Sunday, July 28, 2013

Insecure Overachievers

The sky is overcast and there is a mild drizzle, not so strong,  that it would turn the birds away, but enough to dissuade one from venturing out. I sit in my weekend retreat cottage in Lonavala, overlooking the lake and trying to spot the birds in the trees beyond.  The ground is various hues of green, it is as if the earth has come to life. Sitting here, looking at the clouds rising from the valley and trees swaying in the wind, I cannot help but say to myself that this is life. Not the one, a few hundred kilometers away in Mumbai, pouring over an excel sheet trying to make a financial model day in and day out. 

But then, I have had phases in my life, where I have lived the life like this. Be it the four beautiful years I spent in Goa or the annual vacation I used to have at home in Mumbai during monsoons. A few days into each of these phases, I have yearned to get back to " more important and busy" vocations. There is a feeling of inadequacy which steps in and the urge to keep yourself busy, so much so that you start feeling guilty. Looking around, I see that this is the case with majority of people of my generation. We want everything in life and yet there are times that we refuse to take the conventional path followed by our parents. A recent article in Daily mail  called us the 'Peter Pan' generation. I somehow disagree with the term and this broad generalization. I would call ourselves, what a friend of mine termed us - " Insecure Overachievers". A generation which wants to do everything and trying to achieve everything at a very early age. This feeling of not yet reaching or achieving what we thought we would be ( a board member at 25, millionaire by 22, Inventor of the next life changing technology or well a zombie fighting Jedi Astronaut) is what is making us still, neither grow up nor letting us feel adequate with our day jobs.  I tried to ponder of the reasons, as to why this might be the case.
  • We are the first post liberalization generation in India. We started going to school when the economy was opened up. We started college at the time of the start of the great bull run and graduated at the time of the great recession. All through this period, we were brought up on the headlines like India shining. Unlike our parents, who were grew up during emergency and in a neglected socialist India, we saw the growth and the riches. We were fed on the ideals that success meant working hard, getting the right degrees and this eventually led to the riches.  
  • Two things happened when we graduated. Firstly because of the great recession, while we worked hard and got the right degrees, the riches did not eventually follow. This meant not enough jobs or the jobs which we desired or cutting down on bonuses/ growth/ perks etc. Most of the generation compromised/ parked themselves in jobs/ higher education degrees etc hoping for the tide to turn and this made us feel inadequate. We kept on working hard, trying to get the get accolades but still not feeling satisfied, a bit like building bridges to nowhere.
  • The second thing which happened, is something which I find more interesting. While, our parents grew up in a era marked by excessive controls, we were brought up in an area where we had access to everything. For them satisfaction came from reaching a status confirmed by money, houses, cars and all the materialistic trapping. Our generation having seen this things, wants something greater. We want to change the world, leave a legacy. For us satisfaction would be marked by satisfying our psychological needs. Be it working on things to change the world, traveling around the world, pursuing that childhood ambition of singing or well putting our energies to start our own ventures than working for a large corporate. We are at a constant struggle to reconcile the idea of success as a materialistic one, the idea bred into us while growing up and the need to feel contend and satisfied by pursuing more existentialistic pursuits. It is this struggle which keeps us from following the road less travelled and makes us feel guilty whenever we are not pursuing the materialistic jobs. We feel insecure and the try to achieve everything to somehow feel contend.   
  • The big question of settling down and marriage, which our generation is accused of so steadfastly avoiding. I feel there is more to it than us being just an immature irresponsible bunch. We are probably the first generation in India which actively dated before marriage. Unlike our parents, for whom the women or men they married were ( most of the time) the only person with whom they had a relationship. For them it was the person with whom they would have to spend their life, whether they liked it or not. We have met, mingled with and dated more than one person. We were brought up on the idea of ever lasting love. Our various relationships taught that love may not always be everlasting. However, for most of us, marriage, seeing our parents, is still an institution which holds a lot of sanctity. And hence we delay the idea of marriage, hoping to find or be sure of finding the one. Compromise is a trait which most of us still need to learn.
  • We have had many more career paths available than our parents. We have had more options and a sense of security which our parents probably never had. We have seen people being successful pursuing the vocations they believed in, we have seen people retire at 40 and we have seen millionaires in 20s. We are a generation which was able to have dreams because of the environment provided to us by our parents which they never could and most importantly, we are a generation  which, till now never knew what failure was. It is hence, we remain in the constant pursuit of happiness, trying out everything, hoping to become satisfied yet feeling insecure and inadequate of not achieving everything which we hoped for. 

