The sudden combination of hail-rain on Friday afternoon incarcerated me at home.

As much as I love rain, I am fearful of getting wet and catching a cold, which, I believe, is a fast track to COVID-19. Sipping mugs of coffee, I stood at my French window waiting for the rains to die an early death.

The window once gifted me sights out of this world: a meandering river, patches of lush green paddy fields, now growing ugly houses, and the glistening Himalayan peaks obscured today by thick smog. In the neighbourhood, a piece of earth lay listless with ghastly scars, wounded by a dozer.

My thoughts wafted to the distant past, which seemed like yesterday. Being studious, I aspired to collect a few higher degrees of honour, not that I did not try. But as the saying goes, man proposes, God disposes.

The abortion of my academic dream started with a job offer towards the end of my undergraduate studies at Delhi University.

I then planned to work for a couple of years and save enough money to continue my studies.

But once I started working, education took a back seat.

Money was good, and life was as glamorous as in a movie.

My older colleague, a political fugitive from Bhutan, advised me not to give up my job for studies as I would be doing the same thing even with half a dozen master degrees. He told me: "People use palace connection to get a job here. You got it on your own, and your position is the envy of many people." In a way, he weaned me away from my studies. But he was not wrong in what he told me.

We used to work relentlessly for 10 to 12 hours daily. It was more like working in a coal mine, not a corporate office, with hundreds of staff.

The office rules were unforgiving.

And the boss was hot-headed, who never shied away from throwing files at us for even some typographical errors.

In the beginning, everyone standing on their feet at the sight of the boss would amuse me. I would ask a steno-typist, "He isn't a school principal, is he?" He replied somewhat indignantly, "No, he is not. But do not stand up when he walks in and see what happens to you."

Six months into the job, I started learning French but found it difficult to continue.

The classes were from 7 to 9. We worked from 9:30 sharp.

By the time I returned home at 7 pm or later, I would be so exhausted. I continued with my French torture for three months before reluctantly giving it up.

In the office, there was not a chance to even look up at the notes for fear of 'spies' reporting to the boss. Moreover, French was turning out to be a distraction.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.