Chapter 2 Is it a Cosmic Hum?
across the screen, flickering as each new bill generates.
I sit hunched, eyes popping out to stare fixedly at the computer
screen. “I think everything is alright; bill execution is going as expected.”
Looking at the scrolling numbers, my head is clouded and needs a
break. I often close my eyes to revive myself when waiting for this
process; this time, my deep breath turns into a relaxing yawn.
I sit for a while with my eyes closed, then suddenly, I ponder out
loud, “The bill run started at 11 pm, and it’s 3 am now, so it’s been
nearly four hours. But we’ve still only produced two thousand bills.
Something must be wrong. This speed is crawlingly slow.”
I want to let it go and keep resting, but my mind begins a rough
calculation without my permission. “If it’s already taken four hours to
get here, it might get even slower as the load on the database increases.
At that rate, this bill run will take more than two days and a night.”
We can’t carry on with this slow billing speed; the code needs to be
But I’ll need to proceed carefully; I can’t risk changing the code for
this billing cycle. Somehow, I need to get this bill run completed
with the current code.
One thing is sure: this won’t work next bill cycle.
First thing first, for this bill run to complete, it needs to run all
night without even stopping for an hour. “I have to be awake the
whole night; I don’t have a choice,” I tell myself.
It’s midnight. The office is cool with purring air conditioners.
My skin is numb, but my mind chatters, “It’s freezing,” and it’s as if
the air conditioners have heard my complaint; just then, they turn
off due to after-hours power restrictions.
Exhausted, I continue to sit and record the bill run activities to be
automated next time if possible. Soon, the room becomes roasting
hot, and I open the window. Drenched in sweat and sitting in a
lonely office with my computer may be a risk for many, but I’m not
scared of sitting alone in the office
For a change, I gaze out of the window, just to keep myself in a
good mood. On the roads far below, cars look like toys.
Wearily watching time tick by on the computer screen, I raise my
favorite office water bottle to my lips and take another sip of water.
I lay my head down on the desk next to the computer. I won’t be
getting a full night’s rest, but at least I can nap for a few minutes.
When I wake up, my eyes feel swollen and stuck together. Heart
racing, I look out the window, but I’m relieved to see it’s still dark
outside. My hand feels clammy, and the desk is damp with sweat
from where it was resting. A glance at the computer screen tells me
it’s three in the morning.
I yawn heartily. “Thank God I didn’t oversleep.” The long nap has
left me feeling surprisingly restored, and I still have five good hours
Armed with a fresh infusion of energy, I get to work. Every twenty
minutes or so, I take careful note of the time and the corresponding
number of bills completed. I calculate the rate of completion by
subtracting any two bill numbers and time pairs.
By the time the sun is bright outside my window, we’ve completed
over seventy percent of the work; the rest is simple, and I’ll easily
do it during the day. Knowing this, I allow myself to lean back in
my chair. I’m tired, but I feel accomplished.
It’s ten past eight, and people have started entering the office.
They look crisp and fresh. Here I am, still at my desk, sinking
into my chair with sagging shoulders and not a hundred percent
awake. As Reena passes by, I glance up, swallowing my fatigue; I
mumble, “Hello,” but she walks straight past without noticing me
or responding. I stretch out my arms again with a yawn, hands
comforting my back.
As I sit, a thought comes to my mind from somewhere: “People
look at our big cars and think we have a happy life. They envy
our rich lifestyle and pockets full of money. Do they understand
the responsibility and mental stress we handle?” My eyes are
hurting, and my lower back is pleading with me to lie down. With
eyes closed, shoulders pushed up, and elbows down, I kick myself
awake, getting back to work and finishing the last mile.
I rise slowly to my feet, turn around to face the awakening office,
and walk toward the pantry for a cup of tea. I’m doing my best to
overcome this sleep and tiredness.
It’s midnight again. I have been in the office all day and night
without going home, and I’m dog tired, but the bill run is complete.
Post-bill checks have given accurate results as expected.
She’s entitled to recharge her batteries for two lazy days. Nothing
official about this break, but no one will question it.
It’s eight the next morning, and I’m lying in bed hours past my usual
wake-up time, thinking about anything but work and listening to
my favorite Kishore Kumar songs. I’m taking it easy; there’s no hurry
in life today. Finally getting up, I fill a hot water bucket with the
juice of a lime, a cup of potent mustard oil, and a cup of sea salt to
give my legs a long, relaxing soak, slowly and softly calming down
from the last two days. There’s something about Kishore Kumar’s
songs that makes me sing along every time. Next, I do ahot oil
head massage, and then, skipping the day’s routine chores, I go
out for a leisurely breakfast at my favorite restaurant. It’s a comfy,
cozy atmosphere where I love to listen to the relaxing sounds of the
water fountain, and as always, it helps rejuvenate my nerves.
