Twenty years in the making, my trampoline is ready… let the adventure begin

Twenty years of pursuing what I love, and being paid for it.

Twenty years of stretching my wings enough to take flights of fancy, and always returning to a comfortable nest.

Twenty years of people holding out a safety net, to cushion my fall. Sometimes it’s a trampoline and I bounce back higher and higher.

Twenty years of working for someone else… But, wait. That’s not what I said or believed in. I always worked for myself, even while employed by someone else, right? Right-ish? Kind of, sort of?

Twenty years into your career, you are too old, too expensive, too opinionated, too high up in that damned ladder everyone is clambering up.

Slowly you realise that the nest gets prickly, the safety net wears off, the trampoline is missing a few springs. You realise that you are working for someone else, whatever delusions you might allow yourself.

What you truly love doing will always have to be done within the confines of someone else’s agenda and dream. That ‘someone else’ who pays your bills and fattens you up into a pro lull.

Whereto from there?

First things first, setting up my home office. Where the magic happens.

First things first, setting up my home office. Where the magic happens.

It took me twenty years to dare to take a risk. But for all the risks I consciously shied away from, I unconsciously paid for.

Entrepreneur I am not (and probably will never be). And the only way of living I’ve known and been comfortable with is one that involved a monthly salary and paid vacation.

What do you do then, when your safety net begins to choke you?

So I paused and took deep breaths. I trekked. I meditated. I negotiated terms that in hindsight were half measures, and unfair to all concerned, especially the wonderful people I worked for. So I stalled, procrastinated… and then learned to breathe again, mainly on the rowing machine.

I meditated on the saddle, knees drawn up, pull and release… again and again, enjoying the drench of sweat and clarity; working hard on my core strength, in more ways than one.

What’s the very worst thing that can happen to me, I asked myself repeatedly over the last six months. Not holding a full-time job didn’t even figure in the top 10 worst things that could happen.

Today, on my last day at a full-time job (for the foreseeable future), that doesn’t figure in the top 20 worst things either.

When was the last time I felt as light and relieved as I have in the past month? The freedom to choose and focus on what I love and am good at; the relief of not becoming immersed in what drains my energy; and the overwhelming gratitude for being surrounded by those both appreciative of what I do and supportive of what I wish to…

Gratitude above all. For even when I shied away from risks, I was always in a place and environment that allowed me ownership of my dreams (be it here, here or here). Even when I was full of self-doubt, there would be more than a few souls who would mock me out of my self-pity, and give a kindly kick to my derriere.

It’s time to respect the generous opportunities and trust I’ve enjoyed, time to pay myself… time to tighten the belt, yes, but also to become more mindful of who I want to be. Mindful that no matter how much I fret and try, I can only do one thing at a time, and that one thing should be what I truly enjoy.

More importantly, there’s only one me, and she deserves her very own trampoline.

 

Presenting...

Presenting…

It’s not failure I fear…

Not in the least.

And that realisation came only recently to me. As recent as yesterday, when I was talking to a Doha newbie who wants to do something, though he knows he might fail.

WORD!

 

I’ve been incredibly lucky career-wise. I always land very interesting gigs, and rarely am stuck in jobs or assignments that displease me. Yes, everything I do and did could be done so much better. But I know I’ve pulled out all stops to deliver the best I can in the environment I am in.

I am a few short months away from rolling out projects I’ve worked on for the better part of this year. A new job, a new work environment, new challenges, AND I keep thinking I shouldn’t fail.

Well, failure to me was screwing it all up. Till yesterday.

Now I realise, it isn’t.

Failing is to do it, and have it not work. Failure is not the opposite of success. Failing is to have an opportunity to start all over again, quite quickly.

Screwing it up is to do it with half a mind, and squander the opportunity. Screwing it up is to not even realise you’re well below the benchmark… Screwing up is the opposite of success.

So, as it happens, I am quite PETRIFIED of screwing it all up.

15 years and madly in love

Couple of edits since first posting.

This week 15 years ago I started on a trip that has brought me here, to the life I live. I don’t know where or what or how the destination would turn out to be, but suffice it to say it’s been a rocking, fantastic time –  a hike here, a train ride there, at sea, up in the air, often on cloud nine, even a roller-coaster a few times in between that took me nowhere but gave me a heady, mad high. I am just hoping that I am not even at the midway point, because I want this to go on and on and on.

June 5, 1995 I walked into the Express Estates, situated off Mount Road, on Clubhouse Road. As a student, I had visited the printing press several times as the college mag was printed there free of cost. But that Monday was different – I was going right into the heart of action. As an intern, I was to serve one month on the reporting desk and another with the subs.

On the dark, dingy first floor of the massive structure — that once housed Ramnath Goenka and his journalistic ideals, and had already begun accommodating his heir’s overall ineptitude – were the newsrooms.

The news desk was rather spacious and was right next to the Resident Editor’s cabin. The reporters’ room was sandwiched between those rooms and the Editor’s loo.

If anyone had told me even minutes earlier that I would fall in love with what I saw and felt, and be hooked to it, I would have whacked them on the head.

A single-windowed, cramped room, one corner of which was fashioned into a room of sorts for the Chief of News Bureau. Cheap plywood furniture, squeaky chairs, telephones with cords that were perpetually mangled, a handful of computers, one noisy air-conditioner, a bunch of loud, opinionated, cynical men (24 to 60 years of age — the oldest told me women shouldn’t be reporters, because they would be raped!) . The Chief was the only woman in the domain. In one corner sat P-ji, the department assistant, filing away our bylines and reports in ringbinders – building our portfolios. I didn’t have a file then. The interns’ reports were filed in the binder of the reporter guiding them on the story. P-ji was not to be crossed, at least by interns. Or you would end up covering religious discourses well into the night, days in a row.


