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Resuming office

Image credit — Google images

Dad glared as me I entered his room this morning. He had begun his nebulization and Mum was prepping his breakfast. The clock said 9.48 am, and this meant I was late. He spoke to me in hollowed words, “Is this the time to get up? I have to leave for work.” “But, I thought you’ll leave at 11 am,” I said slowly. “No. I want to be at office by 9.30. At least should spend half a day there.”

Dad resumed work last Thursday. He had been planning on it for a while, but the weakness and fatigue would get better of him. Also, with the tracheostomy tube intact, he was apprehensive of spending much time all by himself. Turns out, people usually work at a stretch despite the tracheostomy tubing, and this encouraged Dad to go ahead and re-enter the workforce.

He’s been working at a private oil equipment company in the sales department, for more than thirty years. His work’s involved a lot of travelling, from the North eastern stretches of Assam and Tripura to the Western state of Gujarat. In fact, his travelling has been the most important part of his work. As kids, we would eagerly wait for him to arrive after he spent a fortnight in Assam. We would rush to him as he would be at the gate, paying the auto rickshaw guy, as he would carry his bags announcing his arrival across the house. Our grandma lived upstairs, and one of the kids would race to inform her of Dad’s arrival. After much fanfare, Dad would settle, sip on his tea, and start giving us the things he brought from various places.

Sometimes it were clothes, sometimes maps and books, toys, magazines, jewellery, games, and of course sweets and candies. The condensed milk packets as a token of Indian Railways would always be lying at the bottom of his backpack, and we would struggle to find three each time, so none of the kids had to share. We never felt lonely, because he made sure he called us every night, just to know how school went and what was going on. Dad being on tours was part of our growing up. When he was not travelling, his regime was 9 am to 6 pm, with an hour’s lunch break, during which he would come home, and eat with us.

Seeing him now, as he struggles to engage at home, hits one hard. Someone, who has despised sitting idle, is now forced to do so. And that is why him joining work gives such a sense of relief and comfort to him. As he finishes his breakfast and starts getting ready for work, one can almost sense normalcy knocking on our door. He wears his shoes and the watch, strides across the room spraying cologne on his waistcoat, combs his hair, picks up the car keys, checks his cell phone and asks if he needs he run any errand on his way back. As he pulls out the car from the driveway, we wave at him, and he drives out for his office.

The feeling of knowing that Dad’s inching towards a routine sets the old pattern back into rhythm at home. Mum gets busy with her boutique and juggles around the house finishing chores. Even Dad works his way through 4–5 hours at the office, and for that part of the day, his disease takes a backseat. We are all back to a time when Dad would return from work, sip on his tea, offer his prayers, chat about school and call up one of his siblings, help Mum make dinner, and take us all on a walk at night.

However, things are different this time. Dad feels extremely tired after returning from work. He naps in the afternoon, and the cold winters discourage him from stepping out much in the evenings. He’ll make tea, finish it while watching tv. As the heater stays on, he’ll often end up having dinner in his bedroom itself. By 10.30 pm, he’s firmly covered in blankets falling asleep.

Another day awaits him and he hopes to stick to the new regime. He pushes himself to hold that positive feeling of being busy, having a work life and above all, moving on towards regularity. As for me, I’ll end up snoozing the alarm again tomorrow.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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