After a day of relaxing, I’m eating my dinner and pondering the
next day at the office. “I have just a couple of weeks to alter the code
for better speed, and this will be a giant monster rather than a simple
execution of bill runs,” I murmur. ”This bill run was a manual
task without too much risk. It’ll be a good idea to start working on it
I go into the bedroom and undress myself to go to sleep. As I lie
on the bed, my mind is calm, but it imagines all that could happen
in the next few days. Weighing all that’s possible for me to achieve
while trying to find the time to get it all done, thinking hard to
connect the dots, and sketch out an appropriate course of action.
“Fortunately, it’s Ramadaan-Eid season. Everyone will be fasting and
praying, so it’ll be slower in the office.”
I know that Omanis eagerly await Eid celebrations after an
entire month of fasting. Tomorrow is the Iftar party, which I can
quickly decline. I am not in India and not a Muslim. The day after
tomorrow is the weekend. Fortunately, colleagues are planning to
go for a movie, which I’ll avoid in favor of some uninterrupted
time with my laptop—the ideal way for my creativity to manifest.
“With such a crucial task to complete and so much free time to dedicate
to billing code, I shouldn’t waste time,” I tell myself.
It’s still dark when I wake up naturally; my alarm clock is for 5 am,
but I’ve woken up without hearing it as usual. I stay in bed, awake
but eyes closed, enjoying the early morning luxury of being in bed
till my alarm goes off.
The rest of the world is still fast asleep, and the flat is quiet except for
the ticking of the wall clock and the steady hum of the refrigerator.
But as my eyes open and I look at the refrigerator, I notice how very
silent it is. My eyes immediately pick up doubt and uncertainty.
“That’s not the noise of refrigerator motor,” they tell me. I chew my
lip and scratch my prominent forehead as I consider the source of
“Hey, could this be cosmic hum I read about yesterday?” I smile at
the thought of having discovered something big, but I’m still not
sure. In an attempt to dig deeper and clear up the uncertainty, I
plug my ears tightly with my index fingers. “Let me check if this
is the cosmic hum, ”I scream with excitement. ”Ohhhhh…. Wow!
I can hear it with my ears closed. It’s a cosmic noise, just like
they describe it!!!”I almost crush my ears tightly with both palms.
Thrilled to bits, I keep shouting out loud. “Oh my GOD, I can
hear it clear as day. I’m sure this isn’t refrigerator noise; this is
cosmic humming. Unbelievable! I can listen to cosmic humming.
Good God, I could identify cosmic noise today!!! Today is a good
I’m happy to have woken up peacefully on my own so close to my
alarm. I’m feeling a headache reaching down towards my neck on
the right side, but I’m even happier that this didn’t throw off my
internal alarm this morning. I make myself slide onto the sofa to sit
comfortably and rest, with the sincere intention of waking up soon.
I manage to focus on my breath, inhale and exhale consciously and
deeply as I gaze at the stars out the window. Many minutes pass,
and I gradually begin to feel more awake as I rest. Finally, I push
myself off the sofa, conquering mild body aches and protests.
This hour of the morning is peaceful, both inside the flat and
outside. I look at a big copper jug with a screw cap that stands
loudly on the side table. The jar holds clean water overnight, and
I swallow one glass after the other, quickly finishing almost the
entire jar. When I set it down, I notice a little pool of water on
top of the table, which must’ve spilled when I was pouring it. My
instinct tells me to wipe it up immediately, but I stop myself. It
makes me a little uncomfortable to leave it, but I know it’ll dry
on its own. Pushing the water out of my mind, I move around the
house, getting ready in silence; then, for some time, I stand and
stare at the bare, white wall, creating a silence inside myself.
It’s this silence that’s so valuable.
I’m breathing in silence comfortably; I can feel
not only my mind but even my spirit getting
rejuvenated. This divine silence reassures me that
I’m protected, and I need this reassurance every
day. In the midst of this, I gather all the ideas
and wonder silently how and what I can create.
My mind has filled with useful ideas for work, and I sit down to
capture them on a blank piece of paper before I lose them. Also, the
little things I need to do throughout the day pop into my mind.
“I need to buy yogurt and peanut butter… I’ll finish the croissants
today; only two are there. The scrubbing brush I saw at Preeti’s house.
