The Assignment

The Assignment

9 mins 18.2K 9 mins 18.2K

Prologue

The clouds chose to eclipse the sun as if to express solidarity with her sorrow, and she stared at the ant-size movement 800 feet below her gaze.

Sharon stood on the ledge, on the terrace of her 88-floor office building and thought to herself, “One wrong decision and life...”

As she shuffled her feet, she remembered her former self, and the playful, happy-go-lucky 26 years of her life- Friends who had stood with her through everything; her parents, who could put the best to shame with their care and love for their only daughter; and her life, which could draw envy from the most well-off.

Her eyes welled up with tears, her heart missed a beat and beads of glistening perspiration started to appear on her forehead. Her whole being trembled with a fear only she knew. Fighting off her demons and memories of a life that no longer was, she prepared herself to fight her last battle.

As she was about to take the last step, two familiar faces smiled at her from the sky. She stopped in her steps and stared at them.

Tender beginnings

It was a wonderful day in March. Flowers bloomed and showered colour onto the surroundings. The sun shone perfectly and the wind provided a relaxed feel. In a by-lane off a bustling street in the heart of Hyderabad, David and Lisa, for the first time, felt the tender skin of their adorable baby.

“Thank you, Lisa. This is the best gift God could havegiven us,” David whispered into his wife’s ears and almost declared to her that the apple of their eye would be named Sharon.

Lisa, who was too ecstatic to reply, leaned forward and kissed the newly-christened Sharon on her forehead. “May you fill our lives and the world with happiness and love,” she told Sharon.

A few years later

Sharon grew up to be a pretty girl and there was not a soul in her life who had bad things to say about her. Her teachers were extremely fond of her while her friends doted on her.

It was a day when Sharon was 16, that David and Lisa realised their daughter was all grown up – because it was then that the child who insisted on sleeping sandwiched between her parents, sought permission to spend a night away.

“Ma, can I please stay over at Shruti’s tonight? We have a project which we need to do together,” Sharon pleaded with her mother. Such was the trust between them that Lisa did not protest before letting her brown-eyed daughter go.

It seemed to be within a blink of an eyelid that Sharon was old enough to choose a career. She wanted to be a journalist. “I really want to be a good journalist and bring about change in society,” she said, starry-eyed with youthful idealism.

Her parents said they weren’t entirely sure about her decision. “I see suffering all over and not anyone, including the both of you, does anything to end it,” she hit back.

“Sharon, there are many ways to bring a change. I am not discouraging you, but think carefully before you make a move,” a surprised David told her. Sharon did not relent and embarked on her chosen career.

Three years later

“It is with great happiness that I announce that Sharon is the topper of the class and I call her upon the stage to collect her award,” the principal of her college announced on stage. Sharon almost danced her way to the stage and her happiness knew no bounds.

David and Lisa, seated in the front row of the auditorium, jumped with happiness. Tears of joy clouded their eyes as they saw their daughter collect the award. David was now assured his daughter would reach heights of success. The happy family celebrated Sharon’s success with a hearty meal.

Days later, the family was happier to learn that Sharon had landed a job in a top media house, a job that would bring her on the brink of fulfilling her dream.

At the workplace

With a heart of gold and enviable determination for her work, Sharon won the hearts of her colleagues and bosses alike.

Her bosses were pleased with her work, and her colleagues adored her, though some were jealous, a fact they themselves admitted to her.

Her success grew, and she was soon chosen to cover a coveted assignment – one of just 60 journalists from around the country asked to cover a rare Indo-Pak summit.

Days after the summit

“I just don’t want to do it. I know what I am doing,” Sharon shrieked at her boss when asked to go out for an assignment. Though taken aback, her boss dismissed her behaviour as the result of a bad work day.

But her friends, colleagues, bosses and parents had now started to notice a change in her behaviour. The Sharon who once left her phone untouched for weeks together now spent more time with it than she did with the people around her. They tried talking to her about it even as she ignored them.

Her house started to wear a sad look.

Buried neck-deep

Her friends tried to prod her to talk, but to no avail. The once-chirpy Sharon had gone mute. The girl who never left her work unattended was summoned by her boss over pending assignments. Her work showed no signs of improvement even after repeated summons and one day she was fired.

