I woke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was TR calling. I briefly checked the time before holding the phone to my ear, baffled at why he’d ring me up at 7 on a work day.
“Yes??”, I asked, not bothering to mask the grogginess in my voice.
“Dr S’s mother died”
I shot upright on the bed, all traces of sleep gone.
“What.. how.. who told you??”
“Dr P messaged me. He felt we should know, since we are close to her. She is already on her way to the airport.”
I stared at the wall and blinked. Slapped myself and shook my head to make sure it wasn’t a nightmare.
“God, I’m a horrible person T.. I know I should be thinking about her mom.. but, damn.. my thesis!!”
Dr S is my ‘guide’, the official mentor under whom I work on my postgraduate dissertation. Which is due for submission in a week. She and I were supposed to work together on the final draft over the weekend, and now all the plans suddenly seemed to dissipate.
“Are you crazy?!”, I came to, hearing T shouting at me. “She will be back in a few days, don’t worry about that..”
“But it’s her mother! Do people get back to work so soon? She must be shattered!”
“I’m sure it’ll be okay.. don’t worry. Now get ready soon, the lecture is at 8.30.”
The phone clicked. I blinked again and put my head in my hands, still unnerved at the thought of missing the deadline.
The I picked up the phone and sent a short text to Dr S. Heard the news. Hope you’re alright. Take care.
I was still staring at the wall when the phone rang again. It was Dr S.
“I just wanted to tell you a few things before I left..”
I listened in disbelief as she went over details of corrections, instructions on the changes that needed to be made, and told me to collect the manuscript from their home that she had entrusted to her husband before leaving. All this, on the way to her mother’s funeral.
We hear about professionalism, how some people are dedicated, that trait of working ‘beyond the call of duty’.. We admire them yes, and leave it at that. But there are some rare instances when we come across such people, and are touched to the core by how empathetic they are, how they put the team or those who depend on them before themselves; that someone would put their responsibilities first even at times of personal distress.. and it is those instances that inspire us to be better versions of ourselves as well.
This time, when I hung up the phone, I had tears in my eyes.