Things we don’t talk about in sales

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If someone seeks advice on whether they should take up an opportunity which involves relocation away from their family, I will evaluate its merit purely on a professional basis. I will not even take into consideration how it will affect this person’s psyche, his relationships, his family etc etc.

In fact I have spent the last 15 days trying to convince people at different levels (third party sales executives, on roll sales executives, managers) to relocate away from their hometowns with or without their families. If you want to build a career in sales working in different geographies will always win you brownie points, add to your CV and skills and it is always better to do it earlier rather than later.

Most of my team’s family lives in a different city in a different state not in Western part of India. I know many people who have done it in the past and two of my colleagues shifted around the same time as me. Sure, we talk about it. We talk about how stretched we are financially, how difficult and frustrating it is. We also see some of our colleagues get everything on a platter and wonder why we have to do it the hard way. Then we cross our fingers and hope someday it will be worth it. Hope is what keeps us going.

But there are so many things we don’t talk about. We don’t talk about how it affects our marriage or how betrayed our spouse’s feel. Add children to the mix and it has it’s own complication.

I would never dream of mentioning going to bed in tears and waking up in tears for the initial few months.

(I just mentioned it. To strangers. Good job, Buls. So smart)

Staying at the gym till closing hours so I could drop dead once I reached the empty house.

Not being able to sleep a wink alone on the bed without a tranquil spray.

I won’t even skirt around the topic of sexual frustration. Let me leave some things to your imagination.

Eating dinner in the Uber pool because that was the only way I could eat dinner with people around.

Filling each minute of every Sunday with activities so I didn’t have to listen to the voices in my head.

Travelling like my life depended on it so I could stay out of Mumbai as much as possible.

Trying to deal with partner’s loneliness by pushing him away because I can deal with only one messed up head at a time and I will always choose my well being over anyone else’s.

I remember the first few days in the flat. I was unpacking alone. KC and his mom had helped move in and he had left for Gurgaon. I was putting up curtains but it was just so hard. I kept telling myself “I can’t do this again. Not again. I just can’t”. I messaged my friends and she called me immediately. I am sure everyone of us have been here. Have experienced this exact moment.

Everytime I was frustrated and unhappy in the job, I had to answer questions like “Are you sure this is worth it? Is it worth throwing away the life we created? Is it worth it? And if you are not even happy, why are you doing this?” I didn’t know. I had no answers. This is what you do. Maybe I have been brainwashed to consider difficult options as an opportunity. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be this hard. I am not geared to make easy choices in life.

There was a time when social media made the distance irrelevant and you could make up for the lack of face to face time with facebook or WhatsApp. That isn’t the case anymore. More and more we realize that social media can never replace a real person. My friendships suffered in both cities. People in Mumbai can never rely on me to be in the city for company when they are feeling lonely or want to hang out. People in Gurgaon knew I was stretched between fitting everything I wanted to do over a weekend. Atleast the friendships haven’t ended. Not yet, anyway. Am sure some of them felt betrayed but they have been very graceful about it. Like, I feel betrayed because a good friend is busy with his brand new kid and hectic job. I find it difficult to be gracious about it.

(I just admitted I resent a kid. How old am I?)

I am in Mumbai, a city I know so well. I got the opportunity to make amends to my parents and visit home every month. At my lowest point I could have gone to MIL’s house but thankfully, it never got so bad. I have the most amazing friends in the city. I probably have more friends in Mumbai than in Gurgaon. What if I was in an entirely new city? How much worse would it be.

But I know why I made the choice. I was bored. I wanted to get out of my comfortable life. When you have lived with someone for too long you forget where the other person ends and you start. I needed to get away and figure for myself what I wanted and listen to the voices in my head. I am not saying am closer to the answers or still know what I want but atleast am not afraid of the questions. And I know that whatever happens, I will be able to deal with it. I will be able to survive, no matter what happens in my personal or professional life.

So yeah, in a way, these 2 (almost) years of loneliness, travelling and living out a suitcase have been worth it.

Sort of.

I think.