Out of control

Jobless for months now, Sharon was lying on the sofa one day when David turned on the television to catch up on some news. “Dad, can you please turn off the TV? I cannot stand it,” she yelled and burst into tears.

David, who had never seen his daughter in this state, tried to console her, but, to his shock, she shoved him away and locked herself in her room. Things continued to deteriorate. David and Lisa began getting increasingly worried. They decided to talk it out with their daughter.

On path to recovery

With their relentless pursuit, David and Lisa succeeded in bringing Sharon to some semblance of her former self.

She now sometimes wore a smile on her face, even though something remained missing in her general attitude.

Pulling herself back, she applied for a new job in a new city and, soon enough, she was in a swanky building with a fresh start to life, or so her parents, who had moved with her, thought.

Final nail in the coffin

Things moved swiftly for a few months and Sharon regained her lost smile and happiness. Lisa and David’s happiness saw no end and their home brimmed with cheer, like it did before.

In Rama, a 30-something mother of two who was Sharon’s neighbour at work, she found a best friend.

One morning, Sharon woke up and switched on the TV, as she did every day these days. After staring at the screen for a while, she rushed to her room and then headed outside. David tried to ask her if anything was wrong, but she was long gone.

On her two-wheeler, Sharon fought an ocean of thoughts. She reached her destination. The sight there frightened her and she rushed out of the place. In a dilemma whether to head home or be at office, she almost involuntarily rode herself to the office.

She entered the lift and as the attendant was about to press the button of her usual floor, she said, “Bhaiyya, I want to go to the terrace.”

“Okay madam,” he replied.

On the terrace, Sharon walked at a snail’s pace to the edge. She put her bag over a piece of paper and gazed into the mildly cloudy sky. As she saw her world appear and disappear before her, she decided to take the one last step. When she saw the two familiar faces, she tilted her head towards one of them and said, “I am really sorry for what I did,” and took the leap.

Epilogue

Police found her suicide note under her bag later that afternoon. It read:

I have no right to live. I have done something very wrong and it was because of my deeds that a loved one of mine is facing an irreversible loss. I did not have the guts to confess this to anyone. So, I chose the pen to be my best friend. I know after my confession, none of you would remember me for what I really was but I don’t think I would find peace if I do not admit to the sins I have committed.

When I was covering the Indo-Pak summit, I met a guy who was a part of the Pakistani delegation. I was charmed by him and when we spoke, I was on cloud 9. We got chatting during the summit and even exchanged numbers. I realised, though from different sides of the border, we had a lot in common. After the official meeting on the first day of the summit, we met over dinner and discussed our respective jobs.

To be honest, I was flattered by this man’s chivalry, wit, humour, charm and intellect. I told him about my nature of work and he seemed to be impressed as well. I was on a high that I couldn’t express. Day two was fairly normal and we did the usual chatting.

The third day of the summit, when the important army MoU was being signed, this man came up to me and told me he needed some information to which I had access to. I was shocked initially and blatantly refused. He knew I was smitten by him and coaxed me to agree to his request.

Though I knew the file may have had some vital information, I passed it on to him. This was my first mistake. He then left with his delegation and left me a traitor. I believed I had committed treason and wanted to own up but did not gather the courage. Instead, I lost my way and ended up in my house being unemployed.

Time heals and I came around. I also moved to a new city. The betrayal had just become a vestigial scar in my memory. I was coming back to becoming myself. Then the unthinkable happened.

When I switched on the TV today, I saw Rama crying and the man’s face in an inset. I was taken aback. I then realized that the betrayal was only a part of the crime that I had committed. I rushed to her house but could not face her. I just could not apologise to her.

Just to let all of you know. The Pakistani man was in fact an agent who had managed to secure vital information through me. With the information, he had executed an attack in which Rama’s husband, a decorated officer of the Indian Army, was martyred. The burden of Rama’s husband’s blood is too much for me to handle. The sight of her husband wrapped in the Tricolour will not let me live in peace. I hence chose to die.

Yours apologetically

Sharon


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