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shortest path to the heart

It was a hot afternoon. Tejas had completed an important deliverable at work. His customer had an unusually happy smile that meant things were working beyond expectations. Better yet, this would lead to more work. That ought to have made him happy - he loved more work, more challenges. He exemplified the "ideal employee" that every business wants.

However, Tejas wasn't happy at all.  He wasn't able to pinpoint the reason. He was sure he will find it during his post-lunch walk.

Today, Tejas was going to cut through a new path through the streets, for a change. As he turned the other direction at the second traffic light and neared a T-junction, he realized things have indeed changed. A lot of buildings in this neighborhood had empty parking lots. Most of them also had signs stating that at least 50% of the space was available for lease. The grass lawns were fresh green, though. A few patches of light green showed where the walking trails had been - another sign of change.

As he briskly walked under the hot sun, he saw a car driving way fast as it crossed him - he always walked facing the oncoming traffic - and he turned around to take a look at the reason for the hurry. Orange light at the T-junction. Ah, that's nice - 2:30 minutes saved not waiting at a red light on an empty street on a hot afternoon in an air conditioned 4 door sedan ought to be an achievement of sorts :-)

As he turned back, a glistening shiny patch of light caught the corner of his eye. He looked down and backwards on his left - an earthworm on the pavement, writhing and jumping wildly. As he was watching the dance, his legs stopped. He turned around and looked -  the road was empty in either direction. He paused for about 5 seconds.. and his legs slowly walked him towards the worm. As he reached the worm, a car turned into the street and the driver parked the car within 50 yards of where he was at. Tejas  stooped down and stared at the worm's shiny antiques as it tried to avoid the hot concrete surface. It had accidentally bored its way out of the grass lawn. 

Tejas quickly looked around, found a leaf and stripped the dry blade away. With the leaf stem, he gently tried to lift the earthworm. No luck - the stem was too thin for the earthworm. Using it as a lever, he wedged it between the earthworm and the concrete and propelled the earthworm towards the lawn. In the greens, the earthworm stopped jumping,  found a hole in the lawn, and disappeared within seconds.

Ten more minutes into his walk, he was walking back on the other side of the road. He couldn't avoid looking at the place where he saw the earthworm. Happily, it wasn't there, and the crushed and dried leaf blade was still there. The driver of the parked car was still staring at him as though he had seen something strange. Their eyes locked. He smiled. The driver waved back and he could see that for some reason the driver's smile was broad and genuine.

Suddenly, Tejas realized what his problem was. He went back to work, happy. The rest of the day passed as if it was a breeze. As he drove out and parked at the campus of his wife's startup, he was quickly skipping through his MP3 collection in the car.  Suryaa walked out of her building, and briskly walked to his car, pensive and careful. He opened the car door and said with sincerity: "I'm really sorry".

Suryaa was surprised, although she quickly responded back: "I'm sorry too, it's over, forget it".

As they drove back, the car stereo played "African Night" by Al Di Meola - Suryaa's favorite, and always a topic of intense argument -  he hated slow music. Today, he settled in to enjoy the music.

That night, he wrote in his diary: "If one cannot resist saving an earthworm from the hot sun, how powerfully strongly must one love his dear ones.  Stop and save your near ones from the torching sunlight of your busy life - of broken promises to be there, of words too harsh, and of deeds not done".


  1. Earthworms - personal experiences.

    Naturally, saw loads of earthworms as a child but was mostly indifferent in my own playfulness and yet actually did often indulge in fascination, play and care with them, always intrigued by the curious shape of the mud made by them. A sure way to detect, catch and inspect. Masters, Mumbai, Singapore etc, and had drifted lightyears away. Oh yes, had certainly, occasionally, not failed to notice and pause in the greens around in TIFR and elsewhere and reconnect.

    Anyways, back to India and lots of interaction with organic farmers and compost and such. Have bragged with you quite a few times. You remember my previous house, I hope. The terracotta outlook monster with terrace garden. Introduced earthworm there, into the massive inbuilt pots and gleamed at the results and compliments. Even learnt a thing or two about them and the need to protect them against ants and rats and such. And naturally, earthworms got nourished and maha-multiplied and I was a proud free supplier of rich soil for further culturing in the growing concrete jungle. Gloatumus maximus!

    One monsoon day, woke up in the morning and just climbed up to the terrace - my favourite morning chore. BANG! The terrace floor was full of earthworms! In thousands!! Actually covering every square inch. Never seen such a sight. Flabbergasted! The excess water drain had choked because of some recklessness. All those big terrace pots were full to the brim. Sensitive ones, these earthworms, had come out of their abode because of excess water. I was aware of that and used to ensure the free outflow of excess water. But not that night. I quickly unclogged it. I was frenetic with panic. The morning sun though was pleasant for me, was sure to be a doom to these folks. I tried desperately to save them. Being completely unprepared for such a situation, was totally brain-numb. Even finding a place to keep my feet was complicated.

    Wrenched watching them melt into the floor in seconds.

    Am unlikely to unetch the memory of that morning when the terracotta terrace acquired significantly darker permanent shade right in front of my wet eyes. I choke every-time I narrate it and am even now.
    12.9314367°N 77.5161919°E


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