Tag Archives: Thirty

Movie: Turning Thirty

I saw the movie yesterday, five days after it was released and at the unlikely time of 3:30 p.m. It felt sort of appropriate considering that the movie seemed to showcase the absolute freedom of the urban Indian woman.

The movie was strictly okay. The songs made me cringe, especially the one just following the opening scene with its done-over-to-the-point-of-nausea ‘couple in a convertible’ picturisation. It also felt a little too Sex and the City in a desi setting. And yet, I didn’t walk out of the theatre. I guess, it’s not the kind of movie I’d take someone on a date to, not one that I’d want to watch with my parents and not one I’d arrange a weekend plan around. But it is the kind of movie that I wouldn’t mind catching on an unexpected free weekday afternoon, by myself just like I did.

I don’t think the problem was the story itself, even if I did overhear a guy tell another, “It should have had a board saying Only For High Profile Women”. That just strikes me as typical Indian male horse-blinkeredness. We do drink and cuss. We are ambitious, ruthless, confused and non-comittal. And yes, casual sex, sex-without-feelings, revenge sex, premarital sex, illicit sex, gay sex…all of these things and more are a realistic part of our lives. Maybe this describes only one kind of Indian woman but that kind definitely exists, and not just in the high society pages.

But I thought the dialogues and the acting left much to be desired. It wasn’t like anybody was wooden. But the theme was fairly complex and new in the purview of Indian cinema. None of the actors really seemed convincing. They just looked…awkward. Except for Tilottama Shome (remember Alice from Monsoon Wedding?) who I thought carried every moment of even her very limited footage with ease.

Something struck me only towards the end and I don’t know if the makers even intended this. Naina, the protagonist faces the standard issues that one would expect from this movie – break-up, heartbreak, parental pressure to get married, societal perceptions towards ageing. But the one subtle issue that underlies the story and the only one that really satisfactorily reaches resolution, both in the situation and in her mind, is her career.

It got me thinking. The world has always struggled with integrating women and ambition. The generation before ours had jobs and within overwhelming barriers like lower pay, stereotyped roles and automatic prioritizing of family over career. My generation has careers but still within standard norms of what will impress the marriage market, what will be conducive to the partner’s own career and eventually, motherhood. Even today, it’s hard for us to admit that we worry about our jobs, employability and career path as much as, if not more than the way our relationships are going.

The boy often points out how hard and cynical I am about many things about my past. It stands out that he seems a tad more understanding about my bitterness over failed relationships than he does about my dashed hopes at the workplace. But maybe that’s not the typical male dismissal of my ambition, as I’d like to think. It is possible, just a wee bit at least, that I’m more bothered by the lows of my career than my love life.

This is not to say that I’ve loved any less or that my relationships mattered less to me than my career. But when I look back, I’ve more or less made my peace with the relationship failures, even the ones that were disasters. I’ve been able to do so by finally accepting that people, emotions and relationships are uncontrollable and that there’s no logic or rules or framework to follow. They happen and if they happen well, I count myself as lucky.

Career on the other hand, seems a lot more logical and structured, which means my expectations are nearly higher. Pettiness, politicking, theft, sabotage are each more difficult to forgive (and impossible to forget) when it comes to my workplace. And whether this is actually true or not, my expectations are still that I’d be able to right such wrongs or seek justice in some manner, when it pertains to work-related issues.

The same obviously doesn’t hold for relationships. Leading someone on, cheating, stealing another woman’s boyfriend and lying are not crimes punishable by law. And hence, my only hope for resolution is to accept and move on.

I’m heartened to note that popular culture (even it if is a somewhat offbeat movie like this one) portraying such issues. Pop culture does reflect how we are, how we think and how we behave, after all.

My favorite words in the movie were in the very last scene.

“Turning thirty is something I learnt to accept and appreciate only after I turned thirty-one.”

That means a helluva lot more than I can say. I’m tiptoeing towards the end of my 31 and I’m still learning to articulate what the big three-O has brought into my life.

