Such is life

It was 5:32 in the evening and the office cubicles were almost empty. I was still there though I was supposed to be on the road driving to the daycare to pick up Paapu, 2 minutes back. It takes around 20 minutes to reach the daycare, a little more if there is traffic. Daycare closes at 6 PM and the providers make it a point to mention “you are late!” even if it is by 4 minutes. Mommy guilt sucks.

“Shucks! Am late”, I thought, shutting down the laptop and hurriedly picking up my things.

I turned around while stuffing the laptop in the bag and noticed Rick* in the next cubicle was still working. He always did. He was in his place every day when I came in and he was right there, working intently even when I left. I give my 8+ hours all days in office, which meant Rick worked much more. I joined this new team recently and knew everyone in the team pretty well by now, except for Rick. He was old, maybe 55 or even 60. He wore neat and clean sweaters, although old looking and grey.He looked really close into the computer screen when he worked. If approached for an issue, he would offer his opinions and ideas. Then, he wrote them down and took prints to distribute to everyone concerned. “Just send us an email Rick”, we laughed sometimes. He spoke very matter-of-factly during meetings, and spoke defensively even at funny remarks made in a light moment. He hardly smiled.

Like everyone else (much younger to him) in the team, I began looking at him as a different case. Approached him only when it was truly necessary, never made small talk or tried to be friends. Although he sat right next to my cubicle. It was only casual ‘Hi’, ‘Bye.. Cya” and nothing else. Until that day.

I was just about to leave and noticed Rick looking deep into his computer screen and typing away. “Why does this man take work so seriously? Why doesn’t he just go home to his family?!”, I wondered and pat came these words out of my mouth, as if involuntarily.

“Hey Rick, do you have any kids?”

“Ummm.No”

“Wife..family..?”

“Well, my son died 7 years ago and my wife might be leaving me very soon”

“Oh…”, and my voice trailed off.

I cursed myself really bad in my head. Why did I need to ask him about family? How insensitive of me.Argh!

“Uh..I am sorry. But, I am sure things will turn around for you Rick”, I mumbled a lame effort.

“It does not look like that to me”, he smiled weakly.

“It will be okay. You just keep up hopes”, I said as I picked up my bag and dashed towards the door. Rick turned back to his computer.

“Am late”, I thought again and hurried to the car.

I got in and switched on the engine and suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge wave of sadness hit me like a ton of bricks. Before I knew it, I was sobbing uncontrollably into my palms. What had I just done?!!

It took couple of minutes to gather myself back again, get down the car and walk back into the office.

Rick was there, lost in the computer screen and typing some code.

“Hey Rick”

“Hey”

“I..I..I am terribly sorry I asked you the question… Can I give you a hug?”

He stretched out his arms slowly and then we hugged. “It’s gonna be okay Rick..It’s..”, I gulped the lump in my throat as I patted his back.

“Don’t cry. That’s alright”, he assured.

“It’s just that ..I might have judged you..and I feel really bad for that.I am sorry”, tears still rolling down.

“Oh..”

“Rick, since I saw you here working all the time, I wondered if you cared enough to go home to your family..”

“Family.. I don’t have one. Because I don’t have anyone or anything to go to. Seven years back, life seemed perfect! Then, my son passed away, all hell broke loose and everything fell apart..just like that.”

“…things can get better..” I tried to say.

“I am 56 and I have less life left. I don’t see it turning up again for me, ever. One thing that keeps me occupied is my work and I try and keep busy at it. I am here early..and I leave late. As I said, I have nothing else to go to.”  That weak smile again.

“I will send out good thoughts for you Rick, ask the one up above to set it right for you”

“Okay”, he said matter-of-factly, “Thank you”.

I walked back to the car slowly. The water in my eyes was drying up, but the pain lingered ..and I let it stay. I knew I deserved it. Realization, sometimes comes the hard way. And , it’s okay to hurt.

As I drove, the precept re-iterated in the head several times – Never judge people by their mannerisms or behavior. You never know what life has been to them..you never know the story they lived through..You never know where their smiles were left behind..You never know…

Paapu ran to me with a familiar delight as I stood there at the entrance of the daycare, arms stretched open for a hug.

Another day. Another lesson.

Such is life . It never stops teaching.

* Name changed to protect identity]

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This entry was posted in Get to know people around me, My perspective, Need to share this. Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Such is life

  1. Ok I can’t stop crying now….

  2. Gnightgirl says:

    That you bothered to stop and talk and ask him and hug him may be what turns him around. It doesn’t sound like very many people have reached out to him.

  3. sreelu says:

    well glad you went back and talked ,agreed never judge a person for they have their own battles to fight.

  4. Sig says:

    That broke my heart. It’s true when you say don’t judge and I felt so bad for Rick.

    *Hugs* toy you for your soft heart 🙂

  5. HappyFeet says:

    A wonderful lesson at the beginning of the year. I hope we all remember this story whenever we impulsively judge or label people.
    Thanks for sharing,

  6. R's Mom says:

    Am glad you went back…I doubt I would have done it…thanks for teaching me a lesson as well…hugs

  7. Anusha says:

    This would flash through my thoughts whenever I get judgmental about people ….Thanks AHK

    You went back and hugged,don’t know if I would have done it ….You are a lovely person 🙂

  8. This made me cry :(. It is so nice of you that you went back and hugged Rick. I don’t know what I would have done….you are a lovely person AHK.

