Her nails were chipped, and she couldn’t align herself to a stream of thought. She couldn’t issue clear instructions to the workers in her office. As a result of which, they did what they liked and almost always fell short of expectations. The desk was yellow and had a dent on the surface. The yellow though old, stood out in the room. The dent made it difficult to use, but it was never thrown out. It was made by a carpenter who looked not more than 35 years old. His zest for his work was only equal to his zest for smoking. His stained lips and frayed clothes sent out a bohemian message. In time, he had come to be known as a man who was always around and never aged. He had seen them all come and go, and he said stories of all kinds. No one knew if the stories were true. No one knew if he was thirty-five. The desk stood there ever since he could remember, ever since the street was short of people. He made it because he wanted to bring brightness to this government room. He believed that one could be happy in a work place. He had made the desk when he was younger, younger than 35. An old fan creaked letting off flakes of dust that grew old in its wake. The switch that turned on this fan was almost broken, but used, nonetheless, with ferocity. Every morning, an old worker would switch it on and the fan carried on its monotonous journey around its axis with no complains. Yes, it creaked once or twice, but it was never for a response. It was more to cut into the arid, stifled conversations that went on under it. Sometimes, she spoke of her lunch which was made with equal boredom as her instructions. Sometimes, she spoke of the mediocrity of her husband and why she deserved better. But mostly, she and the others said nothing. Pen scraped on paper and an occasional typing went around the room. Pallid life went on, and no one interrupted.

Her daughter, on the other hand, had flamboyant dreams—the kind young eyes have. She dreamt of flowing dresses and cheerful nail colours. The pomp and gaiety were what she lived for. A forced twinkle in her eye she donned among other things. She could never get enough of clothes and never wove enough dreams. All was rosy and for good reason. Life had just started. She mingled with like-minded friends who spent a considerable time dressing up and then spent some more time eating off the streets. The world was their oyster, and a pretty one at that. The conversations never stopped, and the laughter never dimmed. The sun dawned in all its glory and set in all its candour only giving way to the night that held safely their dreams and hopes. She was going to conquer this world with beauty someday. Some day she was going to rise to a place where doves exchanged notes on regular occasions and homes were made of bricks with white curtains and chimneys. Some day, she thought. Some day.

On the worn out dinner table they exchanged stories of the day. The mother issued incoherent instructions and the daughter narrated incredible stories. They never met halfway; each believing that the others’ glasses were faulty.

The mother droned.

The daughter flitted.

Neither understood the other’s language.