Estimated reading time : 11 minutes.
Three months ago an accident maimed him. It took him some excruciating efforts to walk toward the balcony of his flat. Even the slightest movement of muscles of his left leg brought a pinching sensation to his leg. His wretched struggle of barely putting one foot after another and his limped gait cried of misery and pain he endured. From the last couple of weeks, he could finally walk on his own. This was quite an achievement for him. With one hand, he grabbed the railing of his balcony, looked at the open space for his companion of pain and suffering. He couldn’t find it at its usual spot. He looked around for it some more and when he could not spot it; he sat on a nearby chair waiting for his buddy to appear.
In the empty space that he could see from his balcony, a few shepherd families & their huge flocks had made their stay for an entire season. He had become quite accustomed to their daily routine. He would often wake up in the morning listening to the shrilled bleating of the sheep and the loudmouth yelling of the folks. The women would wake up early in the morning and catch a few sheep and milk them. They would gather some dried twigs and branches and use them as fuel to ignite their makeshift fireplaces. Their men would hover around chatting noisily with each other until their women served them some tea and something to eat. Around the same time, he too would get his tea and snacks.
The humble animals would keep their muffled bleats to their lowest in the chilly mornings of the winter days. Sometime around 8 a.m. in the morning, most of the sheep would walk out of the compound leaving their young ones behind in the makeshift pen, in good care of the womenfolk. The entire day would pass. The women and the young ones would go about their routine business. He would log in to his system and would try to work to the best of his capabilities. About sunset, the men and the flock would return.
Under a Neem tree, a black sheep would lie. It was his companion of pain and suffering. It wasn’t long since the shepherds came with their flock that the black sheep got injured and could not walk. They kept it tied to the Neem tree. Everybody would go about their business, and the sheep would stay silently at that spot, mostly sitting idle. Days and weeks passed and the sheep improved a little. It would struggle to stand. It would falter and fall. It would get up again, and it would fall again. Yet, it persevered and after suffering enormous pain could finally start walking with a limp. About the same time, he too had started standing up and put up his strength to test little by little. He would often gaze through the window of his bedroom where he’d mostly rest. He shared the bond of pain, suffering, and support with that black sheep over the past two months. The grit that the sheep showed helped him emotionally to get over his own pain. He could feel the sheep’s frustration, anxiety, and desperation to be able to stand on its own, walk again.
Most of the time of the day, he would await emails from his seniors and colleagues. Such emails would hardly appear in his inbox probably because nobody wanted him to bother anymore. He would stare at his laptop’s screen or would check his smartphone with each and every beep of notifications he would receive in the hope of getting to work on something. It would bug him that the only communication his colleagues would have with him was to ask for the handover of one project or another after cursory chit chat about his health.
Sometimes, he would connect with his clients and get references, new project leads and he would pitch them about his company’s services. By the last week, some of these leads matured to the next stage and would probably convert. He could do at least this much to stay in his game. He did as much as possible to still be valuable to his company.
His company bore his medical expenses partially to help him cope with his struggles. Yet, his bank account was almost empty now. Last week he got an official email asking him to visit the office and that he could no longer work from home while he was still recuperating. He was given special consideration for two months, which his company felt were sufficient. Now as per company policies, he had to resume as soon as possible.
He believed that the company wishes well for him. At least some office work will take his mind off the pain and the frustration he was going through. He looked at the positive side of resuming office. He had emailed his seniors and manager that from next Monday, he would visit the office and take charge of his responsibilities. Once he resumes office, he could leverage the positive leads he has in his pipeline to his benefit and he’d keep his position and possibly a decent increment at the appraisal meeting.
He heard a sudden sharp bleating of a sheep. It was loud and frantic. He gripped the railing firmly and rose from the chair to witness the horror as the shrill would fade away into silence.
His eyes were fixated on the incident that was happening on the open ground. His smartphone rang. He picked up the call. Finally, he got a call from his boss. He was expecting it anyway. It was probably about asking him to resume office formally from coming Monday. His boss would probably appreciate the fact that he had emailed the company about taking his responsibilities once again. It would start with exchanging some niceties, a bit of pep talk and some formalities. He kind of imagined how the call would go.
“Hi! I hope you are doing well, buddy.”