Reverb 10.10: Waiting For Wisdom

Another somewhat uninspiring Reverb 10 prompt but that may just be because I write so much about this already in my blog. So here goes:

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

(Author: Susannah Conway)

This has been a year (and a little more) of reflections and insights. I had a windfall of wisdom due to me, after the decade I spent chasing all manner of unwise things. I don’t know if I’ve collected all but I’m still making sense of much of them. Wisdom seems to me like the juice of ripe fruits. The orchard spans acres and acres and I haven’t even finished on the first tree. The feasting has begun but there’s much wisdom juice to still be sucked out. Let me just instead, list some of the wisdom-rich experiences of the past year.

I’m not counting the experience of turning thirty and quitting my job and starting my book. Yes, all of that is slightly stereotyped early mid-life crisis like, isn’t it? Those experiences are already being chronicled in The Thirty Diaries.

Last year, I participated in an online study that examined the trend of people quitting their regular jobs to pursue other lines for various reasons. My participation required me to write an essay type answer each day, to various soul-searching, thought-provoking questions that the group posed to me. The questions explored my notions of success and motivation as also my life lessons and my future plans. What I discovered for myself, was that I had spent a decade and more aspiring to (and with reasonable success, living up to) a common perception of success, as it was held by my family and friends. The big change in my life at thirty was less about quitting one track and more about deciding to figure out success for myself – what it is, how to measure it and how to get going on it.

The novel was begun last year but that was more of a task. It really became a soul exercise only this year when it hit me that fiction or otherwise, this was something I was creating from myself. The emotions, the ideologies, the characters and their stories, these were all things I shaped from the raw material of my own life experiences. While my novel is not autobiographical and none of my characters are based on me, their world and them is built from the clay and bricks of my own dreams and feelings and relationships. Writing about them is quite literally like building. For that, I have to go into the storehouse of my own emotion every single time. And what I find there, is not always to my expectation, let alone liking. There are wells over wells of forgotten feelings and repressed emotions that emerge with every soul-digging enterprise. When I write about a fifteen-year-old’s struggle to fit, it irrevocably takes me back to my own awkward adolescence and forces me to face what I thought and felt and believed, back then. The mind is storehouse of every single thing you’ve said and done and felt and in so many ways, you are better off not going there. Writing is signing away the safety valve of forgetfulness that life gives us. My madness is let loose. And yet, I wouldn’t stop it, if I could. Maybe there will be some wisdom in this unabashed tidal wave.

And finally there is the relationship. I’ve been writing about dating and the opposite sex and relationships for a long time now. But actually living it is a whole new experience. What’s more, the last time I was in a real relationship, I was a different person. The very act of being with someone is stepping over into a different world and being a different person. You are never quite the same again, even after the relationship ends. Building something with another person, just adjusting to another person’s world is causing the foundations of my own careful, precise, cleanly-ordered world to crack and crumble. It’s not comfortable, in the least. But this time, I can feel me growing, quite literally. Wisdom, I await you with humble arms, wide open.

A New Life

My phone buzzed with a message. It was from a classmate who had once been a friend and then done something that made me not want to be friends with him again. He said he was sorry, asked how I was doing and said he was missing true friends. I replied,

I know the feeling. It’s early mid-life crisis. We’re all going through it after the disillusionment of the 20s, so don’t worry.

When I replied, he sounded so happy that I felt bad I hadn’t done so earlier. I sat back and thought about what I was saying.

I started the 30 diaries a few months before I actually hit the big figure. A month before my 3oth, I quit the job I’d spent ten years studying and working hard, toward. And more than a year later, I still don’t know where things are going. But I’m happy, I think.

I spent a long time wanting a lot of things, very much. But I don’t really think I regret that anymore. I’ll never trade the sense of achievement I got from the highs of my career. I wouldn’t exchange the confidence I built brick by brick. And it would be unrealistic to want to hold onto these things but not the things that made them possible.