I can get it all on my way back from the office.” Ignoring nothing, I
capture everything that comes to me on the paper. Yesterday I was
so exhausted, I missed the deli kiosk around the corner and drove
straight back empty-handed. It happens, and I don’t let it worry
me too much.
After capturing ideas, it’s time to plan and do a question-and-answer
session with me to brainstorm solutions to difficult problems.
I tear off a croissant crumb, dip it in sour cream, place it in my
mouth. My fingers are covered with sugar and cinnamon, and
rather than wiping them with a tissue; I enjoy licking each one
clean. I take a sip of black coffee, which tastes heavenly.
Carefully, so as not to spill coffee on the white paper, I lift the
coffee mug away from the table to place it on the floor.
I return my attention to the blank white wall and jerk my chin to
push my long hair out of my face. Oops! My hand knocks against
the mug, which tips and spills coffee. The white planner sheet is
happily enjoying the smell and taste of fresh coffee.
I take a deep breath and reassure myself that it’s because of the
headache. That’s when things like this happen; otherwise, I’m
I run to the kitchen and return with a bunch of paper towels, gently
patting the spilled coffee to sop up as much as possible. I squeeze
it in the mug, thinking it will bounce back like a sponge, but it’s
sodden and useless, and I toss it in the wastebasket.
I’ve soaked up the majority of the coffee, but the dampness has
spread throughout the stack of paper. I wave it back and forth to
dry, then smile with relief. The planning sheet has taken on a slight
coffee color, but the contents are still legible.
“I better get back to work,” I remind myself, then glance at the
unimportant papers strewn on the floor. ”I can clear this mess
later; no need to worry about them at this hour.”
As I stood there holding the stack of paper damp and drooping with
coffee, the solutions I’ve come up with are surprisingly sensible and
Early in the morning is a time not to miss meeting
MYSELF, an excellent person I trust completely.
It’s a time for reassurance that God is with me, so
I’ll sail through everything smoothly. Everything
I discuss with myself is vital for my mind, and
there are so many positive effects that I might not
know until later.
I’m inspired and recharged, full of peace and joy inside.
The sun hasn’t even risen, and already I have a real sense of
achievement; it’s been a productive start to a productive day. I’ve
used the early morning hours creatively—I have a plan for my daily
activities, and I have a list of fantastic ideas.
I go out on the balcony, where it’s dark and hot. Air-conditioned
bedrooms are tempting to crawl back into bed, but I have the inner
strength to make hard choices.
The weather is very different from India, where mornings are
always pleasantly cool irrespective of seasons. Here, the night is
slowly turning to day, but it’s hazy. I struggle to make out the line
of date trees across the road. Behind them, I know there’s a field of
dark-colored grass, but I can’t see it yet.
I know it will be a busy day, so I decide to put on my shoes and go
out for an early morning walk. I walk tall like an achiever, throwing
my slightly narrow shoulders back and striding peacefully on a
deserted jogging trail, just me and nature.
Before I know it, I’m jogging down the track, but my legs start
to ache, so I slow down to a walk. My body is reminding me of
the posture I spend too many hours in every day, back bowed and
shoulders hunched to stare at a laptop screen. I consciously throw
out my chest and straighten my back and shoulders and continue
taking long, firm strides. Although warm, the breeze has cooled my
head for a tough day ahead, and soothing greetings from birds are
probably activating some creative parts of my brain. It’s a relatively
long walk for me, and I can tell it’s made me feel happier.
I don’t know when it happens, but thoughts of work begin to
seep into my mind. “The billing engine is far too slow. We can’t have
another cycle like that last one—we ordered pizza for dinner in the
office, and we spent the entire night working to catch up so we could
complete the bill run on time. I remember, four months back, bill runs
were speedy. I could do one myself in a couple of hours. It’s got slower
and slower over the last few months. Priority for me is sussing out the
root cause and finding a way to fix it.”
My mind, calm and energized from the early-morning air, dive
deep into visualizing the code—” I think the innermost loop in the
rating logic is making the unnecessary hit to the database with every
transaction. And obviously, this is increasing the bill execution time.
“This is most probably the culprit or at least one of the culprits. I’ll
correct that, and it should increase the billing speed exponentially.”
I promise myself to register and test this logic later today to measure
how much it will speed up the bill.