Priviledged 20 year olds

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When I watched the movie Love You Zindagi, I wondered if Alia’s character was mentally ill or just badly behaved. Was she just someone who refused to grow up and become an adult? Because she didn’t seem to have any problems. She had fairly supportive parents, loving friends, talent, no financial issues, had enough men interested in her. Why was she unhappy instead of being grateful?. She sought help. Did SRK tell her anything that all of us have not realised through experiences? He turned her into an adult and when he was confident she had learned to deal with the world, he walked away.

The last part is where it disconnects from reality. People on therapy never get off therapy. How will the industry grow? Most therapists don’t equip their patients to deal with their issues. Very rarely have I seen someone go off therapy.

Let me talk about this priviledged lot of 20 year olds. They all have supportive parents, great friends, financially supportive parents who will fund their sabbatical when things get too rough or career change, brilliant career prospects, are intelligent, date multiple people before settling with the right person.

Everything seems perfect on paper. Except they are not happy, whatever that means. What is happiness? Has anyone seen a truly happy person? Can you recognise a truly happy person? And most of these people are frequent dopers. Coincidence? I think not. They have to turn to drugs to shut down the boredom.

This is a controversial post and will rattle a few people. But at what point is depression just an excuse for bad behaviour or the lack of real problems in life? At what point is the transition from a child to adult so hard that it is more convenient to term it as mental illness? Is this the new generation gap between 30/40 year olds and 20 year olds?

When I was in my 20s, I was focused on being financially independent so I could finally make my own life decisions, spoke up against 2 incidents of sexual assault in college but wasn’t supported by anyone (male or female), stood up against my entire family to marry my partner and the thought of honour killing did cross my mind (who knows how far an Indian parent can go for their honour), lived out of a suitcase for a year in a different town every month, cried after work every night in the initial posting, listened to my mom’s abuses everyday for months over the phone but didn’t let it affect my productivity at work, dealt with bad bosses and sexual harassment at work, lived hand to mouth in Mumbai alone, had a long distance marriage, PCOS.

Real problems? Hell, yeah. Was I happy? There was no time to think. But I was grateful. For a job. For supportive colleagues. For good bosses. New experiences. For a house. For a loving hubby who travelled an entire night to come to Mumbai for 2 days. For my independence.

When you have external problems, there is no time to focus on what’s in your head. Therapy is expensive. What do you do when you can’t afford it? Deal with it? Succumb to it? Suicide?

My first boyfriend made me feel suicidal many times. Was I depressed? Or a drama queen? Or unable to deal with the relationship issues and unwilling to move on? Sometimes you can choose the solution. Sometimes it is ok to cry bitterly over something. Sometimes this is part of growing up.

My lowest point last year was in March. It lasted till May. I was staying with a friend while I looked for a place. I didn’t want to do anything. No gym or runs or social media or talking to friends about it. I just wanted to cry and feel sorry for myself. Exactly a year later, things are very different.

You will be happy if you want to be happy. Sometimes it’s a choice you make. And if you want help, you will ask for it. It is impossible to reach a depressed person who does not want to be reached. Trust me, I have tried it. It doesn’t work.

Forgive me if I don’t sound sympathetic or understanding but I just came from an interview where someone almost touched my and my colleagues’ feet for giving him a job on third party payroll with atleast 30% jump in salary. It is a little hard to listen to 20 year olds talk about their unhappiness when every week I come across people who will be highly grateful if they could have the luxury of making their unhappiness a focus. If they are given half the opportunities as this priviledged lot, they will turn around their life, their family lives and pass it on to many, many, many other people. I see that everyday.

My flatmate lost her parents as a kid, she started earning after graduation so she didn’t have to be financially dependent. She is working in a shitty work environment where her manager makes her life miserable. She is overworked and underpaid. Right now she is struggling to finance her MBA because there is nobody to support her. Do you think she has time to ask herself if she is happy? She is working hard to make a better life. Somedays she is happy and other days not so much. That is life. Dealing with it isn’t optional.

Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor

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After a long time am blogging about a book. This book is about Hinduism and Hindutva, for dummies. Like me.

