Fifty-Fifty

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You’ve just about had it with putting in those arduous hours at work and have burnt-up more than your fair share of the midnight oil. The weekends have been fuzzy memories – all thanks to the binges, if ever you’re caught in that rut, to take off the edge off the week. If not, too bad – you deserve to be canonized! Your entire life oscillates between the office and those few woefully inadequate hours of shuteye at home. With deadlines to meet, that necessitates bringing work home much against your liking and that of your bitter half. The corporate ladder seems to stretch up forever above you. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that despite your best efforts, all you’ve accomplished is to scale a rung or two.


The MNC that employs you is inordinately proud of its global presence. They have been executing some vague projects in Swaziland to No Mans Land and spare no opportunity to remind you of it, sometimes at the drop of a hat. Initially, that had filled you with great pride and you had worked up this condescending attitude towards people not as lucky as you to work for a global mover and shaker. Good for you – it had lasted no longer than a Sunday morning hangover. You’d dived headlong into work determined to prove your mettle in this dog-eat-dog world and rise above the rest. That illusion hadn’t lasted too long either coz many years down the line you realize that for all your hard-work and dedication, the MNC that employs you merely pretends to pay you. Boy! That leaves you wishing you knew how to pretend to work. But you simply can’t, coz your mamma had drilled it into you that sloth is a sin!


The promotion that you’d been promised seems as distant as the Andromeda and the much hyped-up yearly increment that you had been eagerly anticipating makes you cringe in shame just to accept it. You know you’re being conned and yet you allow management-speak and empty promises to hold you to sway with promises of a better day. Housing rents and the inflation are on the rise. The two pence that you’ve managed to squirrel away from the past so many years don’t seem to lay eggs as the hoardings had advertised. You can’t even sue them since you are to blame for not reading the fine print. Besides, shysters cost a bomb!


The beloved wife’s been hankering for a new car for quite a while now. Her hints; incidentally just about as subtle as a ton of exploding TNT, about the neighbour’s swanky BMW and upwardly-mobile lifestyle have you looking daggers at them for no fault of theirs. Why, of late they have made you feel so damn insecure that you’ve even taken to admiring the cobblestones as they courtesy their hellos! Indulging in Praise and Worship, Charity and Social Service has caught her fancy and along with it the fallouts ? nagging. It’s amazing that with minimal effort she seems to excel at it with the keening pitch inexplicably at crescendo whenever you reach out for the blessed spirits and steaks.


A late bloomer who takes after blessed busy-bee mother-in-law, no doubt! Little wonder then that your father in law [Peace be unto him] had lost his hair by 35 and kicked the bucket a shade before 50 as he was cycling to work! You catch yourself wondering what the hell you saw in her in the first place some 20+ years back and to think that you’d married her for her simplicity, dimples and smile! Ha Ha! You find yourself wishing the good old bachelor days would come back! By Jove, those were the days!


Ha! A great time to ponder on the intricacies of life and indulge in wishful thinking! Kids – it’s a wonder how soon they grow up. Why? Doesn’t it seem that just the other day the little dumpling was crapping all over the place despite his tsunami-proof diapers and bawling for his fix? Packing him nuggets & burgers for breakfast and lunch while at school doesn’t seem to have done him much good either. He’s thin as a rake but swaggers around like a mutant combo of Schwarzenegger & Stallone! And to think, now, the chap is sporting a stud with stubble to match, waking up even the dead with the cacophony that’s called music these days! Jeez! What’s the world coming to, eh?


That whiff of alcohol, nonchalantly passed off as ? "Chill Dad, its my aftershave", as he breezes in and out at unearthly hours makes you wonder if your misplaced gene for relaxing has somehow wormed its way into him. He plans to go the US – probably through the Misfit Youth Exchange Program for which you’ll be the sole exchequer. But from the looks of it, it would be a miracle if he gets into the Red Cross in Namibia even as a potato peeler. So your pension is probably safe, or is it? It’s a wonder he hasn’t cut a deal with you to buy him a Ferrari as yet, but alas, that day might dawn sooner than you think and there goes your pension!





""…You’re just a mute bystander with you swallowing your daily rations of boiled veggies.  God Damn it!…..""