My body moves almost on its own, my mind still in the ‘’inertia
of rest’’ with the bill run slowness issue. I look at my surroundings
with awe as I walk further. “OMG! It’s so beautiful. Look at this long
avenue of date trees next to the footpath.” They’ve stretched out their
drooping prickly spiked leaves for a friendly embrace. Each branch
offers multiple bunches of rusty red, marble-like dates. I hurriedly
put my hands up and pluck as many as my trouser side pockets can
hold, making them bulge out like rugby balls on both sides of my
“Let me taste one,” I cautiously muse. I pop one of the fruits into my
mouth and my face instantly takes on an expression of satisfaction
and pleasure; the date is so sweet and succulent, unlike Indian
dates. My pocketfuls of dates will meet my fruit needs for a couple
My dancing heart begs for a song. I hurriedly cover the ground
back home, singing with hand-plucked, organic dates in happy
“Suhana Safar aur yey Mausam hasee…. .”
Pleasant journey and lovely weather,
Pleasant journey and lovely weather
I’m scared I might get lost (with happiness)
Pleasant journey and lovely weather…
The morning walk is over, and I can’t bear a dirty house.
My wall clock shows me I have a little less than two hours to get
ready and finish the household chores before I leave for the office.
“I’ll need to be quick,” I tell myself because soon the morning
minutes start ticking into hours. I’ll avoid getting ready at a leisurely
pace and making up my mind to rush now that the morning walk
is over. I start multitasking to get ready; I’m hurriedly untying the
laces, take off my walking shoes, and I hear a bucket overflowing
with water. I walk to the bathroom with an untied shoelace. Water
is overflowing from soaked clothes, and white detergent foam is all
around the floor.
I mop up the water from the bathroom, then start with a quick
clean of the house. I pick up containers from the table, scraping
the leftovers into the rubbish bin, and place dishes into the sink
to soak—I’ll wash everything in one go later. I toss an empty
plastic bottle at the rubbish bin from around four meters and miss
the target. “It’s alright,” I tell myself. “I’ll put it in the bin when I
clean the kitchen.” I run back to the living room full of energy,
twisting and turning super-fast like a gymnast. The living room
bin is overflowing—I haven’t emptied it for a long time. I take out
the rubbish bag, tie it shut and run to the front door to drop it
outside. I replace it with a plastic shopping bag, then quickly wipe
the dining table, dusting everywhere I can in the tiny window of
time I have. I’m sweating as I clean, and I know this is the best sort
Keeping my place clean isn’t too tricky as I live alone, so I make
sure to keep everything spic and span.
I look out of the window; I’m irritated as I see at the rubbish
heapyikes, a rubbish heap dumped in front of the building.
I run back to the bathroom, where the clothes have had time to
soak. Jumping into the bucket is like jumping on swampy land. It
might look funny to an outside observer, but it’s an innovative way
to wash clothes that doubles as excellent cardiovascular exercise.
In the past, I washed my clothes once a week by hand. But each
time, I would develop severe pain in my shoulders or back. One
morning I woke up with severe muscle pain all over my upper
body. I had to go back to sleep more and didn’t get to the office
until after lunch.
For a clean freak like myself, washing clothes is inevitable when
we’re staying away from home and my country, so I knew I had
to find another way to do it. They say necessity is the mother of
invention, and I invented a new way to wash my clothes. It may
not be high-tech, but it’s made a tough routine job much more
Taking a paper towel, I wipe the steam off the mirror so I can see
myself. I liberally apply kohl to my eyes and paint dark red lipstick
over my lips. I puff my hair in the front and quickly clutch my long
black hair waving down my back.
I check my makeup in the mirror. I feel a little over–made up for
the office, so I wipe off the lipstick, reapply only simple pink lip
gloss, and look at my face again. “I think this lip gloss is enough by
itself, and it looks suitable for the office.”
Twisting sideways a bit and satisfied with my curves, I lovingly stare
at myself in the mirror. Then, looking down at my tiny undulated
stomach, I ask, “When will you go taut and flat to match my slim
Back in the kitchen, I quickly prepare today’s breakfast, a delectable
soft pancake called butter dosa and masala tea. While the dosa
cook, I quickly gulp down a chikoo fruit, skin, and all. I’m very
fond of chikoo, and they keep me and my gut active.
By the time the dosa is ready, my mouth is watering. It’s a
traditional South Indian breakfast except for masala tea, a North
Indian beverage; I love to integrate these North and South Indian
elements, both equally delicious in their own right.
I put my plate on the breakfast table add a dollop of kaara-thengai,
or spicy tomato, chutney. I made this chutney over the weekend,
and I usually store it for a couple of days. Whenever I eat this tomato
chutney, I remember my neighbor Mrs. Narayanan. I would roll
my eyes at her back when she taught me “Kaara-Thengai-chutney,
” speaking English with an authentic South Indian accent like an
authentic South Indian filter coffee.
