Don't delete this mail: A short story

I reach my office in frustration, covered in sweat and dust. Bloody traffic! Travelling by a two-wheeler in this traffic pure hell. In addition to that, I had a verbal argument with a reckless car driver. I abhor driving on Indian roads. However, I have no choice. I hate depending on my dad to drop me in office everyday, and I hate travelling by public transport even more.

I plonk my handbag on the desk, switch on the computer, push back the chair and close my eyes. The system, as usual, is taking a long time to start up.
The AC in the office starts cooling me. After about ten minutes, I open my eyes. The system is showing the start screen.

I open my personal mail instead of Outlook, hoping to relax before starting work.

I am wrong.

The first mail is the chain mail with ‘Don’t delete this mail, bad luck will follow you’ in the subject line. I normally don’t get worked up about that kind of mails. I coolly forward them and continue reading other mails. I am ‘why take the risk’ kind of person. There’s no harm in forwarding the mail. People who don’t believe in it can kindly ignore it, and I will be saved from whatever bad luck is written in the mail. But today, I get all worked up.

Why should I believe in this nonsense? Am I not educated? How dare someone suggest that I’m going to face bad luck just because I didn’t forward a mail? How can someone force me into doing something I don’t believe in? Yes, I don’t usually believe in superstitions. But, if a black cat happens to cross my way, I go back, sit for a few seconds and start again, just to avoid the ‘risk’. Today I'm going to take a firm stand. I am not going to believe in this nonsense. So, for the first time, I delete the mail and continue reading other mails.

As soon as I close the mail, I see my boss standing behind me.

I look at him, surprised, and say, ‘Hello, Sir, Good morning. I didn’t see you there,’ trying to inject some authenticity into my fake smile. I know he looked at my mail. We are not supposed to open personal mails in office. My boss particularly hates it.

‘Can you come to my office?’ he asks.

‘Sure,’ I say, wondering what he’s upto.

I follow him and we both take our chairs in his office.

He comes straight to the point without bothering about niceties.

‘I have a bad news for you, Anusha. Since you’ve been on leave for four months in the last year and also failed to perform well after that, we are keeping you under probation. If you fail to improve in the next two months, you may have to face the pink slip,’ he says gravely.

I look at him utterly stunned. I was on leave to get well from a car accident. I lost my friend in that accident. It took me a long time to recover from the trauma of the accident, which may have led to my less than desirable performance. But, this is cruel. What happened to all those years when I got consecutive ‘A’s in appraisals? Why happened to all those years of faithfulness to the company. I didn’t leave it even though some of my friends left it in the first year itself.
I simply nod my head, not knowing what to say.

I walk out of his office and head towards the coffee dispenser, unable to face the work. Just then I hear my phone ringing and see that Mum is calling. Thank god!

‘Hi! Mum,’ I say, hoping I’d find relief in her words at least.

‘Anu! Did you see the news?’ she asks in a tone full of agitation.

‘Why? What happened?’

‘The train—The train your dad was travelling in met with an accident. I—I don’t understand—’ She’s unable to speak coherently.

My head starts spinning. I could hear my heart beating. My legs are becoming weak. But I gather myself. I have to be strong.

‘Mum, please don’t panic. I’ll call the helpline,’ I say and drop the call.

I try dialling the helpline but get a continuous busy tone.

I retry in frustration but nothing happens. Should I call back Mum? What would I tell her?

I try calling the helpline again. I get the same busy tone again. A lot of people are probably dialling it right now. Tears are rolling down from my eyes. Why is this happening to me? Oh god! I stare at the cell phone screen in helplessness.

Just then I remember the mail from the morning. I didn’t even read it.

Even though it’s foolish to read the mail when I should be calling the helpline, I go back to my system and reopen the mail from trash.

There’s a photo of a God with a message that ‘If you forward this mail to ten people, God will bless you with good luck. Do it within ten seconds or else bad luck will follow you.’

I consider forwarding the mail. Perhaps it will save my dad. 

I try to do it,but something is stopping me. If I succumb to this irrational thought today, I’ll never be able to take a firm stand again. I’ll become a slave to a superstition. No, I can't go on doing things in the name of avoiding risk.

Don’t think about it! My heart is warning me. It’s no time to think about logic. It’s your dad’s life at stake. All this is probably happening because of the mail.

Quickly I add ten people from my address book and try to press forward, but, in a moment of decision, I press on delete message forever. I have done it! Somehow I feel lighter. For once, I didn’t take the ‘why take the risk’ route. I didn't go back on my decision. I’m not going to believe in superstitions.

Just then I get a call from Mum. I lift the phone apprehensively, praying that I shouldn’t listen to any bad news. I’ll never forgive myself for deleting the mail.

‘Anu, thank god! You father just called me now. He was one of the few people who escaped from the accident.’ Her voice is high with excitement. I sigh in relief. Thank you, God! 

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