Yesterday, in a conversation that has nothing to do with this, it suddenly struck me. I had some bad stuff happen to me and it messed up my head for sometime. But those people are not connected to me by anything but the memories. Even the scars have fallen and I don’t have to punish myself by holding on to them anymore. It wasn’t my fault they were bad people (or bad actions). And that’s all that needs to be said.

I think the 20s are a maniac’s dream. Everything is available and possible. There is a slightly unrealistic shine on everything and it takes a few knocks before you realize that shiny reality is hard and uncomfortable as well. I look at my life and then all around me. There’s divorce and heart disease and death and suicide and career failure and drug abuse and eating disorders and financial crises and abortions and deadend jobs. There are also reunions and catching up with people who were close an eon ago. There are healthy diets and cutting back and exercise regimes. There is budgeting and tax planning. A decade ago, that would have sounded like boredom/settling down/old age to me but now it sounds like a new life.

Coming back, when I read this message today, I realised something. I’d become harsh and unforgiving on the world because I couldn’t cope with the insides of me feeling broken and jagged. So I turned judgemental on myself and the world. I don’t know if it is age or healing or both but I don’t feel quite so raw anymore. And it makes me think, people make mistakes. Sometimes they get lost. It happened to me and heaven  alone knows how many bad things I set in motion for other people, as a result.

It just hit me, the profoundity of the adage, “Shit Happens”. If you’re lucky, you have a chance to regret it. I say lucky, because if you realise what a mistake you’ve made, you just might be in a position to remedy someone else’s mistake. Or not; maybe you’ll just cope better the next time. There is nothing to be done about that. Except to inhale and hope that the next breath will be better.

We chatted a bit and he said he had wanted to be a blazing success but it felt so lonely at the end. I remembered that feeling too and told him I didn’t spend enough of time on the things that I now know as important. He asked what those were and I said,

Love. Friendship. Family. Good health. A body that works without medication. Food in my stomach even before I’m hungry. The safety to walk on the roads by myself.

He smiled, saying that was like a true MBA. So I replied with another smiley and said,

That’s just one more thing on my resume now, not my identity.

🙂 And what is my identity now? Who knows? I have a new life out there to discover and shape it now.

The Sabbatical

Since I quit my job a little over six months ago, the one question I keep getting asked is,

So what are you doing these days?

Interesting isn’t it, how one’s career defines one’s life? At one point of time I used to resent the fact that my I was being forcibly defined by my relationship status. Now…I guess I can’t complain. It is after all, far better to be defined by what I am or am not doing rather than who I’m associated with and how.

So let’s see. I started off on the ‘sabbatical’ (and that’s in quotes for a reason. Say it in a sardonic tone). I had a stock answer ready for anyone who wanted to question my desicion and it was this,

I want to do things I haven’t had the time for all these years.

Have I done that? Well, some at least. I’ve painted the city walls (twice), started a novel, visited three different cities, appeared on TV, attended 4 weddings, 3 music gigs and an uncounted number of literary events. I have also had coffee, lunch, dinner and a lot in between with several people I haven’t had the time to meet, even though we stay in the same city and have, for years. And I even had time to accumulate a few new vices, unfashionable ones at that – Zynga Games, not to mention the compulsive Facebooking which resulted in the revival of a few friendships.

I’m exploring religion again (the last time I did this was when I was 17). And yes, quite wonderfully, I have been cooking! Now this is cliched I know. Leaving the daily rigours of a ‘typical’ life of someone of my age and background, a combination of sanyas and retirement to do these things. And so what? Ambition was learnt too early. No one told us that the killer instinct was a suicidal drug that would lead to burnout eventually. The highs came early as did the achievements. Okay, so I retired at 30. I retired from one kind of life.

I’m discovering another side of myself. The one other than that driven Alpha Female self. The one that is inherently lax underneath the compulsive time-scheduler. The one that lets time and dates slide by and has been hiding behind freakish list-making behaviour. The one that laughs with a striking, unfashionable suddenness at puns and other bad jokes. I like it.