His friends are no better either. All those tattooed boneheads are clad in those low-waist Jeans designed to exhibit more of the great-divide than it covers. They have that blissfully stoned look on their cratered ugly mugs as they saunter all over your place like their pop’s pay the mortgage. Probably it would be wiser to spring a couple of bear trap in your hall? No conversation is complete without every second sentence being liberally peppered with "F’s" and "B’s". And the accent, boy, you could take a patent on it – it sounds more authentic than a Texan drawl!


To add insult to injury, the blaring music to which they gyrate their half-covered skinny butt’s has turned your once pristine home into some strip-tease club. All that’s missing are the babes and the weed but given half a chance to hoodwink you, those twerps could sneak in the local cheerleader squad wholesale and nobody would be any wiser! Damn! Chief Vigilance Officer – CVO, is what you’ve been reduced to in you own home! And there you’d actually envisaged your chances at being CEO by the time you’d touched 50! "Spoilt brats", all of them, you mutter under your breath! Hey, pretty soon, would they probably expect you to serve them beer and snacks 24 x 7 and clean out the ashtrays?


"Christian spirit – be damned", you fume while you nurture this insane desire to wring those scrawny necks and unleash a well deserved kick. Thud! The all-terrain steel-toed Caterpillar’s on those constipated, shrivelled butts – right there on the great-divide should do the trick! But then, you’d promised to be kind to animals you see! Besides, restraint is the mantra for longevity of late, and it would definitely do a world of good for your pulsating BP. So you refrain and flash them a benign fatherly smile instead. The venerable Sri Sri would be proud you’ve at least gotten right the bare bones of the ?Art of Living’, wouldn’t he?


The daughter, ah, what an angel she was with those limpid brown eyes and cherubic face – sheer rock would have melted at that smile! But they don’t stay that way forever, do they? Into adolescence, she’s already pegged herself in the big-spending bracket and her single-minded ambition to ?have been there and done that’ would have been laudable if it weren’t to be your money that she was spending! Nothing short of Nina Ricci, Versace, L’Or?al & Christian Dior & Co. satiates your dimpled darling.


She is a charmer every inch of the way as her fluttery eyelashes and syrupy concern almost wheedle out megabucks for the latest from Nokia’s N90 series, from you. The fact that you’re still toting that 3310 which has seen better days in World War II doesn’t elicit an iota of sympathy from her! It doesn’t deter her from her one-tracked quest either. The telephone bills are skyrocketing and its definitely not Math and Physics that she’s discussing in those giggly hushed tones. Teenage Chemistry at premature work is your safest bet and you’re pleased as punch that you deduced all that on your own!


Gone are her Mills & Boon’s. Instead; Cosmopolitan, Vogue and the latest Fashion & Hollywood rags seem to dot every conceivable upturned surface in your house. When she’s not painting her nails or preening in front of the mirror, she’s logged in almost all the time. The Good Lord alone knows with which pervert she pours out her heart to with via video conference? And poor you, you’ve got to wait until her Ladyship logs off for a chance to finish off the work you’ve carried home.


Just a while back she was budding, and now, she is literally blooming. Let alone the hormonally imbalanced kids, even the old fogies shuffling across the street give her barely concealed lusty looks with toothless smirks to boot. Say, is it because the piercing on her belly-button shows below the hem of her Giordano’s or her long-legged sashay, or a combo of both? The Good Guardian Angel sure doesn’t seem to be around when you need him the most, does he? Probably he too has landed a lucrative assignment and has hi-tailed it to the Land of Milk and Money on an HI-B? Pretty soon it would be advisable to keep a baseball bat handy to keep the prospective suitors at bay, huh?


"Santa Maria, what’s the world coming to, eh?" you wonder for the nth time of the day.


And that’s not all! To compound to it all, the glaciers in the Artic are melting and the Polar Bears are facing extinction. Brent has touched 70$ per barrel! All goof-ups are blamed on the El Nino and the El Nina phenomena – except the ones at work, goddamn-it! The commute to work leaves you fuming and the bills are piling. The US$ seems to be losing its clout. Your purchasing power, which was no big shakes in the first place, is declining while your waistline is steadily expanding with the forehead rapidly encroaching. Must be Murphy’s Law at work and you’re positive about that at least! The little things in life that once filled you with joy have lost their charm. The middle-age blues have sprung up on you and you’ve been caught napping with your pants literally down and don’t have a frigging clue! 