My tryst with religion started in a convent boarding school. We prayed 4-5 times a day, were taught about the Christian faith and attended mass regularly. I was very spiritual as a kid. The school didn’t encourage (but neither did it discourage) discussions about any other religion. Like, I didn’t see my Muslim friend offering Namaz or fasting for Ramzan. Our Diwali holidays were so short that we couldn’t go home and they were a month away from final year examinations. Of course, Easter was full of pomp and show and annual holidays were conveniently timed for X’mas. During exams, we chanted Hail Mary and Gayatri Mantra both enthusiastically till we realised that time could be better spent studying.

The disconnect happened when my parents were appalled by the sign of the cross I made when my feet touched a book. They wanted me to chant “Om” and pray to Hindu Gods. If that is what they wanted, why was I being sent to a convent boarding school? How can I follow one religion for 9 months and another for 3 months? I protested and refused to believe in God. That was the end of my spirituality.

Being a Hindu is very convenient. People of my age and with my lifestyle don’t pray regularly or have temples at home. We are too materialistic to be spiritual. So it is a surprise when I come across young people who fast for Ramazan or go to a church regularly. The freedom to not believe anything or believe what I want to is granted in Hinduism. I am glad am a Hindu and distancing myself from religion is much easier. It does not come with diktats and dos or don’ts. Like, Hinduism does not dictate what clothes I wear, what I eat etc. There is no one holy book or one God. Neither is there one way of praying. There are different kinds of Hindus across the country and there is nothing binding them together. Except for the freedom to believe in whatever they want to.

This book made me realise how beautiful is the religion. Which is why we must talk about Hindutva which isn’t a religion but a political movement. Smart people realise that but those who know zilch about religion confuse the two. And yes, Hindus should be ashamed that some narrow minded people can distort a religion known for its tolerance for all other religions.

I would highly recommend the book to everyone. It is a much needed book in times when we are distancing ourselves from religion because it is getting associated with hate. I don’t think spirituality has anything to offer me anymore but I am proud to be a Hindu.

Days like today 

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In an economy when companies are reducing jobs at all levels, we have been given the opportunity to add jobs at the lowest rung. This is what I love about sales. It keeps me grounded and I can feel the pulse of society. 

We started the recruitment in Gujarat. It is a challenging state because people are so unambitious. They refuse to leave the state or their homes for career growth. Most of them want to start a business on their own and corporate jobs don’t appeal to them. And they are too laidback to deal with the pressures of a corporate life. A vacancy in any part of Gujarat makes the HR wants to tear his hair off. We had the unenviable job of filling vacancies in different locations of Gujarat. Finding someone who is a graduate, has relevant work experience or any work experience for these locations was the task and we couldn’t fill even 50% of the vacancies.

Did I mention that most of these candidates refuse to travel to Mumbai for interviews and 4-5 of us travel to the state for their interviews. 

Today the recruitment process was in Indore for vacancies in MP. Finding well educated candidates with relevant experience is a breeze here. They are ambitious and willing to work in any location. There is a hunger to move ahead. People in MP are less confident and outgoing compared to those in Gujarat. Gujjus tend to overshadow them. Last year, I brought the entire team together for a review so Gujarat guys would realise they aren’t as good as they think they are and their confidence would rub off on the MPites. 

We received applications from candidates with different educational backgrounds, most of them MBAs. In this country, colleges are offering degrees faster than we can blink. MBA and engineering are supposed to be the key to the golden door of the corporate but that is only for passouts from the top rung colleges. Anything below that involves lots of struggle and most people never get to the manager level. My relatives in Gujarat call me once every few months for advice on their kids careers. I tell them to pursue MBA only from a good college else not do it all. Most of them are too eager to get the MBA tag and hence, destined for executive level roles with very little scope of moving upwards. 

Is unemployment not having a job or is it not having a job according to your educational qualification? If it is the latter, the unemployment levels in MP are scary. We filled all the vacancies and wait listed additional candidates for every location. I also managed to convince a few of them to relocate to Gujarat. 

Once in a while, we get the opportunity to make a difference in a less privileged person’s life. I am glad for today. 

Why Indian laws are women oriented

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One big learning in the last 1.5 years has been keeping my ego aside and doing whatever possible to retain an employee. If I think someone is good at his (would have mentioned “her” but there are no females in my team) job, I will try my best to keep him from quitting unless it is for a better opportunity which I can’t offer.