Cooking is something I’ve always thought I detested. It turns out I don’t. The only thing I resented is the feeling that I’d never live up to my mum who is a fantastic cook. What’s more, it’s hardly ‘the thing’ for someone like me to do, is it? But well, the concept of me is very fluid at the moment (as Doctor Love a.k.a. Will Smith says in Hitch). What’s more, left to my own devices (and pun completely intended), I find there is no mean satisfaction in turning out something palatable, attractive and delicious.

Here are two complete meals I made on seperate occasions. The first was when I had a close friend over with her husband for the first time. I made Greek salad, spaghetti in Arrabiata sauce and pasta in Pesto.

Greek salad

Spaghetti in Arrabiata sauce

Pasta in pesto

I was delighted to note that the meal was received well and amazed that it surpassed even mum’s famous dahi-vada which was also part of the spread.

The second was yesterday. Mum’s not in town so this is a meal for dad and me. It has to be tasty (to suit me), devoid of oil, tuvar daal and masala (to match dad’s dietary restrictions), vegetarian (to pass mum’s regulations of her kitchen). I made Morkozhambu (that’s a sort of sambhar made with curd and moong daal instead of tuvar daal), brinjal kootu (a gravy preparation) and potato curry to be had with rice and ghee.

Morkozhambu

Brinjal kootu

Potato curry

Rice and ghee

I’m happy to say that when I came home late, dad had gone to bed but left a note on the table. It said,

Fabulous dinner! 🙂

Me a homemaker and a cook? Well, what do you know? These two incidents gave me as much satisfaction as getting promoted and the foreign conferences. In a different sort of way.

Last year, I had hit a certain point in my life where I felt I had so little to look forward to. Things had become routine, challenges had become annoying rather than interesting. If this break gave me nothing more than a peek into all the other things that I could be, the whole universe outside my career-woman cocoon, it has been worth every second of it.

The 30 Diaries

I started the 30 diaries three months back because I couldn’t wait for the answers that I hoped would come to me with the big Three-O. I turned thirty yesterday and guess what? There are answers. Just waiting for the right questions to be answered. Just like 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. It’s difficult to explain without sounding weird and really, why bother?

I feel good. I don’t think 29 was ever an age I was at. It was just a period of waiting to be 30 and now that 30 is here, it feels like I’ve been here for a long time now.

I’ve had friends saying things like ‘Life begins at thirty’ and ’30 is the new 20′. Well, I wouldn’t know and for a fact, many of them aren’t 30 so how would they know? Funny, no?

All I can see that it is considered a big birthday, the way ten, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one are. Thirty in comparison, doesn’t bring you any additional powers or rights that the aforementioned numbers do. Or perhaps it does but it isn’t determined by your parents or your hormones or the law.

Thirty is when you have been you for long enough (and perhaps a few other people too) and you can decide to go on being who you are or change if you like.

Thirty is when you realize that it isn’t about generation gaps or world crises or deprived childhoods or unhealthy lifestyles or abusive relationships or failed career decisions. Shit happens and that’s all it is about.

Thirty is when you’re a little older than the average age at a disco or a birthing class. You’re also a little younger than the typical age for mid-life crisis, death or depression. But you’re also lucky to still have your figure and just as fortunate to have had as many experiences as you have. Thirty is when the arithmetic goes out of the window and you realize that there are no patterns except the one your own life follows.

Thirty is resigning from being a time-accountant and collecting your feeling-pensions to get you started on whatever the rest of your life is going be about.

I was asked after one of the earlier posts whether I was happy with the way life has turned out. I am okay with my body, my family, my talents, my deficiencies and my career. I have a few issues but none that overwhelm me. I am really okay with everyone who has been a part of my life, the good and the bad. And thirty, that’s okay too. In fact, the next ten years look like a lot of fun, compared to the twenties. That’s peace of mind and hope both in one. If that isn’t the definition of happiness, I don’t know what is.

Thirty is just an number but a lovely one it is.

The song that’s playing on my list and in my head right now is Yehi Meri Zindagi Hai. Happy birthday to me. 🙂

Things It Never Occurred To Me To Wish For

I’ve already established that my life hasn’t gone according the gameplan. But there’s plenty that I never even accounted for in the plan, that did happen. So much that it never even occurred to me to think of or wish for, that actually happened to me along the way.