  9. Wanderer says:

    OMG! You went back and apologized for judging him! I’m not too sure I’d have the courage to do that. You are pretty brave AHK.
    And yes, we never know what people have gone through. I’ll remember this when my thoughts turn judgemental.
    Thanks for sharing. I will have Rick in my thoughts.

  10. Sowmya says:

    Been here a couple of times….but haven’t commented.

    That was a beautiful gesture AHK….and a great post. Thank you for this.

  11. Dee says:

    Oh, that’s terrible.

    But it was so sweet of you to go back and offer your condolences to him. I am pretty sure you made his day! 🙂

  12. Bikram says:

    That shows what a good heart you have. I hope he is fine now ..

    very less people do what you did ..

    God bless you …

  13. Deelicious says:

    Sometime I feel things are so unfair. Nice people dont always get what they deserve. Feel really bad for Rick at 56. He would have been alright 7 years back unaware of what was awaiting. Destiny changes its direction quicker than what we think. Also makes all of us think twice about being judgmental and it comes so easily :(. Really glad that you gave him a hug as not many people would go back and do what you did .

  14. Deelicious says:

    Sometime I feel things are so unfair. Nice people dont always get what they deserve. Feel really bad for Rick at 56. He would have been alright 7 years back unaware of what was awaiting. Destiny changes its direction quicker than what we think. Also makes all of us think twice about being judgmental and it comes so easily 😦 . Really glad that you gave him a hug as not many people would go back and do what you did .

  15. sraik says:

    That is sad. 😦

    I am glad you went back. Big hugs to you!

  16. Stone says:

    you know what , most of us have learned this at some point in our life that “never judge a person by their face/mannerism/etc. etc. “……and we never care or go back to show our concern or idon’tknowtherightword.

    But today, I learned that it’s absolutely alright to go back to the person and talk to them rather than cry silently or stay depressed for them.

    Thank you.

  17. Pepper says:

    I am so glad you went back. Most people judge. Very few people acknowledge it. And even fewer try to rectify it.

    I would have most probably gone back to give him a hug and tell him I was sorry for asking him about his family. I doubt I would have told him I judged him. Not because I do not want to confess, but only because I would be too scared of my confession upsetting him further. Your honesty is a lesson for me. Maybe confessing your crime is as important as rectifying it.

    • Yes, it is, I guess.

      Those words of confession just happened, I didn’t intend to. And once I uttered those, it did scare me a little to think he might be offended. But fortunately, he took it well.

  18. Preethi says:

    This post had me in tears AHK. I am so glad that you went back to give him a hug.

    I read from other bloggers that you are a beautiful lady, I say that you are a beautiful person inside out.

    Hope things turn up soon for ‘Rick’.

  19. Alyse says:

    Poor guy. I bet it meant the world to him that you stopped and asked about him and his life – and then came back for more. Sometimes it only takes one kind gesture for someone to turn the corner – or to remember that there are corners that could be turned.

  20. RK says:

    Very touching AHK! just brought tears to my eyes.
    Glad you went back again!

  21. bhargavi says:

    First time here.. There are so many Ricks around us who we dont even look twice at and condemn all the same..With this beautiful post you’ve made me think of all those Ricks..Hope things work out for him.. So nice of you to go back and hug him..

  22. MoRS says:

    This post is a reminder for me to count my blessings. And a reminder to not judge anyone. 😦

  23. Wanderer (previously 'old timer') says:

    Where did my comment go?!

  24. la Vida Loca says:

    you did the right thing. never judge a book by its cover right?

  25. Nisha says:

    You did the sweetest thing. A few years back I read somewhere that everyone we meet is fighting a harder battle. I never forget that, yet judging comes naturally sometimes.
    Hope we change, for the better.

  26. CA says:

    Its nice that you went back and hugged him and confessed to him. I really doubt I would do that …

  27. sramya19 says:

    This post hits my bone,AHK. at various ocassions I used to get convinced that some people dont get to real hard problems in life and that they lead a happy life..During those imes, I fail to even have a thought that probably, just may be that they would have had to undergo hurdles before before their present so-called-my-assumed-happy state.Or probably there could be many troubles stressing their mind and head masked behind their happy faces..Hmph..I’m rambling in your space..But, reading posts like these drive home the truth that life is indeed too precious to be spent worrying …

    • You exposed the other side of the same coin sRamya.

      When you see seemingly happy faces, it does not mean they never had their share of pains. May be they are better at hiding their troubles away, or may be they just like to stay happy in spite of the pains. To each his/her own 🙂

  28. Thanks for sharing this story. I don’t visit regularly, but I’m glad I did today. I’m at a stage where I’m questioning the way we deal with people, and like to remind myself that there are sensitive people too. A lot of the time we don’t ask/ don’t listen when someone needs to talk to us about something because it’s difficult to handle someone else’s pain! Bless you and your sensitivity 🙂

  29. Anu says:

    It was real nice of you to go back and have a talk with him – that itself would’ve made a difference to him. It’s truly heart-rending isn’t it when life teaches us lessons like this? It makes one feel really really small in the scheme of things!

  30. Sugeeth says:

    That was a heart rending story. You did the right thing by going up and apologizing to him. But in the end, you can’t help feel for him. At 56, having lost his son, what purpose does living life serve him? Must be hell for him. Poor thing.

  31. Your are a good person AHK. And a rarity I must add:-)

  32. Childwoman says:

    You are a nice person AHK. Atleast now there is somebody in the office who prolly cares a wee bit more than others. And its true, we never know what others journey has been all about….yes such is life ..sigh..

    Big hugs for going back to the office to talk to him..

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