Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Musings - a year after

“Sir, All that I know in life is this. This has been my bread and butter for almost a decade now. What other job will I get?”

The other day it was raining very heavily and it was late in the night. I was going home in the cab that my company had provided me. I was surprised to find that even in that heavy rain, the driver had not put the “windshield wiper” on. Since I was alone in the cab and didn’t have anything else to do, I started to converse with the driver. It was during that chat that he said the above lines.

This guy was no ordinary driver. He had an amazing talent of driving vehicles. From a small motor vehicle to a large bus, he had driven all kinds of vehicles. He had an experience of driving vehicles in all kinds of terrain and weather. His driving instincts in the city was one for which anyone would envy him for. And he was not overconfident about himself. The only reason that he had not put the wipers on was that the company for which he worked didn’t take care of such an important detail while giving the cab to him. But he had not complained. He just treaded cautiously, following the tail lamp of the vehicle in front of him.

During the course of the conversation with him, I got to know many things. The transport companies never gave the drivers their true share. They used the drivers according their whims and never cared anything about their welfare. Sometimes they had to work very late after midnight and be prepared for hectic day early next morning. But the most startling fact that I learned from him that day sitting in that cab was this – the driver was a graduate and knew to converse fluently in five different languages. He held a bachelor’s degree in commerce. Inspite of this, he had made the above statement!

This set me thinking. Even I am nothing but a graduate. I just finished my degree last year and entered into this corporate world. Today, I will be finishing one glorious year of work-life. It surely calls for a nice celebration. It really feels nice as you are independent and your life is in your hands. It feels like being gifted with all the happiness. Does it really feel so?

Well, the answer is “not as much”. And what is it that makes me say that? Am I not happy at being at the centre of a booming technology stream? Am I not happy at working at a nice place with all the luxuries provided by the company? Am I not privileged that my bank balance is replenished by nice salary at the end of the month? Does it not feel good when a cab driver who is ten to fifteen older to you addresses you as “sir” and asks you to teach him how to use his cell phone? Am I not leading a respectable life in the society? Yes, yes and yes. The answer to each one of these is yes. But is that all that there is in life?

The nicest part of life was the days spent at school and college. We had a big gang of friends who used to have fun in every possible way. We sat near coffee shop or canteen or even in the classrooms after classes and discussed all topics under the sun with so much of enthusiasm. We felt we had the power to change the world. We took responsibility of organizing fests, co curricular events and slogged day in and day out to make it successful. The joy we felt when something worked as expected was immense. We worked in teams even then. There was no misunderstanding, backstabbing, dominating, jealousy - nothing. It was pure fun and even if something dint work as expected, there was no one crib about it. We took collective responsibility for it- not one person was pin pointed or blamed. We worked to please ourselves. Each one of us enjoyed all these as much as the other. It was natural that I expected the same when I entered the corporate world.

But what I have seen in this year at office is quite different. There is a specific process that is to be followed for each kind of work. Sometimes the process makes sense but in most cases it is followed only because someone in the top level management thinks it as a “best practice”. Some will be lucky enough to be put into teams with team mates of their kind. They get all kind of help from seniors and grow well. But the not-so-lucky ones struggle. And then there are those bosses/managers/leads or whatever they are called. They are in charge of your appraisals/salary reviews and they are the ones whom you cannot risk hurting. You have to please them no matter what. Some bosses are nice. They nurture talents in their team and help them grow. People feel motivated to work for them. They inspire innovation and lead by example. Even the teams that they lead will be united. They help each other and work together. Getting teams and managers like that is again, luck.

Then there is a second category of bosses. The ones who want to suck the last drop of blood in you and make you slog like anything. They are those sadist creatures who think that the whole world should follow the rules that they set. Outwardly, they are all smiles and maintain a chum-chum relationship with you. But somehow they make sure that they ruin you. If you end up with bosses like these, you get too much frustrated, work gets so mundane and life becomes hell. Some even start working only to please their bosses and get a good review. Some reach a point where all their creativity gets lost because of the frustration in them and that’s not only bad for them but in turn it affects everyone around them including the company that they work for.

The most unfortunate part of all this is that both these good and bad parts exist in the same company. The ones who suffer will watch the ones who enjoy their work and get even frustrated. They curse their destiny to be in teams like theirs. Eventually, they either become sobre and unproductive or quit and go in search of greener pastures leading to losses for the company.