~o~o~o~o~o~

I met a girl in junior college. She was smart and beautiful. I thought she liked me too but I didn’t know why and I was never sure of it anyway. Then we had a fight and didn’t talk to each other for a long time. I got to know her again, the year I was preparing for the b-school entrances. Then as luck would have it, we fought again and parted ways. And quirky as ever (Lady luck, such a cat, such a dotty old bat) we ended up within a single point of each other in the thousands of people who’d taken the admission test. We went to the same college, we saw a lot more of each other, before I knew it we were bonding. At the end of those tumultous two years, she was the only one standing next to me, propping up my mortal remains. My best friend, my soul-sister, my prize for having endured all those other painful relationships. I am so blessed to have her in my life.

~o~o~o~o~o~

My earliest memory of writing is age 4,  penning (okay, pencilling at that age) a song about a bus, using an upright soap box for inspiration. I contributed to the college magazine, two years in a row, that brought me the sweet appreciation of a teacher whose classes I’d never attended, only because she was also the magazine editor. She gifted me ‘The Little Prince’, one of my most treasured possessions. My teenage years were marked with angsty, angry and secret writing that was abruptly snuffed and revived (my version of self-mutilation). And then there was the blog. And another. Comments. Links. Emails. Friendship. Blogger-meets. Group-blogs. Editorship. Media mentions. An audience. A space to call my own. A world of my own.

~o~o~o~o~o~

The relationship was the turning point in my life and I can clearly see my life as pre- and post- that experience. All along I had been fed the idea of independence, of liberatedness and of not needing a man to be happy. But it was only after going through that nightmare did I truly experience that understanding, in my very bones. For months afterward, I was jolted awake by a new emotion – immense, overwhelming gratitude. I couldn’t believe just how lucky I was, what a narrow escape I had had that I had not ended up married – or worse, pregnant – with him. I really felt like I had been granted a reprieve in life. And that feeling slowly evaporated, giving way to hardness, an unshakeable faith that I would rather be alone than go through that again. I remember reading Gone With The Wind, a gift from my favorite cousin, in which she had inscribed,

This is not a book about love or the war. It’s about never giving up.

It was my personal Tara moment, when I promised myself that I’d never cry over a man again.

I don’t know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. It is a fact that I’ve never had a real, lasting relationship since then. I’ve also never been broken or defeated since then. I’ve lost the desire, the aching need to belong to someone and with it, I’ve also relinquished trust in men and caring about their opinions. Yes, I’ve been alone for over six years now (relationship status independent). I’d be lying if I said I was never lonely. Far from it, I’m lonely more often than I like but each time I am, I just have to think back to this time and I know I don’t regret my desicions.

~o~o~o~o~o~

My state of mind has spread to every other aspect of my life too. I used to be the girl who always wrote postcards on vacation, called up people and asked, “Why don’t you ever call me?”. In these past few years, I can’t remember the last conversation I’ve had to initiate, the last time I’ve chased after anyone for affection or friendship. I am not necessarily proud of it and I really admire the people in my life who are there solely on the basis of their effort and very little of mine, often forgetting that I used to be them a short few years back. But I’ve just gone too far into walking alone and the ability to reach out which comes from a need to bond with other people closely has just been burned right out of my being.

My career and everything else I do has changed too. I never thought of myself as an ambitious person; not me, the back-bencher, the almost-dropout. But in the past few years I’ve found myself with so much of time and energy and a desire to burn it away as fast as possible so I have no time to get into messes. It seems to be showing results. I’m doing well in everything that I’ve taken up since then, my work, my hobbies and my activities. I still can’t get used to it though. After having been branded a loser with no future, I seem to have grown a Midas touch. It’s scary.

~o~o~o~o~o~

I can’t change the fact that I am a passionate, fiery person. So all I’ve done is unconsciously divert all my energy from personal relationships into my activities. It can’t be all bad and it keeps me engaged and brings me a lot of attention and respect, something I never would have thought would be mine in such magnitude.

