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.


Another male hero is off the pedestal

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A recent anonymous article detailing Aziz Ansari’s sexual misconduct is going viral. Everyone is debating furiously over it.

Here is a gist of what happened:

A female bumped into Aziz at a party while she was on a date with someone else. They exchanged numbers and met for a date. Aziz rushed through dinner and took her home where he kept pushing her for having sex with him. She obliged by giving him oral and trying to give hints that she didn’t want to have sex. He persisted. Finally, she managed to leave but ended up feeling shitty about the whole experience.

What Aziz did isn’t a crime. But it isn’t consent either. I have heard similar stories where a guy pushes too hard and a woman gives in because it is just easier to get it over with. It is just one blow job or just a fuck. Considering how often women have to keep their views to themselves, this is another time we’d rather shut up and conform instead of trying to explain to a man how it makes us feel shitty. Like, I went out on a date in college because the guy kept pushing for it. My logic was that if I spent 1 torturous hour with him he would leave me alone for 1-2 months. It was the worst date of my life but my companion had no clue. In such cases, the woman isn’t a human being. She is just an object and the man has a purpose. If the purpose is to fuck her, her hints will not even be visible to him.

If it isn’t an enthusiastic “Yes”, it is a No. If you have to plead, whine, beg for it and the woman gives in, it isn’t consent. It is a pity fuck.

This is a bad news for men because they have been getting away with it till now. I can narrate so many instances where I wasn’t an enthusiastic participant in the act and the guy didn’t care.

This article has opened up a Pandora’s box and am glad this is how 2018 has started. There are sexual misconducts which are crimes and there are those which aren’t. A rape is different from a sexual encounter which leaves you in tears. But they are both unacceptable.


Clean underwear

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It has been a long, long, long week and will end on the most hectic note.

I am travelling to reach Ahmedabad after 10 hours of work. Draining work. Negotiations with a distributor. Appraisals which include carrot for one person and a stick for another. Followed by an intense, emotionally draining conversation with a distributor who compared our partnership with his love marriage. It was a breakup conversation I have never had.

The hardest part is never being able to bunk. Nobody told me this is what the job entails. I can never leave work early. My phone can never be switched off except on Sundays. Muting WhatsApp is the only way to stay off work after official working hours. From being responsible for a few people who rarely travelled, am now accountable for 45 people who are always on the move. Am either talking to them or talking about them.

Appraisals are my least favourite activity. Getting feedback feels like fun compared to giving feedback to 5 managers and sitting through feedback sessions of 40 people. My mind can’t wander for a minute. I have to be attentive and evaluate every person basis my limited interaction with them.

And am not even thinking about my appraisal at this stage which won’t be easy for my reporting manager.

All I want to do is sleep for a whole day but no chance of that happening any time soon. I don’t have one day to rest and relax.

Atleast I have clean underwear because I got laundry done at the hotel. That is the only silver lining on my mind right now.

Jagran diaries

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My mama (mother’s brother) had been trying to reach me frantically. I didn’t answer the calls because it was 1st Jan and that isn’t how I want to start any new year. Sure, he has genuine affection for me and I have fought with parents to defend him. (My mother claimed his wife was using witchcraft against her. Whose side was I to take in that discussion?) 

But he is a manipulative jerk and I feel zero guilt for ghosting him every few years. 

Thankfully, he had the basic courtesy to Whatsapp me the reason for the call. He was inviting me for a Jagran in his hometown and wanted me to attend with my plus one. 

Jagran is how religious people party and shake their booty in a dry state.

Flashback to college days

I was on my annual vacation to maternal granny’s house where the whole family had gathered. Everyone was going crazy talking about Jagran. Studying in a boarding school meant I was completely out of touch with traditions. Someone explained that Jagran means dressing up and dancing all night to a professional singer’s beats. That sounded like fun and I put in hours into my traditional dress (lehenga and choli) and make up. 

When I reached the venue, it took a few minutes to understand what was happening. There was a professional singer surrounded by pictures of Gods. Jagran meant singing and dancing along to Bhajans. Even at that tender age of 18 years, I was a true rebel and walked out of the venue and went home to sleep by 10 pm to the horror and embarrassment of my mother. 

Flashback over

And it is memories of such ‘parties’ that make me palpitate every time am invited to one. 

Completely oblivious to my allergy to anything remotely religious, mama tried to make the proposition exciting by telling me all my relatives are invited, it is on Holi which is followed by a weekend and he wants me to bring KC. Why would I willingly walk into a nest of vipers? 

I started counting the number of Salman Khan movies KC would make me watch in a theatre to get even for this kind of torture. Worse, he would send me forwards on Whatsapp from his Whatsapp groups. Nobody deserves that kind of negativity in their life. Not even me. 

I told him I would see. Making concrete excuses is difficult 2 months before the event.

I miss being banned from the family. 

What am grateful for in 2017

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  • Getting my health back on track
  • Running at ADHM 
  • Having not one but two mentors who are always a Whatsapp and call away for professional advice 
  • Not losing any friends 
  • Having the energy of a thousand Devils 
  • Eliminating people who were taking me for granted
  • Despite all the issues and challenges, marriage is still intact
  • Taking 3 treks
  • Finding a great house in a superb locality in Mumbai. It is a dream come true to be living in such a good place
  • Living with amazing, non interfering flatmates. Having someone to talk to at the end of the day is underrated 
  • Not quitting my job out of frustration. Because one must always quit at one’s own terms
  • Doing fairly well at work
  • Being able to stay far, far away from politics and pettiness at workplace 
  • Being able to make friends feel special on their birthdays 
  • Building a great rapport with team and earning their trust
  • Reconciling with parents after 3 years of zero communication with them
  • Being able to meet younger brother once every month 
  • Making awesome friends on social media 
  • Being fairly consistent at workouts despite all the travel and stress
  • Not falling apart
  • Never passing on the frustrations onto the team, absorbing pressure from all sides, staying positive at all times and boosting team’s morale 
  • Not licking anybody’s ass to move up the corporate ladder. Metaphorically and in actuality 
  • Picking up new skills like baking 
  • TRX once or twice a month 
  • Juggling every ball in the air and not letting it drop
  • Managing to have a work life balance and ensuring everyone around does too 
  • Hating Mumbai a little less. Maybe even liking it a little. Just a little. 
  • Having a loving partner who will keep his fears aside and try anything new with me- from scuba diving to trekking. Who is brutally honest and yet supportive. And who is holding on through difficult times
  • Being able to travel to Ahmedabad and go for a run in college
  • Friends. Online. Offline. In Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Delhi, Ahmedabad and so many other places