Look Up!

When there is one black speck on a white wall, it seems like the dirtiest thing there ever can be. Most times that is how we look at our lives- how messy and hopeless they are and how everybody else has an amazing life that we can never match up to.

Not very long ago, I was in a phase where all the work I had done the past year was crumbling down. Businesses that were acquired had to be turned away and I was feeling like a failure. More than the impact it had on me, it was having to break the news to clients that was more heart wrenching. It was a breach of trust and I was helpless as the decision was not made by me. And to top it all, I was planning my wedding and getting things sorted.

It was one of those days when you haven’t had enough sleep because you have been worrying all night, when you realise there is a huge pile of cards waiting to be given out but you are in no mental frame of mind to go out an invite folks because you are a mess inside your head. So instead I go over to the (then) fiance’s best friend’s store to get my blouses sorted. There is always a pressure when you meet the boy’s lady friends, in my opinion. For instance, if my best guy friend is getting married, the girl would sure as hell be judged by the clothes she wears, the books she reads and the way she speaks. I was mentally imagining getting the same treatment myself every time I met his girlfriends, and that day was no different. There had always been a glass wall between us (in my imagination) and I was wondering if it would ever shatter. But around this time, I had too many things to worry about, so I was trying not to let this bother me too much.

So here I was, worried about clients and targets and forlornly trying on my wedding blouses (which I must admit, had come out very well and were actually cheering me up) and was done in under 30 mins. However, something made me sit back and chat. And that was one of the most uplifting conversations and heartwarming I have ever had. As I spilled my heart about how unfair work was, she rewound back a few years when everything had gone against her. Consider this- she had a fall and had crushed her spine and was bed ridden for months, her business came close to shutting down with the workers having walked out, she went through some awful personal trauma- the final beating was losing her dad. All this in one year. And there was a little voice in the back of my head saying, ‘so YOU thought your life was unfair?!’

Then she spoke about how she moved on, how she recuperated, how she got a loan and bought her first machine (after the old team had walked out with all her machines) and how she sprang back; how she waited and waited for the right master to come by, how he stitched her a kurti which fit her to a T without as much as taking her measurements, how she built her team up and how she bounced back, bigger and better than before. Today she is one of the best tailors in the city and there is not one person I know who hasn’t stitched with her and has nothing but nice words about her work.

Sometimes, all you need is somebody else’s perspective. Sometimes nothing can soothe like somebody else’s story. Sometimes that is all you need to make you #lookupa look up story!

Start A New Life!

One’s first job will always remain special. I remember how my first job seemed just perfect for me those first few days after joining it- I loved it! As a fresh MBA graduate, I was also subject to the whole apply-and-get-rejected rigmarole of campus placements. Finally (actually it was after 3 rejects, I think) I got placed in one of the well-known IT companies  as a Management Trainee. The job seemed so apt then. Work was 40 minutes away, so I used to commute by train. Soon I made train friends, work friends, BU friends, Toastmasters friends, MGT batch friends, gym friends- of life was good! There were good bosses, the money was very good, and the increments were great- I had nothing to complain about.

Two years passed in a happy blur. The money kept coming, I was learning on the job, we were made to do a couple of certifications, regular cultural events and outings were keeping me busy. However, I don’t know when exactly it hit me, but gradually, I realized, I was dragging my feet to work. The tasks that I was asked to do, the ones that took me four or five hours to complete once, now took me minutes. Some, I could just complete with my eyes closed. Slowly, I realised that there was nothing challenging that I could immerse myself into because the current role that I was into had nothing more to teach me.

I started looking out for other openings within the same company. That was when I learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. The two years that I had spent happy-grasshopper-like in the company had been futile learning wise. I had thrown myself into so may extra-curricular activities and had made time to just about learn the tasks at hand that was keeping me afloat. I had done my domain certifications that made me an expert but that was weighing me down. Being a science and management graduate in an IT company came with its own glass ceiling. I was not very capable of coding- much as I tried. Simple vb and .net scripts were a massive effort to me.  I had no idea where my career was going, or if it was going in the right direction at all. I was not exactly satisfied at work, but the money kept me going. I had no idea what I was doing with my life- it was one of the lowest points of my career, simply because I was not tuned into it. But what laid the cover on the coffin was the year end appraisal.

It was ironic that after having gallivanted around for two years, I changed a new leaf in the third year. I was making every effort to study, learn and perform. I had put in long hours, worked my backside off and taken in on newer roles and responsibilities. But that year’s appraisal gave me a score lesser than what I had scored in my first two years. This was something I could not stomach. I am unsure how appraisals work- even now. But the only thing I knew was that what had happened was not fair at all. I vividly remember the Friday evening when I met with my super boss in Pune discussing my appraisal score, when I made my mind up. I spent Saturday and Sunday visualizing my resignation letter.  I reached work on Monday and typed my resignation out.

I had a loan to pay against my car, and I had an LIC premium that was getting debited monthly. I had an RD for Rs 10,000 that I needed to pay as well, and now, the realization that I might not have a job in three months’ time.

