“Here you go” he handed the badge with a stinging stare literally thrusting it into my palm. If I made any noise it wasn’t heard. He was too tired of doing this for me and he made no effort to conceal the obvious irritation. “You know how hard it is to get you a job?” his eyes flamed, more out of concern than anger. I just nodded in response. He kicked his dhoti in a swift movement and grabbed it by his right hand. With a despairing expression he disappeared into the crowd. I wondered how much he loved his sister and my mother that he puts up with this trouble of finding me a job again and again.
I waited for the door to open and stepped into a 3x3 space marked by a transparent cabin overlooking the interiors of a fancy building. That defined the boundaries of my work area. A panel of nine push buttons greeted me. The building had six floors. There was a button for each floor. Two buttons to control the closing and opening of the door and one emergency stop. I had a brief training session in the morning. A huge man in security uniform instructed with stern voice pointing a stick at an LED board, “This will glow when the number of people in the lift is more than what it can handle. Ten people, and not fat ones like me” he tapped on his bloated belly. This followed with few other emergency precautions and protocols, attendance register entry instructions, salary deposits and building rules for support staff.
Given my condition, moving up and down in a lift full off people day in and day out, was not what I had dreamt of. Anyhow, I was worried about keeping my job. Ramu mamu had given his word to the owner. I couldn’t let him down. I sat on the stool placed near the right corner. I lifted my hand and tried to touch the farthest button. I could sit and still access it. Phew! As the clock struck 10:00am people started flowing in and out of the building. It was a shopping complex- books, music, apparel and what not. I panicked worrying should there be an awkward moment where I could get stuck. But the day passed by pushing buttons - 1st floor, 2nd…. 4th again and again. While some mentioned the floor some just took names of the shops and I had to refer the small chart given by the security guy to figure out which floor they had to get to.
It was very strange how minimum people spoke. May be that was how they became in the crowd- mute. There was this pregnant lady wondering about getting into a crowded lift and her husband grabbed her shoulder in an assuring manner while signalling me they will wait for the next round. No words spoken. Similar conversation occurred when an over energetic little kid pestered his dad to take the lift. I smiled as the wide eyed kid repeated “Wow” innumerable number of times, fascinated with the movement of the lift. He made me feel like I had the coolest job in the world. His dad made a futile attempt to cover his embarrassment with a smile. On countless occasions, I held the door open and waited a bit longer when I saw people rushing towards the lift door. I helped people when they struggled with handful of bags. They spoke to me with their expressions and emotions that rang out loud even when they restrained their voices. And, I, just felt normal. There was no chance they would know. And, no reason for it to be explicitly told, the job was getting done and communication was effective.
That evening when Ramu mamu came to pick to me up my lips moved to thank the man for my new job. A job- that made a voiceless man, feel normal and vocal.