Little wonder that your Cholesterol & sugar levels are at an all-time peak and seem rather reluctant to budge a point. Your personal physician seems mighty pleased to see you each time you run to see him with a little numbness here and some haziness there. Beady-eyed and rubbing his palms with ill-concealed glee, his "tsk tsk" as he runs you through a battery of tests for the umpteenth time makes you feel disconcertingly more ill at ease. You’ve been dead right all along as his grave baritone only buttresses your conviction that the quack is paying off the instalments of his fancy-set-of-wheels with your sweat and blood! Boy, no wonder the economy is booming – you’ve been contributing generously to the Gross Domestic Product all along! See, you aren’t as dumb as your bloated boss thinks you are!


His prognosis is something that you’ve known since donkey’s years – you’re stressed out, a veritable walking-time-bomb and have to pace out your life – or rather what’s left of the fine mess that you’ve somehow made of it! You need to take those regular breaks often and have to quit being a slave-driver on your poor self to fill up the bottomless coffers of your capitalist stooges who pass for bosses. You’ve done your bit for the economy and sure as hell it won’t collapse like a house of cards just because you decide to go easy on the whip on yourself, will it?


Fine, "Work is Worship" sounds great at those sombre weekly management meetings and makes an even more wonderful PR statement while the schmucks you call bosses chomp on their cigars and quaff on their cognac. But then it finally dawns on you that you’d rather be around than be remembered only on All-Souls Day and April Fools Day. You need some peace and quiet wherein you can reflect on the myriad miles that you’ve travelled and yet find yourself at the crossroads that you’re ignominiously stuck at!


You’re loathe to ask but yet you do, for an opinion about a place worth visiting & your boss magnanimously besieges you with places from the usual London, Paris, NY, Hawaii to the exotic Orient. What the heck, it’s their God-given right and they’re always around to dish out some freebie advice, aren’t they? The fact that the pittance they pay you is barely sufficient to fly out to those places is beside the point – if you have the dough, guts and gumption to set out, that is! To them, employee satisfaction and peace of mind are mutually exclusive and of paramount importance provided you make do with the handouts they call salary.


Nothing doing, you’re determined! You think positive and dwell on taking a vacation. What are you in for – the usual humdrum monuments to some fossils who were nondescript schmucks just like you while they lived? The hustle and bustle of city life although for a change it’s not in your backyard and which you hate in the first place? The fancy food that’s sheer taboo for your lard-filled arteries, not to mention the outrageous prices that eats into even your pension and leaves you whinging you’d stayed put? Gosh, that’s a crime! And with no Manna raining down from the heavens since the times of Moses, you can just about picture yourself queuing up at the poorhouse for a morsel. Good Lord, then who would spring for the Ferrari and the L’Or?al lip-gloss for your darlings?


It’s way too much to digest in a day and you toss and turn mulling over the heap on your plate. The wife’s in blissful slumber almost certainly dreaming of her heavenly reward for helping out the needy – with your money of course! She won’t be of much comfort tonight. Life – it goes on and on. You’re just a mute bystander with you swallowing your daily rations of boiled veggies.  God Damn it! They might as well declaw, defang and neuter you for all it matters – provided you earn your daily bread! Forget chugging the beer to go with it, you can’t even watch TV to see whose ring-wormed pathetic butt Uncle Sam is shooting on BBC/CNN. All you can ever be is CVO and amuse yourself with the routine m?l?es for the TV remote between the wife and kids.


The Lord might be your Shepherd but there is still aplenty that you want. You’ve asked and received a mouthful, and knocked but the doors have slammed firmly shut on your face. You don’t have it in you to seek any more! But you’ve got to take it slow and easy. Oh yeah, you’ve got to de-stress by taking up a serious hobby.


How about Yoga? You’ve heard that it’s easy on the back and the wallet too! That’s it! The morrow will be a New Day and a New Beginning! There, finally you’ve cracked it; you manage to convince yourself as you slip into the oblivion of sleep.


It’s a new day and as you luxuriate in the comfort of your bed contemplating taking the day off, the phone lets out a peal. It’s your insomniac boss and through the fog of your sleep you hear his phlegmy voice hollering for you pronto!


You drop everything and run. Your New Day has indeed begun!

Author: Chris Rego- UAE