I fell in love with all of that; all of them. I wouldn’t change anything about that scenario, that memory – annoying colleagues, random persecutions, biases et al.

Too hooked to reporting, I never interned on the desk. Nearly six months later, I was absorbed as a cub. Six months of 10-14-hour-days, rarely an off, and no pay. I embraced all that, having given up a well-paid internship at a software firm that was willing to take me on fulltime, offering me a pay that at the end of the 5 years at Express, I still wouldn’t earn.

At 21, I didn’t care about being unsalaried. I felt no shame in bumming of my parents, and getting the guys at work to pay for my lunch, coffee and butter biscuits from the tuck shop at the gate. My stomach is lined with steel – drinking gallons of coffee off glasses that were dip-washed in a bucket of water that was changed only nightly; eating biscuits and vadais handed out with ungloved hands by the vendor who used Madras’s water scarcity as a good excuse to do away with personal hygiene.

After the night shift I would sit on the wrought iron spiral staircase off the little bridge that connected the library annex to the rest of the building. From that vantage point, you could peep into the printing press, where sweaty, efficient men brought to life all that we did through the day. Hot off the press… the smell of ink on newsprint, the precision with which the printed sheets were mechanically folded. I would choose that staircase view of the press over watching a late night show of a Clooney film any day.

I entered Indian Express (later The New Indian Express) with no expectations or plans. All that I knew was that I wanted to be a part of IT. For the six years before that – despite courses in computers, languages, commerce etc – I did not even consider another vocation.

I am not ambitious, I had no great ideals, wasn’t out to change the world, I was no Tin Tin – all that I wanted was to be a reporter, and even that had no description in my head.

So work was great; tough, but great all the same.

And then, I got to meet 3 very interesting men on the first day at work – coincidentally all their names begin with S.

S1: As an intern, the goal is to learn. And if you can get the best to be your teacher, can you ask for more?

 

S2: And you need someone to make you laugh. To pull you out of gloom after the Chief has ripped to shreds you, your attitude, your writing and your brains. Even if that someone was biased, caste-conscious and sometimes corruptible. For a good sense of humour, you can forgive almost anything.

 

S3: Whatever the environment, a girl must have a crush-worthy subject around her. Even if he was older and married 🙂


For five years I literally lived in that building, that is now being converted into a fancy mall. And every day and every hour of those years brought so much into my life.

That’s where I met the man who would become my husband.

That’s where I made some of my closest friends.

That’s where I learnt that empathy is far more useful than sympathy.

That’s where I learnt that what you earn is not what defines you.

That’s where smoking almost became a habit.

That’s where I learnt that marriage, motherhood and a career do work well together (thanks Chief), though I saw several examples of it failing as well.

That’s where I learnt that the power of the press comes with immense responsibility.

That’s where I witnessed firsthand the misuse of power.

Though born to a trade unionist, that was where I understood the power of a labour union and how it can be wasted; where I experienced a lock-out; where I saw some of the worst HR practices.

That’s where I developed a thick skin, and learnt to disregard gossip.

That’s where I started enjoying Tamil as a language, after having hated all through school.

That’s the place that spoilt me rotten. I cannot, absolutely cannot, settle for just any job. Not for all the money in the Emir’s kitty.

If I were a mare…

Today I spent an hour at a premium stable that’s home to over a hundred of the best Arabian horses in the world. And…

Not from the above mentioned stable, for display reasons alone. Link shows the source.

1. I now truly get the term ‘stud’ — if I were a mare… neigh!

2. Ringside view of genetic selection. Saw where the stallions are mounted, and the container into which they ejaculate. The railing where the mares are impregnated. In fact, as we were leaving the stables, saw a mare, tail up in the air and two men at work!

Only IVF permitted at the stables. Some of the semen is used on mares at the stable, some are sold, and some used on mares in stables outside Doha.

3. In my next life I want to be a show horse. A stallion, preferably. Gorgeous beasts. And what a life. Their spa routine includes a trot, a bit on the treadmill, a swim in the pool, followed by some serious grooming.

But I would also like to get it off with a mare every now and then, and not just pump my goodies into a plastic bottle all the time, even if it’s for the greater good of well-bred snobbery.

4. ALL mums and babies give out the same vibe. No matter what the species. Went to the ‘nursery’ where gestating mares, foals and their maters are housed.

The gestating mare looked tired and weary — no pregnancy glow there.

The legends outside each stall reveal that the most popular paters are an award-winning stud, and his award-winning son. Slightly incestuous, but that doesn’t matter I suppose.

The foals were curious and sticking their cute little(ish) heads out to be petted. Closely followed by the aggressive mums, ears flattened, teeth bared. Beautiful bonds.

5. Darker skinned horses are the most beautiful — majestic. There is also an aura of arrogance around the show horses. Not dissimilar to ramp models. That amount of attention and preening is good for neither man nor beast, I guess.

6. From now on, the ‘stud’ description will be reserved only for guys who have at least a fraction of these fellows’ charisma.

grace under pressure

today i spent a little over an hour with Aseel Al Awadhi, one of the four women elected to the Kuwaiti Parliament in 2009 — a first for the country, that has the oldest constitution in the GCC and is the first constitutional monarchy in the region.

she is in town to deliver a lecture, and the actual interview will appear in my titles — but i HAD to blog about her.

a ph.d. in political philosophy, she has an amazing way of dealing with her critics/detractors. she breaks down the premises from which they come with such eloquence; rationalises those opposing viewpoints in a much better fashion than the critics themselves could. and with that she exposes them for what they are, without any falsification, disrespect or anger.

it’s not easy being who she is in the region as a whole, and only marginally easier in Kuwait.

more power to your elbow, lady.