The last blog I posted was four months ago. Has nothing happened in these months, to which I could not lend an interesting twist? Have I not travelled to new places or same old places several times and had moments that could be cast in a different perspective?
Yes, there were many such moments. But these need to be captured instantly , as otherwise the ‘delete’ button in our grey cells wipe out memories the way the images in CCTV footage is overwritten after a defined period.
Another aspect is that for majority of human beings, the most interesting person is oneself. So while we remember all those events and monologues (dialogues mean that we also listen- which is a rarity if not an improbability) where “I” am the key player, the rest of it is erased very swiftly.
Last few months found me spending most of my “awake” moments in Office. I reach home not before 9.00 p.m, totally exhausted mentally. While there is nothing unique about reaching home much after Sun God has left this part of hemisphere, how it affects each individual and his or her family is still unique. The body has left the Office in a physical sense but the mind still submerged in the unresolved issues. The “hand held” (mobile phone for those who are not clued in) helpfully nudges us back to the Office from a mental perspective. The question that recurs to my mind is “do we have to live like this? Is this what life is about?”
Ten to eleven hour working day has become a norm now. If you add two to three hours for travelling (in a city like Mumbai) that leaves us mostly with less than ten hours at home. If the sleeping hours and time for our daily routine is excluded, we are actually spending less than an hour or two at best with our family. Viewed from that perspective, we spend more time with our colleagues that with our spouse or children. Does this not affect the quality of our communication with those who matter most to us?
There are two perspectives which can be considered- really speaking three. The first is that there is no choice. It is a matter of survival and if I have to live and keep my family in a state of basic well being, this is what I have to do. All of us can relate that period of life and there are no debates about it. Most of us would say that the small pleasure of life that we enjoyed at that time has more value than all the pleasures that are accessible to us today. The favorite example for Padma and I is the two bottles of soft drink (Duke lemonade -330 ml and Gold Spot 200 ml) that would be mixed together and shared by four of us (along with our children Devi and Anand) at Kurla Station – Platform number 2-when returning to our then residence at Dombivali ( a distant suburb of Mumbai).
I am not sure whether Duke’s Lemonade and Gold Spot are still available and if so whether we would enjoy it as we did then.
The second perspective is what in accounting terms is called “materiality”. The logic is somewhat like this. I have reached this far after lot of sacrifice and hard work. If I need to retain this position, I need to work hard and harder. Otherwise Amar will overtake me and I will report to him. (Maybe, he will insist that I call him ‘sir’.) The next “Band” (not the band bajaa, but the next higher level) gets me a larger car. My spouse can smile loftily at Pammi and Sheila when whizzing through the Parking Lot of our multi storey building. The tuition fee for Raj’s IIT Classes is quite high.
This logic goes on the “materiality” track- meaning each of these items by itself is vital to our present existence. In short, we are sacrificing the present for a better but distant future.
The third perspective is I slow down. I do not want the next level of promotion. We find this in nationalized banks where any motion or promotion is accompanied by transfer to far off places. I am happy where I am and value where I am today as distinguished from where I could be tomorrow. There is a certainty around my existence. I will mostly catch the 6.34 p.m. slow from Churchgate (suburban train service in Mumbai) and be home by 8.00 p.m latest. Let Amar transit from this orbit to the next. I will call him ‘Sir’ if so compelled. I will teach Raj Maths and Physics and my wife will coach him languages and Geography, so that his percentages do not fall.
These are images or views which are around us. The question is at what stage do we step back and look at ourselves and the life we lead from an external perspective. Which segment of our life needs larger focus?
In the Indian context how does any individual – who is self made and has a growing family and responsibilities- decide ‘this far and no further’? Is it being overly ambitious to pursue dreams fostered over a long time and sacrifice a seemingly bit portion of ourselves and our life for such a goal? Or is it more important to be around to share the joys and lend support when needed to those whose world revolves around you. More importantly, do we realize or have knowledge of what we would like to do- given an opportunity, unlimited time and perhaps be beyond needs?
After working for nearly four decades, I am not very sure whether in order to head a particular department or division, should an individual give up certain other priorities in personal life? (Marriage, progeny, holidays, accepting transfer and staying away from family for more than one or two years etc.). These are instances I read in papers and magazines.
Is it worth staying back in Office beyond midnight for a presentation to be made by one’s boss the next day? Ten days back, I received replies from a law firm for queries I had raised – sent at 12.42 a.m, 3.20 a.m. I wonder what kind of pressure would drive a person to work at these hours and what would be the after/side effects.
I started my adult life with the objective of earning a living. The emphasis was on living and I needed to earn to live. Now I am not sure which is important. We can earn only if we are alive and in order to be alive we do a lot of things- consume food without relishing or enjoying, avoid all physical activities which would refresh body and mind, sit in artificially lit rooms rather than allow natural light to brighten our offices, do not develop healthy personal relationships which should exist because we just like the other person- instead think colleagues in our office are a substitute for this purpose and so on.
Anand and Devi keep asking me what is it that I enjoy the most or what is it that I have reserved for myself as an individual- reading, writing, music, photography or travelling. I must confess that these are pleasures enjoyed in passing. Life still revolves around the pressure cooker existence of earning or making a living.
This life should change. While gainful employment is vital to human dignity and self respect, it cannot become an all consuming passion- as it has developed or become today. It is only a means to an end or objective. The “objective” portion seems to be missing.
What would you like to do? Close your eyes, imagine the most tranquil place you have visited or at least seen photographs of- hills, valleys, rivers, mist ridden plateau with flowers blooming all around, pristine beach in which you are alone with …… and think of what you would do if given such an opportunity. Or, if Kerala or Sikkim State Lottery befalls your ticket and you do not have to work to earn a living (you can say “I hate you” to lot of obnoxious colleagues and of course bosses), what would you do?
What will I do? I will make a power point giving several alternatives, book a conference room, and ask my office to order sandwiches, fix an appointment. Oh no. This is a personal achievement; I cannot do a PPT to Padma, Devi, Anand and Priya. Instead, I will join a Communication Course and learn how to convey innermost thoughts to those who really matter.