For our parents, the path was set out for them. Work hard, get a job, get married, have children and provide a sense of security and status to your family by working till you retire. We having seen this security in terms of support of people around and the degrees which we collected like trophies want something more. We want the world, just do not know, how and where to find it.

While I write this and ponder over the questions of my purpose in life, the rain has stopped and the sun is flirting among the clouds.The birds have come out, flying over the lake. I enjoy the scene, while I wait for the lunch to be served, for tomorrow, I have to go back to that financial model.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013


There are some conversations which make you introspect and think about everything which you have worked towards till now. Those which traditionally happen on a weekend at 4 in the morning, most of the time with a friend who is lonely in a different city. The trigger for such conversation can be as innocuous as a pass being made in the mountains far away. 

The trigger for the conversation this time was the tunnel which was inaugurated in Pir Panjal recently. A friend had worked on the project and was talking about sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which he felt when he saw the project being inaugurated. He added, as an after thought, that from working on projects which gave you such a high, he now sells biscuits for a conglomerate ( He works for one of the most respected FMCG firms, post his MBA). The broader question which he posed was, what is it that makes us happy? Is it the money? Is it getting degrees and going to the right institutions? Is it doing what we ( our in some cases the society) wanted us to do? or it something entirely else, something as simple as satisfaction?

All this made me think about the first job which I had. I had joined a state owned energy firm, directly out of college. It was a firm which had its own township, a few kilometers from the city, which was fast becoming the hub of IT and hence extremely rich. My employer, being state owned, provided salaries which were determined by pay commissions and hence revised every 10 years. The promotions were, majority of the time, based on seniority. The firm had enjoyed a monopoly for most of its 50 years of existence but it was recently facing competition from China. Being a product of Nehru's "monuments of modern India", it still had slogans, which were probably thought of then. 

The people lived in that township, cocooned from the changes of post liberalization India. They would go on walks in the morning in one of many stadiums in the township, visit the plant at 7, go home for lunch at 11:30, be back at 12, work till 5 and then spend the evening at the officer's gymkhana. they would carry on this routine till their retirement at 60. The thing about the place, was that most of them were happy. They were in fact happier than their friends a few kilometers away, working in the offices of multinational IT firms. I had always wondered why? 

At first I thought that it was the lack of ambition. But it could not have been, because while I was there, everybody was working on improving himself or herself. From the peon who would silently open his english book and try to enhance his skills during the free time at office to my boss, who would take each and every training so that he can perform his duty in a much better way, they all were trying to get to the next level. They were competitive too, almost always the buzz on the shop floor was to meet the production targets lest the business would be lost of Chinese. Surely there was something else which kept them happy.

Perhaps the reason for the happiness was that they all at a certain level believed in the slogans painted on the walls. The one's which told them that they were working for the development of the country. Most of them did talk about being the reason for the power reaching or homes. But then, if that was the case, all one has to do would be to buy a few self help books and paint a few lines.

The reason, which I discovered on my last day, was that they all were satisfied with what they were doing. Yes, they believed that they are the generators of power for India and if they stop, so would the country but they never let work become the only point of their lives. They took immense pride in what they did, perhaps a reason why they were not disenchanted with the glass offices outside the township. It was a society which content with what they had and small aspirations for what they needed, perhaps that is why they were so happy.

I would be starting with my new job this Monday. A job, for which I slogged for two years during my MBA. And while, at times, when I would get disenchanted, while running the rat race, I would think about the cocooned island, I was once a part of and the most important lesson I learnt from there - Be content in what you have and take pride in what you do. 

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

About Growing Up

All Grown up

The other day, I went for the alumni reunion of BITS. Apart from the fact that there was hardly anybody from my batch, what was disconcerting was the fact that there were people who had entered  the college after I had graduated. Those kids were now alumni. Their talks now ranged from how good last year's fest was to the profiles and packages of the industries, which they were joining. 

Standing there, looking at the magnificent Marine Drive, I could not help but accept the slow realization, which was creeping in, that I was growing older. It was like popping a bubble. It had been four years since I graduated from college. 

The thing about the process of growing up is that, you don't realize it when it's happening. One day, it just hits you in the face, like it did to me the other day. From then on you just have to accept it. 