I look at my watch and realize I only have ten minutes to get
dressed before going to the office, so there’s no moment’s leisure. I
hurriedly finish breakfast, gulp down the rest of my tea, and get up,
leaving the dishes in the sink.
I open my wardrobe and notice a white shirt, a final set of an ironed
piece from dhobi(Laundryman) left in the closet. My innocent
unwashed jeans always come to my rescue. They give me a fresh
look, asking me to reuse them, which I accept. I casually put the
dress on without looking in the mirror; I know this combination is
perfect on a hot, summery day at the office.
I run and jump in my car with a thud at exactly 7:30. It’s a thirty-minute
drive and I make it to the office right at my target of 8:00
Before the office, I see the monitor lizard again; it’s a 4-5 feer long
lizard and looks like a mini-dinosaurs. This lizard may bring me
good luck for sure today. I reach office confident, and I choose to
avoid the lift. As I climb the stairs, I see through large groundfloor
windows the deserted office hall with stark white office walls,
beautiful potted indoor plants, and empty office furniture with
computers. Only one tiny-built guy is sitting in one corner.
This time of the day provides the ideal environment for a person to
work with peak efficiency.
I open my laptop without any delay. I also have an e-mail from
Ananya with the subject “Pre-bill check results – Passed 100%. ”
It’s encouraging news to start the day. Still, I open the e-mail to
analyze the pre-bill checks, detailed reporting, and billing speed.
“All of the test cases have passed, and the billing seems to be accurate,
but how is this happening? Rather than decreasing like it should have
done, the test results show, the execution time increased by ten percent.
“This doesn’t mean anything. Billing system changes aren’t providing
time efficiency benefits as expected.
“I have to ensure this software isn’t rolling out into the live environment.”
Whenever any code is rolling out into the live environment, it
needs my go-ahead e-mail. I know this, but I still send an e-mail to
discontinue the rollout across the live setting, which is a necessary
precaution against disruption.
Priya sits upright in her office chair with her eyes fixed on the
screen, looking around at quick intervals like a frightened deer.
Nalini waves at her as she walks past, “Hello Priya…” Priya’s big
eyes on her bony, clean face are blank and don’t respond. Priya
is immersed in her work and doesn’t seem to see Nalini, who
understands and passes on quietly without talking further. Nalini
takes no offense at this; whenever someone doesn’t respond to us in
the office, we know it’s because they’re busy thinking.
After a week of code modifications and successful test results,
today, I feel relaxed. It’s late afternoon, and most of the Indians
are abuzz with activity. On the other hand, Brits are active in the
morning; when I rarely see Indians, it’s time for Brits to wind down
now. Thanks to the powerful air conditioners, it’s reasonably cool
inside the office. Orange sunshine is angling down through the
window, as though divine is treating me with a huge orange ice
cream baramidhot summer.
Having rolled out the code, I think to myself. “I can call it a day
and head home early. I don’t have anything more to do, so I’ll just waste
time if I stay back. The testers will be testing tonight and have their
results in by the morning.”
My brain gets busy, visualizing a relaxing evening accompanied by
exotic food cooked in grandma’s style. Soon, my white teeth flash
in a cheerful smile. “Let’s make good use of this evening. I’ll cook
chickpeas on a slow flame. I haven’t eaten that in a while. I’ll have an
early dinner and sleep early to compensate for last week’s sleep loss.
“I’ll wake up refreshed tomorrow, reach the office early and check the
new code test results.” Thinking this, I hit the ‘SEND’ button on the
e-mail informing the testers that I’ll be rolling out the billing code
onto the ‘dress rehearsal environment. ’
Out the window, the orange sun is quickly surrendering to the
growing darkness. The dust storm has made it hazy everywhere.
“It’s not too bad outside; I think I can still drive home.”
But then I start hearing scary slapping, whipping sounds outside.
Sand, Lay’s chips wrappers, cigarette packets, and empty plastic
water bottles are all whipping around in the gusty wind. I begin to
pace back and forth impatiently.
Crash! Startled, I look out the window, holding my breath,
hunched arms crossed. All I see are tree arms whipping viciously to
and fro in the darkness. ”I don’t know what broke.”
In the corridor, I cross paths with Dennis, who’s frowning deeply
with folded arms, a deep ridge between his brows. We share the
same pain, so I smile to cheer him up, and he responds with a
forced smile. Parking my problem and diverting my attention, I
Finally, I surrender to the situation. ”This fierce wind and darkness is
a deadly combination. It would be foolish to drive back home during
this massive dust storm—I’d be asking for trouble. I’ll wait indoors
and stay safe.”
#CosmicHum #Peace #SomehowIMissedIt #PoorvajaaPoojaSharma
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