled eyes. She could almost read the thought running through that lady’s mind---“Hmph! Look at the younger lot today----no manners!”
Mortified, Anita was about to protest----did the other lady really assume that she was so boorish as to brush past a frail old woman on purpose? Then a picture rose in front of her eyes---- the scene at the lift in the morning. It was the same thing, except that this time, she, Anita had been the unthinking one. And the younger one.
“I am sorry Ma’am! I wasn’t looking where I was going! After you!” she said pacifically, and stepped well aside. The other lady, who had seemed ready to judge Anita, was instantly mollified.
Smiling at each other, they both went their ways.


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