“Yes Sir. I am good thank you. How are you today, Sir?”
“Um…! Well… well! Listen I came to know that you have some prospects in your pipeline.”
“Oh…! Yes. I do have some quality prospects. I used my time to get some new clients and some business from my clients and references.” His eyes were lit with enthusiasm as he spoke.
“That’s good!” His boss said, “I would like to send me the list by the next hour. I have a meeting with the management and you know since the appraisals are on the horizon, it would be really helpful.”
“Sir, I will be joining office from Monday. I would present these new prospects, brief the team about their background and…” He spoke with a bit of hesitation as he saw that a shepherd caught the limping sheep by its noose. He took it to the Neem tree and tied it tightly.
“Hey, I appreciate your efforts, man. I really do. I’ll do the presentation and resource allocation on your prospects to take it ahead. I need to data to forecast and plan ahead.”
“I… I would do the prep, Sir. I know in and out of these prospects by now. I’ll… I’ll come today, if needed. I can walk.” His level of anxiety and hesitation rose as he saw the sheep being mishandled. The man looked for something in his bag.
“I’ll talk to the management to extend your sick leave. I’ll take that burden off of you.” His boss was smooth-talking.
A few moments of silence passed and the man took out a shear and started shearing the sheep. Its wool had grown quite large and it was the time to shear it. It’s only rational at this point, he thought. It started bleating loudly and he could sense its agony. It was being ripped off its wealth.
“Okay, Sir. I’ll share the data with you in a little while.”
“Oh! Great! I’ll hold.” His boss exclaimed impatiently.
He pulled his laptop and attached his excel sheet and a presentation to an email and hit the send button.
“It’s done.” He said, “Sir. Please put a word to the management regarding my appraisal this time. Please! I’d really appreciate your kind gesture.”
“Sure. Sure. Okay. I’ll hang up now. I have another meeting to attend to.” His boss disconnected the call after a terse reply.
“Sir…” The abrupt end of the call brought out the worm of suspicion in his mind. He felt that he was being skinned alive. Yet, he could do nothing now. He had given away his leverage in exchange for empty words of trust. He thought as he saw the sheep stripped to buff. Its shrill cry lowered.
He kept looking at that poor creature while his own mind had started raising thousands of questions about his fate in the company. After an hour or so, he saw that a couple of random strangers met the shepherd. They discussed for a while, shook hands and the shepherd approached the sheep. As he came closer to the sheep, the sheep started bleating louder and louder. It hopped and tried to run but the noose secured around its neck ensured that it could not escape its fate.
The sheep was caught and dragged by its horns to another spot. The three men fought it to bring it to the ground, tied its legs and hung it upside down. A woman from the hut emerged with a large sharp, shiny knife. He was watching this with his eyes wide open and imminent wave of fear flowed though his entire body. The loud cried of the sheep got muffled as the woman clasped the sheep’s muzzle tightly. A As the shepherd brandished the knife on to the sheep’s neck; the muffled cries of the sheep went silent. Its body tossed about a while. It was still hung upside down. The dripping blood that splattered on the ground had turned it to red mud.
His smartphone beeped. Anxiety crept inside him as he glanced over the notification. It was an email from HR. The subject was … “Termination Letter”. His hopes of getting an appraisal got brutally culled.
“They could not even retain me despite all that I have for their business.” He mumbled. Tears rolled down his eyes as he turned his head from his phone. His eye met the sheep’s head that lay lifeless on the ground, defeated. He tried to get off his chair in exasperation. His legs faltered. He crashed back on to the chair.
“There’s no place for a cripple.” He kept repeating the words.
The sheep’s body was cut into pieces and sold off. Whatever was left was taken inside the hut to be cooked and consumed. The guts, bones and remnants were disposed off in the corner of the field. That was later on feasted upon by dogs.
Later, he got a few calls from his colleagues. Some hid their intents of squeezing his contacts to their benefit under the disguise of consoling him. Some called him to take this incident to vent out their frustration against the company but did nothing more than that. He received the severance package deposited in his bank account after deductions of amounts that were spent partially on his medical expenses and some miscellaneous items. After all, the medical insurance amount was a part of his CTC. A new hire was made at the expense of half of his CTC and the boss got a raise from the other half of his CTC.