Retention of employees is a skill very few managers care to develop. Sometimes I wish my previous organization would have tried harder to retain me.

Today was a day when I had to use that skill twice. In one of the cases, the guy wanted to quit due to marital issues. I and V suggested marital counselling before making short term decisions. I won’t get into details of the issues.

In the end, this guy said how his father told him he should never raise a hand on a woman and that is what keeps him from hitting his wife to stop her nagging. There are days when he feels like slapping her hard but doesn’t raise his hand. He looked at us expecting us to give him brownie points. I just had one thing to say “Don’t even think about doing that. If she decides to go to court, you will lose your money and child. The laws in India are very women oriented.”

This, my dear friends, is Indian society and this is why Indian laws skewed towards women exist.

Living alone vs living with someone

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Last night at dinner I was telling D and P how comfortable last few months in Mumbai have been. I think it is because of my shift to Wadala from Powai. People whose offices are in Western suburbs (except Lower Parel which is close to SoBo) rarely find a house in this part of the city. But desperation drove me to look for houses in all the suburbs irrespective of how inconvenient commuting would be. I just wanted a decent place to live in. Everything else I would figure out.

But the biggest change has been living with flatmates. The last time I shared a flat was in Thane in 2007/2008 for 2 months when I was a Management Trainee in a stint in Mumbai. And then in Gurgaon for 9 months but that was because I couldn’t afford the rent on my own. The good part was that my flatmate and I didn’t even across each other’s paths most days.

Since then I have always lived alone. I don’t like sharing my space. The only person I have lived with is KC but my personal space in the house is well defined.

At dinner last night,

Me : Something about my life has been amazing in the last few months. Maybe it’s Wadala. Or maybe it is living with other people.

D : I think you were quite lonely in Powai. I could sense that.

Me (recalling waking up in tears every morning, unable to fall asleep without the tranquilizer spray from Forest Essentials, coming later and later from gym, taking long walks on the streets of Powai alone) : Yeah. I guess I was.

P : I was of the same opinion but after living with someone I think it is so much better than living alone.

Me : Yeah. There is someone to talk to at the end of the day even if it is only “Hi Hello”.

P : Does that mean next time you have to move you will live with flatmates?

Me : Yeah. Definitely.

I haven’t used the tranquilzer spray more than twice since I moved into Wadala. In Powai, it was by my bedside and I could never sleep without it, no matter how tired I was after the gym.

I guess am a convert now.

Living with someone >>>>> living alone.

Nothing… and yet, everything

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I should start with an apology for ignoring this space. It isn’t that I didn’t have things to write about. I did. So many of them. There were so many moments when I wanted to come here and write but the thought of staring at a screen after a long day at work kept me away. Maybe I should write in a diary but how will that work? How do I carry a diary around all the time? And the danger of someone opening and reading everything? No. No. Never.

This post is going to say nothing and yet, express everything.

I went to Crossword the other night after watching a play in Bandra. I had planned to have dinner at a new restaurant, Farmer’s Cafe or Bastian or good old Suzette. But I wanted to reach home on time and get back to my book. I dropped into the bookshop without any intention of buying one. A kindle is more convenient than a book. I have to finish reading the books I’ve already bought instead of buying new ones. I looked at the books with longing and wondered “Why am I not writing enough?” 2 years back I was spending my free time (I had loads of it) with a writer acquaintance (can’t call him a friend) and I asked him “How do I write a book?”. He replied “Write everyday. For a whole year. The book will come to you”. And yet, here I am. Unable to make the time to write everyday. I don’t have 15 minutes everyday. But there is a reason for it. I have been exhausting myself to the point that there is no space for anything else. Because when I think about my life and where it is going, it makes me unsure about every aspect of my life. The only thing in my control is not thinking about it and letting destiny take it’s course. Everyone should have a 5 year or a 10 years plan. Atleast there is a benchmark to evaluate how one is doing.

If someone asks me who I am and what I want in life, I won’t be able to answer it. Because am absolutely clueless.