A lot of things happen during the process ( At least happened with me). Some of them are the one's which you always knew would happen, the other's most of the time are things which you have to accept grudgingly.  I would try to enumerate some of the points which I felt, happened over the years:

  • One makes his/ her closest friends during the undergrad years. Sadly, over the years most of them move away. However, the reason you know that they are your closest friends is that you can pick up the phone and call them up anytime, referring them with that nasty nickname you had for them.

  • Money, over the years becomes a number. Yes, it is still very important. However, after sometime money would just represent a number by which you would satisfy your ego. You would chase it primarily because a higher number would look good in the account statement, but you won't find enough avenues to want to spend it. This number, however would be the reason which would at times stop you from chasing your dreams. You would rationalize saying that you need more of it ( you don't, stop kidding yourself)

  • Once you graduate from college, most of the times one is spent on a wild goose chase. The chase takes different forms, but it majorly includes trying to get into a graduate school, trying to get out of the graduate school, chasing some elusive target for the year end bonus, trying to build a " perfect profile", meeting numerous deadlines. Life quietly passes you by, while you chase these deadlines.

  • This is also the period when most of you would have your own money to spend for the first time. A lot of it would be spent at various clubs during the weekend. A lot of it would be fun. The first few of these outings would be spent in trying out everything and trying to live the life which you saw in sitcoms. However, after those outings, every nightclub would feel the same. What one would reminisce would those random low budget get togethers ( mostly at somebody else's  expense) at that small shack. 

  • A few of you would find a perfect person to spend your time with. This period would be easier for you. For the rest of us, this period would be of volatile uncertainty, trying to meet different people to find that person to spend time with. Over time, you would become more of a realist ( or a cynic). Most of you would stop seeing the world with rose tinted goggles. You would meet many people, who would change you. You will only remember a few of them. There would always be that one relationship which you would always remember and hope to get the same feelings in all your subsequent one's ( Do not do that, you would only be doing injustice to the one you are into)

  • Dating, after a point would become an algorithm with fixed restaurants and routines corresponding to the first, second and then the subsequent dates ( One of you will run out of patience before you run out of restaurants). 

  • This period would be special because it will be marked with many of your firsts. The first car, the first pay and many more ( you get the drift). You would finally be able to spend money on the crazy desires which you had - A lot of you will will spend this money on Xboxes, speakers, phones etc. The thing would be,  that you may be sleeping on the floor, but you would watch your movie in HD with surround sound at home. The women on the other hand would just buy shoes from all that extra money.

  • You would disappoint somebody during this period. A friend, a colleague, an elder or a lover.  Some of it would be because of things which will not be under your control. Some of it might be because you have changed or they have changed. Some of it might be because you could not live up to their expectations and at times because you wanted to. If possible, try to talk and explain things and at times apologize, even if you were not wrong.   

  • A lot of you would define your career during this period. Some of you would be doing, what you always hoped, some of you would be nowhere near it. But the funny things is, when you look around, the person who is finally doing what he always hoped may not be the happiest, while the guy who went at a tangent might be the happiest. Also, you would hardly find somebody who would be in love with his job ( unless, he/she is an entrepreneur). 

  • You would always be the coolest person for you nephews and nieces.

This post has gone too long. I want to write a lot more, but would stop here (maybe will write another one sometime). The one thing which I have learned from this period is that, everybody around you would be fighting his/ her own battle and having his/ her own struggle, the least we should do is respect them and their struggle. 

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

New Beginnings

So it has been more than two years since I have written a blog post. Before I start with this one, I would like to thank the few odd friends who still visit this blog, hoping to find a post. I would also like to thank the two odd people from Russia and the Dominican Republic who religiously visit this site every week. I hope you guys find what you are looking for!

Now that I have gotten the pleasantries out of the way, time for certain updates. The reason for my long absence was that I was pursuing an MBA ( the real reason was that I am a lazy sloth). Having finished with the roller coaster ride of the MBA ( I will write another post about the experience), having tried my hand at consulting, I would be joining a bank in a few months time. 

So I am free till September and am back home after a long time. Mumbai is as pleasant as ever and it feels good to sleep in your own bed in your own room. I plan to catch up on my books, travel ( hopefully back pack somewhere) and learn a new instrument/skill. Hopefully I would be able to achieve at least 20% of what I have planned ( see I have already started quantifying stuff! MBA was useful after all). Have read a few books till now ( will write the reviews soon), till then if you any suggestion for back packing, please do let me know ( yes I am open to places in Russia and Dominican Republic too!) 

I would try to be regular on this blog. I plan to write about my experiences of the past few years, hopefully about the places I travel to  and random musings. Till then, good to see you again :).

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