In sum, I had a vague idea that I’d be ‘happy’ in ten years time. I don’t have a straight answer to whether I am or not. But I also never thought to wish for independence, admiration and success and they seem to have fallen into my lap, quite inadvertently. Ah well…life, that crazy old bat, be careful if she invites you around to tea. There’s no telling what she’ll put into it.

A Grey Hair Or Two

DI found my first grey hair last month. I started screaming. I don’t know what surprised me more, the grey hair or my reaction to it. I always thought I’d age gracefully. I always imagined that I wasn’t vain. I guess I had also assumed that I would be doing all this because I didn’t expect to grey early.

Let me explain. I wasn’t a pretty kid; buck teeth, acne and a figure resembling Olive Oyl…oh, forget it. The one thing that I did have was nice hair – straight, silky and a glossy black. I figured I had inherited just the right set of genes for a change from parents who started greying quite late. Puberty and those magicians called orthodontists took care of the aforementioned issues but your first impressions of yourself tend to stay. Inside my head I was always the gangly girl with bad skin and great hair.

Hair, my lovely hair has been my crowning glory especially these past few years as I learnt to ‘maximise my assets’. It curls easily, it waves well, it bounces, it rebonds smoothly, it colours nicely and it always looks good. I’ve sported dozens of different hairstyles in the past ten years, everything from shaggy bangs to fringes, asymmetrical bobs, flips, almost-crew cut, sheet-over-my-shoulders and what not. My hair is a statement of my personality – versatile and free-spirited.

Most of all, watching my parents look good and better, year after year, I assumed I’d follow their footsteps. But here I am not even thirty yet and I’m turning grey!!! Life is not fair. 😦

It was late evening when I started inspecting those suspiciously coloured specks in the front locks of my hair. My mother suggested that the light was just catching on the gloss of my hair and I may have even bought that. But masochist that I am, I brushed my hair thoroughly and finally unearthed a completely unapologetic long strand, entirely grey in colour. Not even a nice silvery grey or even a smooth white, just a dull grey.

Last week at my hairdressers’, I explained my tail of woe about the grey attack. My mind-reader/stylist paused mid-brush and said,

Actually its not one strand, there are two. You are not the only one.

I knew he would say that so I wailed,

But the others have premature greying in their blood!! Or they don’t take care of their hair! I’ve always been good to mine!

He shrugged and asked,

So what do you want to do about it? Colour? Tint? Hightlight? Treatment?

And suddenly I knew I didn’t have to think to say,

No. Let it be as it is.

I guess I just realised that my hair was always at its best when it wasn’t fussed over (just like me) and there was no reason to start now. Greydom, I’m just going to have to make room for you in my life.

Maybe I’m allowing myself the comfort of believing that it is stress-related and that I may have some control over the process by cutting out stress. Maybe I’m afraid it will just get worse. Maybe I’m ashamed of being so vain. Or maybe, just maybe I’m going to age gracefully. 🙂

Wish me luck, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I know that now.

Not According To Plan

I wasn’t a cool kid. I wasn’t a hip teenager. I was perpetually confused, secretly angsty and with no Lakshya. I had no life. But I had a plan. A decade later I look back and wonder, How ever did things turn out so differently?!

Here’s how.

I dropped out of college for a year so ended up graduating a year late. Still, I thought I’d make up for it with extra effort in that last year. I almost made it. I missed getting into the b-school of my choice by 2 points.

I also managed to get my heart broken and shattered to smirtheens (some of the shards have still not been recovered) by the person unlikeliest to hurt me – my best friend. The worst bit was that I had resisted him for years, knowing all along that it would ‘only end in tears’. It did and knowing that beforehand didn’t make it any easier to deal with.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I still had a plan and at that time I couldn’t think fast enough to change. So I decided to give it one more shot and just revise my schedules by a year or two. Everyone advised me to not spend that year sitting at home and studying. So I got a job. My first job changed my life in unimaginable ways.

