As I walked into the lift, this morning, I said, 'Hi, good Morning' to the man who was already there inside. Then, instantly, I prayed to God - with all my honesty - to help me not to be a hypocrite. For months, both of us had not been talking due to some unresolved Society issues. (I am the present Chairman.) The man responded, instantly. "How are you?" I asked. "Good, thank you," he replied. Then, probably, the ego took over... and, there was an uneasy silence, till the lift stopped on the ground floor. "Bye, see you," I managed to say. I did not hear his response.

Probably, he did not wish to 'see me'. I felt a bit offended, and angry. "To hell with you man... You do not deserve my greetings," my mind was yelling at him in the roaring silence.

At the gate, I did not find an auto, and I was waiting. I was already late and getting restless and irritated. Suddenly, a car stopped behind me and the window glass came down. "Please come in, sir." It was the same man, whom I had cursed, just a while ago. Tamed, I quietly made my way in, again, praying to God... this time, begging Him not to reveal my thoughts to my enemy. Also, this time, we did speak on the weather, the traffic, the schools of our children - everything, except the our simmering issues. "Thanks a lot... Have a very good day," I wished him, as alighted. "You, too," I heard, this time, the greetings very clearly.

Was I truly grateful to this man for the lift? Did I truly wish 'a good day' for him? I was thinking about it, all my way to the office.

As I reached my office, I received a call from Payal, a very studious student of mine. She sounded sad, and understandably so. Her 24-year-old cousin brother, a well-placed MBA, had died last evening in a road accident. He was returning home from his office. Payal wanted to inform me about her inability to attend the class.

Last evening, just before I had wound up my day in the office, I remembered asking a neighbour about a lady. This lady, who was in her forties, was a very vibrant lady. She was always surrounded by several of her friends and loved to spend long hours talking, joking and laughing. She had a regal ring around her that made her so lovable. However, of late, I had sensed that some thing was wrong in her life. Her head had been fully-shaven, and a lovely scarf covered her baldness. I had been noticing her sons taking her out at regular intervals... and, it did not take any acumen on my part to guess, that it was for her chemotherapy rounds. I wanted to confirm this from my neighbour. "Yes, it is in an advanced stage," he told me.

"Unfortunate," I sympathised. "She has been graceful through all her trauma; it is commendable," the neighbour told me. Then, he asked me,"Did you hear about Saroj?" Saroj was the enthusiastic and helpful telephone line-man of our area. We all liked him, because, of his helpful nature. He was in his early fifties and hailed from Bihar. When my neighbour asked me "Did you hear about Saroj?", I was quick to react, "Why, what happened to him?"

"He had gone to his village for his daughter's marriage. The next day of the marriage, he vomited blood and died." I was numb for a while!

Payal's young cousin-brother was destined to die before he could reach home last night. Saroj was destined to die in his village, just after his daughter's wedding... He was not to come back to Mumbai, where he had spent so many of his glorious years. The graceful lady in scarf knows what is coming... and, she has accepted it, with courage and dignity.

And, here is me... unable to even reconcile with my fellow-being, my neighbour.

I do not know about him, about you. But, I, often, think: 'Life is too short' - this applies to everyone else on this earth... except to me.



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