Sweltering June morning had a lazy feel. The day was ripe by the time Meira left for office. And by the time she reached there, the sun was almost overhead. The central air conditioner had been shut down due to some issues with voltage stabilization. And in the absence of continuous roar, everything seemed loud and blaring. The voices that sounded soft in the din of air conditioner now sounded unpleasant and penetrating. It was like they were accustomed to huge decibels without realizing the impact. It was okay initially, sitting in her cramped seat but with passage of time, she started getting a heavy feeling. She felt like she was breathing stale air, laden with warm dust. She turned around to ask Akshat to open the window. But Akshat was not in his seat. In the rush of work, she did not realize his absence. She got up and opened the window. A couple of pigeons on the ledge below flew away, flapping their wings noisily. But the whiff of fresh air felt so refreshing. A couple of heads turned towards her, spared a smile from their schedule and were again lost in computers. That was a due acknowledgment of her initiative. She sighed. She missed the young energy. The nearest in her age group happened to be Akshat. They had 10 years gap between them with Akshat leading the age board. But he still cracked a joke or two and made it a little easy to while the office hours. He had appeared to be busy today and so they had mostly worked in silence. Meira returned to task at hand, the fresh air making it bearable to work. The next time she looked up was after a good one and a half hour of dedication. But something had made her look up. A sudden clamour. She turned towards the source of disturbance and saw Akshat keeping his helmet aside. And he looked harried. It was strange enough that he had gone somewhere without telling her. The usual practice was to keep one another in loop just in case some authority calls you up. And it was disturbing that he was silent and brooding on return. Meira struggled with the question and then asked him, "where did you go at this hour of the day, with this sun and all"? If anything her profile was teaching her to draft things diplomatically; this sounded like concern and not question. Safer. Akshat managed a tired smile, "had to collect my son's reports". His son. His 12 year old thalassemic son. Who needs blood transplants every second week. Whose treatment was the reason why Akshat had sought compassionate transfer to capital city. Whose treatment was the reason why he had refused to participate in promotion process. Whose family spent the days hoping for a bone-marrow match. "What did the doctors say"? Meira instinctively regretted the question. Even before his face contorted with pain, with sadness, with grief. He muttered something under his breath. All she could catch was the word "worse". And then Akshat busied himself with some papers on his desk. Meira felt her throat go dry. She wanted to say something positive, something hopeful but words died on her tongue. How do you comfort someone who is watching his son edging towards death with every breath. You do not, period. You busy yourself with work and let them live their lives in peace sans the consolation. They do not need pity. They need lives beyond the hospitals. So Meira buried the sympathies in her heart and shuffled through the file on her desk. Often her eyes darted towards Akshat. But he was lost in some manpower planning data. At least he was working. He left a little early than usual. And Meira wondered what answers he would take home today to his wife and son.