I have had an opportunity to witness both the good and bad aspects of the work life in this one year at work. Work in itself is really challenging – presenting many situations to analyze, throwing many problems to be solved, etc. Working on all these is nice and I get to learn a lot of things. But the bad aspects of work life mentioned above have taken their toll on me. On some occasions I have given more than 14 hours in a day for work being left with no time for myself, let alone my family. In a particular week, Ultra used to be sleeping when I left home in the morning and had already gone to bed when I came back in the night. In the weekend, he exclaimed, “Thank God I saw you at least today!” In college, even during the exam time, I managed to get some time to watch some sports and movies on TV. We used to even bunk classes and go to the much awaited movie of the year. Now, TV is a thing of the past. The much awaited movie of the year has already come and gone without me even knowing about it. The only day et for ourselves are weekends, where we usually plan loads of things to do and end up executing none.

To the outside world, we are all much envied. They feel that we live in a life of luxury - with nice air-conditioned offices to work in, with high paying jobs affording all that you can dream of, roaming around the city in nice cars, going on trips to expensive places. People feel we have money to burn and try extracting the maximum from us. When in college, I could roam around the city even in the night without any fear. Now, it is not safe anymore – even a rickshaw driver demand more when he ferries a “techie”, a traffic cop fines at least five hundred rupees when he catches us for a petty offence, a vegetable vendor claims almost double the normal rate for his vegetables when he sells in apartments. In a way it is contributing significantly to the high cost of living in these silicon cities. But the truth is we live a life full of stress and fear. At work, we are faced with work pressure, weekly targets, and monthly deadlines. Outside, we are faced with envious people trying to loot money from us in every possible way. At home, we are faced with fatigue and depression which leads to cracks in normal relationships. Besides the job security is totally gone. Any moment, your company could be acquired, shut down or merged leading to total mayhem in the organization. What other skills do we posses if all of a sudden the whole industry comes to a halt – nothing! At least my cab driver who is a graduate knows how to drive in a city with so much of traffic. We cant even do that.

These were all my musings on the occasion of my first anniversary at work. Though work has given me a lot of knowledge and skills technically, one main take home point that I have learnt is this – having the right attitude is all that matters in life. Though life may seem frustrating and depressing during times of trouble, you can always look back at it later with feeling of satisfaction. At the end of the day, this feeling of satisfaction is all that matters. Even if you work for hours together and are not satisified, there will be frustration. But, on the other hand, even an hour's work which satisfies you can keep you happy for days. I want to thank many of my colleagues, (especially my batch mates and mentors in team) who made me realize this. Having the right attitude can in itself solve many of the problems in life. So, in spite of all the tough and sad days at work, I would like to look back at all the good things that have happened to me during this one year and make it even better going further. Tough times don’t always last. But tough people do – Right?


Saravanan said...


I think you should not say sadist.. They are not.. They have some probs in life thats all :)..

Anyways good to see that you are a senior now.. Take care of your juniors and help them.. It is more important that you lead them with example and make their life better.. I feel it is always good to leave a place better than how it was.. Just a thought..

Lovely writing!!

Anonymous said...

hey cool writing... makes us think of what lies ahead for us.
Obviosuly we are going to enjoy the most from now on. Now that i have read your blog i can undersatnd wher we will end up.

1 question.. can i send ur blog address to my friends??

Anonymous said...

above comment... by Giri

Varshith said...

Thought provoking.. very very thought provoking! i'm doin engg in IT now, and i know u dont wanna scare us or anything, but u paint a very sad picture.. Makin me wonder if cubicle-jungle is really worth it. And a small doubt, inspite off ur constant references to not being free, how did u manage to come up with such a big(but nice) blog!! Just how!? ;)

Shashia said...

Strictly Speaking, yes sir you are right. I should not have called them sadist - my mistake. But thats what too much of frustration can do at times.

About leading by example, I dont know whether I have the required skill sets as yet, but I will certainly help them in my capacity. I agree with you that we should always leave a place better than what it was - will surely work towards that.

Come on man, these were just my experiences. Need not be the same for you all. There are always good things to look forward to. What matters is your attitude - remember. I know it can get difficult but if you can manage Engineering, you can manage anything :)

After being very frustrated that I was never free and dint have time for myself, I decided on one thing- I would not over work just to please some one else and make my life hell. So I put my foot down and started making time for myself to do things which gave me satisfaction. So there you are, hope that clears your small doubt :)

Mr. xyz, check your mail for reply :)

Thanks for all your comments, though not directly in this page. Each one of those helped :)

nithinraok said...

nice writing... its very long, but still good to read...