Till now, I have no idea how I braved the uncertainty of resigning with no plan in mind. I wanted to teach/train as I realised that I enjoyed that most (I had handled a couple of training sessions at the workplace) but had no idea how to start. I was not applying to random jobs because now I had a clear idea of what kind of job I wanted to spend my life doing- something that I was passionate about and something that made me wake up and look forward to going to work. One side of me was panicking at the prospect of not having any salary to take home every month end, but the other side was relishing the idea of this new, free life- one that was devoid of stress, tension and ambiguity.

Like they always say, when God closes one door, he opens another. Similarly, during one of my training related internet searches, with barely three weeks of notice period remaining, I landed on the BC website. Unintentionally I clicked on the vacancies link and there was a role that required an MBA- Marketing grad with three years of experience. It literally spelt my name out!

However, I had not taken an interview in years. I was apprehensive about applying itself in the first place (because I don’t take failure or rejection very well) Nonetheless, I had nothing to lose, so I just applied and forgot all about it. During the last few days in my previous company, I got an interview call. I was unsure how it went, but I guess it went pretty well because I was called for the next round of interview again. The moment I finished the interview, I knew I got the job.

Somebody very recently told me different people want different things out of their jobs. Some want the money, some want a fancy designation, and some others want a role that challenges them every single day of the job. Some people like me want all three. And that is what this job gives me- day in and out. To some people, a job is no big deal. It is just a cloak that they can change every few years. But to me, a job is something that is entwined with my life. I need to have a happy work life to enjoy my private life, else there is always the feeling that something is missing. And that is precisely what my new job gave me- a new life, and that was how I #StartANewLife

Together :) #Together

I had always been sceptical about ‘arranged’ marriages. I never understood how one could meet and live with a stranger- usually this is somebody who you got to know only for a couple of months, and then you get married, move in with him and share your bed with him. I had been putting the idea of marriage away for a few years, until I could no more. All my friends were getting married; I could no longer cling to the excuse that my career needed focus and I wasn’t seeing anybody anyway. From a different perspective, it felt akin to bungee jumping and I decided to let life take its course.

I will not go into the details, but after a lot or trials and errors, I finally did meet somebody. It was surprising how things fell in place- I can only describe him as the perfect piece that finished the jigsaw puzzle that my life was, and how incomplete it had remained without him all these years. The wedding loomed closer and we were panning it around the financial year end. I was being swamped with closing business targets. My invites were pending, my jewellery wasn’t done, I hadn’t managed a single visit to the spa and was looking like a dry leaf that might wither away any moment. I had some official travel lined up before the wedding and was losing a lot of time that I could have used for shopping or more important- sleeping.

The groom was equally busy, travelling on work himself- he had to make multiple week long trips to Calcutta. So every time I was in Chennai, he was away, and vice versa, and both of us were getting cranky with all the distance between us. Nothing can stop time, they say. So despite all the procrastinations, work overload and unanswered prayers for a few extra hours every day, the d-day was on our door step before we knew it.

And that was when I started panicking.

We had planned an evening reception on the 21 March and the wedding on the 22 of March. We had to leave home to the venue at 3 pm on the 21st , and all morning, I sat ashen faced, hyperventilating, wondering what I had gotten myself into. In the madness I even considered leaving a note and slipping away, runaway bride style. I told my brother this and he reminded me how much the wedding cost us and promised to cook me alive if I mentioned anything on these lines again. The groom himself was having a whale of a time with his friends who had flown down from other parts of the world, and here I was, burying my head under the ground (ie., the bed sheets) telling myself that this is exactly how my entire life would be- all work and no play, zilch freedom and what not.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. My girls kept reminding me to smile every few seconds as the beautician did her work on me, and my heart was pounding against my ribcage, imagining vivid scenarios that involved a rat trap that was called marriage and me painfully caught under its grip. Once we were ready, I was led downstairs to the stage.

We had searched high and low and had zeroed in on the venue- it was on the beach, set amidst beautiful lawns, the trees and bushes twinkling with fairy lights. The sight took my breath away. And unconsciously, frantically, I started looking for him in the crowd, until I found him waiting for me under the archway near the entrance.

There he stood, grinning away, his face shining with all the love in the world, looking at me like nobody ever did or would, ever. That moment, all the conversations that we had had over the past six months filled my head like warm gooey chocolate- all the fears we shared, the past that we swore to put away, the promises we made for the future, the house we were setting up to move into after the wedding, the heady kisses, those moments that were filled with uncontrollable laughter and those quiet, comfortable silences.. and before I knew it, all my doubts faded into oblivion. All the pressure of the past few weeks had eaten into my head and the notion that just a look could unshackle all the worries that plagued my head was enough to make me smile back like a 1000 watts bulb.

The evening was amazing. We only got tired smiling- our jaws ached so badly! In the end, however, I understood that it was never the idea of an arranged marriage that worried me; it was the worry of how comfortable I could be with my partner that did. Distance kills us, and we annoy one another to bits with our Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. His quiet, brooding nature is the perfect foil to my spontaneous quirkiness. But #together, we seem to make a fine balance. That still surprises me. But #together, everything is perfect. And that is all that matters.