First and foremost when I fixated on MBA, I decided that with my innate interest in human behaviour (I used to cut physics classes to sit in on the psychology courses or reading popular theories on human interactions)…human resources would be the place for me. In the seven months that I worked for a marketing agency, I realised that my interest and my skills lay quite elsewhere and thus came the first change in my gameplan. I switched my preference from H.R. to Marketing. It’s a change I’ve always been grateful for. I think I’d have been miserable as an HR professional.

Secondly I was working (still driven insanely by a desire to prove myself and leave the failed year far behind) and preparing for the entrance exams together. In that very fine balance, I somehow tipped over into work and at the end of the year I was even further from that prized college admission than I was a year back.

So I squared my shoulders and decided a change was in order. I reasoned that it did not make sense to spend more than 2 years preparing for a course that lasted 2 years (no matter how prized the degree/diploma may be). It was the first ever big desicion of my life and I remember it clicking into place practically overnight. I brooked no arguments from family and friends (all eager to see me follow in the footsteps of my high-achiever cousins) and (quite surprising to me) no one asked me to consider changing my mind. I had never thought of myself as a desicive person and it was odd, how right that felt.

So I started my post-graduate program at 22 instead of 20. I was still keen to stick to the plan.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I never anticipated the dot-com crash, the twin towers falling and the economy dipping so bad that there were no jobs available when I finally finished b-school at 24. I also did not think (not in my wildest dreams) that I, of all people, would fall into an abusive, destructive relationship. These two things are inextrobly linked in my mind as the causes of the most tumultous phase in the last decade of my life. At 24, I was drained out of every drop of my hopeful, cheerful, inspired energy.

On one hand, it was a stomach-twisting experience to scrounge for jobs (when I’d got my first one with practically zero effort) after an MBA (and I thought it would actually enhance my prospects) and when I did get offers, it was for half of what I had earned as a fresh graduate. On the other hand there was the acrid, heart-burning sense of humiliation during the relationship and the residual low self-esteem and hopelessness after it ended. I felt like every single positive emotion of love, joy, happiness and hope had been wrung out of me and stomped to death. All that was left was an empty shell of a human being with nothing at all to look forward to.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I finally got a job six months after the b-school graduation. It was an triumph and an angry triumph. Not a happy celebration but an ‘up-yours’ answer to the placement cell I had walked out of (on a matter of principle, such pride I had in my beliefs in those days), the classmates who’d borrowed my notes for two years and then refused to acknowledge me at the farewell meet because I didn’t have a job and everyone else who’d written me off as a failure.

I also found a man, not the love of my life, not a steady relationship but the love that healed me. The difference is the same as that between a nourishing, hot meal and a life-saving drug. He salvaged what was left of me, the real me, the one that could feel..and for that I will forever be grateful to him. But I did not fall in love with him or find that elusive soulmate connection in our relationship.

That experience blurred my definitions of love and relationships. Timing stopped being a part of it after that.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

At the end of that year, I realised that it was a miserable job, one I hated and that drained me of whatever little joy I was managing to dredge up everyday. In the second no-two-ways-about-it desicion of my life, I quit my job and career, indefinitely. It was the biggest and best desicion of my life. My parents asked me when I was planning to go back to work and I replied,

Maybe never.

I’m sure that didn’t make them very happy but I was all out of the make-other-people happy ingredient. I’m proud to say that I continued to pay my own bills and didn’t even need to cut down on expenses in those paycheck-less months. I’m also happy at the memory of the next alumni meet I went to, where the same bunch of people who’d followed me through college, ignored me at farewell, sucked up to me again as soon as I got a good job, finally had no clue how to react. One of them said,

You’re on a break? Wow, lucky yaar. I wish I could do that.

I replied,

Why don’t you? Have you taken any loans? Are you married or supporting someone else? Haven’t you saved anything from the past two years?

Once again, that ‘up-yours’ feeling but laced with a little less bitterness. I don’t know if I was growing up but I think I was definitely starting to be a little less intense about other people’s reactions. Not forgiving of them, (oh not yet) but at least accepting that some people would be jerks and cowards and miserable louses.

I think I did put the 5 months to good use. I wrote a lot. I took long walks on the beach by myself. I fell in love once and let him go, with complete peace and not a leaf of anger or injury. I learnt to read the tarot and even wrote a blog about my spiritual experiments. I blogged and discovered that I had a captive audience.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Then I woke up one Thursday morning and said to my mother,

Today I’m going to get a job.

And it really was as simple as that. I drafted my resume and mailed it out. In less than 24 hours, I had a call lined up. I trekked across the city for a written test, stayed back for an interview and was offered a job before I even got home. By Tuesday next, I had accepted and was poised to start my new job in 10 days.

In those ten days, I finally actualised something I had dreamt of since I was 18. I got a tattoo (which went on to become my personal symbol and logo). On the same day, I watched the love of my life get engaged to someone else. That week, I severed the longest, most poignant (and poisonous) relationship of my life and walked away, vowing not to shed another tear for him.

I was 26.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

So much has happened in the 3-odd years from that time. The only thing that’s been constant (apart from change, as the Gita would remind us) has been the company I work for. I’ve been promoted twice, had 3 bosses, changed office locations twice and made an internal transfer. I still don’t know if I’m ‘someone important in the workforce’ as I’d hoped but I can reasonably entertain such illusions.

I still love kids and continue to hold out for the dream that I’ll be a mother some day. Maybe I’ll adopt, maybe I’ll get a donor. Or maybe my plan will just shift by oh, about a decade. 🙂

The Gameplan (The Perfect Life)

One of my landmark conversations with my boss started off with,

I have a plan.

He smiled and said,

I’m always glad to hear that. Let’s hear it.

And in that moment I knew he had assessed me (right) before I’d assessed myself and he liked what he saw. I like it too. I like being prepared, I like making lists. I always have a plan.

Of course I would have a game-plan for life. It got formulated somewhere in my late teens and pretty well fell into shape as I eased out of them, so let’s say for convenience that the plan is about a decade old now, shall we? Here’s what I planned my life would look like –

20 yrs – Graduate. I was put into school a year early so this wasn’t really an unrealistic goal. Next step: get into one of the big b-schools

22 yrs – Complete education (finally!) and start working.

23/24 yrs – Get married to an intelligent, loving, sensible man (preferably a few years older than me) and be a part of a cool, smart, urban couple. Have great sex, read together, enjoy music together, lounge around Sundays in kurtas and jeans.

26 yrs – Have baby no.1. Having spent at least a year enjoying the marital relationship before comitting to parenthood. Maternity leave to be spent exploring art and music since presumably working life wouldn’t allow for it.

29/30 yrs – Have baby no.2. Preferably of opposite sex as baby no.1 (one of each). Three year gap is recommended for healthy sibling relationships. I definitely want to have more than one child. Having been an only child myself, I wouldn’t want my kid to grow up without siblings. Maternity leave no.2 activities to be a continuation or alternate to maternity leave no.1

30 yrs – Take a sabbatical to spend time with children and re-assess career. By this time, I expected to have worked for about 8 years and be an ‘important’ person in the workforce. Probably work from home.

32 yrs – Back to work. Kids in school and pre-school respectively.

45 yrs – Quit career. Kid no.1 is 19 yrs old and kid no.2 is 16. Write a book.

47 yrs – Both kids are legal adults now and presumably able to fend for selves. Husband should have had as much sex, affection, attention, energy as he could possibly want from me by now. Leave home and spend a year in a Buddhist monastry.

48 yrs – Return to everyday living/stay in the monastry/who knows? I figured that by this time I’d know what I really wanted to do with my life and would have checked off all the necessary expectations so people would leave me alone to live my life as I wanted.

Career success – check
Financial stability – check
Artistic fulfilment (music, art, writing) – check
Marriage – check
Motherhood – check

I still think it was a damn good, if somewhat ambitious plan. What a lovely life it would have been if it had gone that way!

%d bloggers like this: